Can anyone tell me why the world is drinking designer Mojitos? Or the reason why ceviche has become a staple in restaurants likes Le Bernardin in New York. How about why Chefs like Aaron Sanchez, Jose Garces, and Alex Garcia are now on TV and making waves across America. I have the answer! Chef Douglas Rodriguez.
I still hear People talk about the Wet Paint Café that Douglas worked at with Bernie Matz on Lincoln Rd. Also the original YUCA in Coral Gables, where Douglas had his first real recognization. When he opened Patria in New York City, it hailed 3 stars from the New York Times, and thunderbolted the Latin cuisine movement worldwide. Newsweek’s December 1999 edition cover had the photos of 100 Americans that will change the way we live in the coming millennium. Only one chef’s photo was there–Douglas Rodriguez. I once spoke to a former Publicist of his. He told me that he had to hire 2 extra people to handle the chef’s account, because of the amount of press inquiries that they were receiving on his restaurants Chicama and Pipa.
In 2003 Douglas returned to Miami and opened the highly successful OLA Restaurant. It now has the highest ZAGAT rating for food and service on Miami Beach. Moving ahead a few years, he has now gone deep into his Cuban roots to open De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean.
This modern Cuban seafood restaurant is located behind the Hilton Bentley hotel, in the trendy South of Fifth restaurant district. The space is beautiful. The dining room is filled with a sea of blue and green chairs, around large wooden tables. A large ceviche bar sits like an altar, where the chef can preach about his raw citrus marinated creations. The staff is all dressed in black guayavera shirts and straw fedora hats.
To my delight, Doug himself was there, running from table to table speaking to new and old patrons. He smiled when we saw each other and after a few of his stories and jokes he went to work for us. As we sipped on Premium Mojitos made with Ron Zacapa dark rum, an artfully colored ceviche tasting was presented to us. Snapper and Conch ($15) it looked like something out of Picasso’s synthetic cubism period. Red snapper, conch, red pepper, grape tomato, with a sour orange sauce, topped with crispy onions and toasted garlic chips. A classically twisted Mixto Ceviche ($16) of shrimp, lobster, clams, octopus, and sweet potatoes. Topped elegantly with tarragon and candied pink grapefruit rinds. Thai Coconut Ceviche ($17) consisting of shrimp, lobster, crab, in a cream like sauce of coconut milk, lime juice, and lemon grass, topped with fresh coconut shavings. It looked like a Patagonia and the flavors were as big as the dish. All the ceviche’s were excellent, as one would expect from this guy.
Other starters were equally as visual and tasty. Pan Con Bistec ($15) Braised short rib, with a crunchy puffed pastry like crust, and smoked tomato-dipping sauce. The menu has a little note on it saying “Meat on a Stick”. This is true, and an interesting take on an old Cuban classic. A refreshing Florida Avocado and Heirloom Tomato salad ($14) Half of a giant avocado, multi-colored heirlooms in an oregano sherry vinaigrette. , Very eye pleasing and large enough to share. The signature Smoke Marlin Tacos. Served in 2 sizes, 5 for $10 or 12 for $20. These are a staple in all of Rodriguez’s restaurants. Rum marinated smoked marlin in crispy malanga taco shells, with shredded lettuce and pickled jalapeños.
When entrees arrived so did more mojito and the munchies really started to kick in. Another signature dish. Sugar Cane Tuna ($33) Sugarcane skewered tuna loin, with smoked tuna mash potatoes, Catalan spinach, and squid ink. The outside of the tuna is rubbed with Adobo and burnt onion ash. This had a beautiful contrast to the inside of the rare red tuna. Paella Valencia ($44) considering what you get, it’s totally worth it. Whole lobster tail, muscles, calamari, shrimp, chicken, lobster chorizo sausage, and saffron scented rice. This is cooked to order; takes time, and 2 can easily share this as well. Side dishes like Sweet Plantains ($7) or Black Beans and Rice ($6) a recipe the Chef credits his mother were as Cuban as it gets.
I’m not a big dessert guy, but a dessert display was sent out and we attempted to put them down our already filled stomachs. Chefs Cobbler ($10) A cobbler of fresh berries, warm crust, and vanilla ice cream. Simple, but delicious. The Chocolate Bomb ($11) dark chocolate mousse, finished with toasted hazelnuts and dark chocolate sauce. Another signature of Douglas’s restaurants.
By the end of the night we had to be rolled out of the place. The Chef did more than was expected in making the evening memorable. Dining at De Rodriguez should prove to be a mind-altering experience that will change the way you’ll perceive Cuban seafood for a long time.
De Rodriguez Cuba on Ocean
101 Ocean Dr. Miami Beach, FL 33139