I am really getting tired of driving down to Brickell. It seems all the new restaurants are opening in this area, but it makes sense I guess. The area is growing in leaps and bounds, with a high density of people. It is mostly Latin populated, and that is probably why the one of the latest restaurants to open recently in the Fall of 2016 was Quinto La Huella, at 788 Brickell Plaza on the fifth floor of the new East Hotel. The third East Hotel, there is also one in Hong Kong and one in Beijing. There are more on the drawing board as well. The hotel feels very cool, chic, and for the under 40 crowd. Not a five-star resort, but one more about the “cool” factor.
Quinto Huella is the first outpost of Uruguay’s beachfront restaurant, Parador La Huella. They picked Miami, as the gateway of the country, for their first restaurant in the North America. Parador La Huella was on Latin America’s 50 Best Restaurants list twice, and does 1000 covers a day in Uruguay! I had high hopes – I really wanted to make the forty-minute drive down to Brickell worthwhile.
When you arrive there are bouncers with ropes barring the access to the hotel, so as far as welcoming, I must say… not. Well, I guess it’s a sign that this must be the new hot spot in town. We tell the bouncers we had dinner reservations, then are still made to wait to enter. The hotel lobby is chic, with a young beautiful crowd milling about. We go to the elevator where another bouncer sends us up to the fifth floor of the hotel. The restaurant features indoor and outdoor seating for about 250 people. I suggest outside, as the inside has a large and loud bar area with hopefuls and wannabes trying to hook up – it’s energetic and loud and not nearly as beautiful as the outdoor terrace. The outdoor terrace has trees and trellises and some city views, although some tables are blocked from having a view, still – it’s open, airy and stylish. The music is a chill mix of Latin, Brazilian, and popular contemporary. The trendy space was designed by LA-based Studio Collective, and they also did the rooftop bar Sugar, which was impossible to get into even at 10pm! There was a lineup in the lobby and security would only let ten people up at a time, when ten would leave. So forget that.
Back to the main event – they turn the lights down really low in the restaurant when it gets dark out, so don’t be surprised if you are reaching for the flashlight on your phone … if you have any intention of being able to see the menu.
The owners are Gustavo Pittaluga and Guzman Artagaveytia. The Executive Chef is Nano Crespo. The Chef draws from a blend of South American dishes and, get this, Sushi??? … I don’t get the mix at all.
Spoiler alert, I am sorry to say that the restaurant is more about the ambience than the quality of the food. With that said, let me tell you about our meal. One of the dishes that I think did deserve praise was the Pulpo a la Plancha (octopus) with potato confit. It was done in the wood grill and was delicious. Don’t waste your calories on the potatoes on this dish, because a must have dish is the Smashed Potatoes, which were out of this world and, in fact, our favourite thing of the evening. We had to sample some of sushi – they have a separate menu for this. I liked the option of having two half rolls so you could try more than one. The sushi was very ordinary looking, like something you would see at a supermarket or chain restaurant, but the fish was quite fresh-tasting, to be fair, and the quality was not bad.
We ordered the U.S.A. skirt steak medium-rare as the waiter suggested. He even said, if you don’t order it medium rare it will be tough and difficult to cut, and in that case he would suggest another dish. Of course we ordered it medium rare, as this is THE only way to enjoy this steak. So why did it come well-done?? We had to send it back. We ordered the wood fire organic chicken instead, which was very good, but on the small side, very small. We also tried the wood oven langoustines, in a curry sauce with potatoes (again, don’t waste your time on these potatoes). I personally do not enjoy having to remove the shells on my prawn/shrimp – it is a messy business. Side note, I had to ask for a bowl for the discard, where did they expect me to put the shells? The langoustines tasted of the sea, if you know what I mean … they were salty and fishy, I could have thought I was on the Mediterranean. Why not source them from New England? After all, the restaurant is in the US?
By the way, prior to going I heard that the kitchen likes to over salt, so we made sure to mention to our server that we wanted, “light”, on the salt. Still, and unfortunately for the most part, the dishes were too salty.
For dessert, it was suggested that the best dessert was the dulce de leche fondant with banana ice cream and a pecan cookie. They did a nice job on the dessert.
So the meal was expensive and mediocre. But, I must credit our server for not only removing the steak from the bill but for comping the chicken.
I also have to mention there is a nice wine and cocktail list offered. The lychee blossom with sake, vodka and lychee juice was a good choice, as was the new age Negroni with gin, Aperol and Noilly Prat rouge. There really were no standouts except for the amazing Smashed Potatoes. I would rather come for a drink at the bar, but the food doesn’t seem to stop the people from coming. The place was packed and the crowd was beautiful.