Tuesday, December 12, 2017


The flavors at Estefan Kitchen could just put you there.

When Miami’s First Couple of music set out to do something special, it invariably succeeds. The golden duo of Gloria and Emilio Estefan, who brought conga and an exotic sound to the far reaches of middle America (and the world) in the 1980s, are devoted to keeping their Cuban culture alive, first with Larios on the Beach, where J-Lo met her first husband, waiter Ojani Noa, then loads of projects including the smash Broadway hit On Your Feet!, and now Estefan Kitchen, their latest culinary venture in the Design District’s lush Palm Court.

Stroll through the catwalk of high-end boutiques developer Craig Robins lured into their new Miami homes, take a left at Valentino, past Bvlgari, Vacheron Constantin and the sparkling diamonds shimmering inside Jason of Beverly Hills, and you’ll arrive at Estefan Kitchen and enter into the intoxicating environment that emanates from its outside bar and wide-open entrance.



Based on a conceptual design by Emilio Estefan and Aldo Ducci of Arkitekto Co., the black and white interiors, elegant bisazza floors and striking iridescent blue-tile walls are inspired by 1950s Cuba and the vibrant design, culture and warmth that permeated Havana and the island. Men in guayaberas and women in fine dresses arrive with a touch of nostalgia for a bygone era, surrounded by a new generation attracted by unabashed glamour and great food. The air fills with lively conversations as guests perch on white mock-crocodile banquettes that flank the expansive dining room and are punctuated by sparkling mosaic palm trees that command the room’s center.



The Estefan coat of arms lights the back wall.
The atmosphere begs one to start with a cocktail, and Estefan Kitchen doesn’t disappoint, with a selection of signature drinks and “world-famous mojitos,” including the Chusma Fina (“pretty girl” in Cuban slang, or so we’re told), a sparkling number made with rum, mint leaves, lime juice and sugar cane, and topped with Martini & Rossi prosecco. Although potent, there’s no need to settle for just one glass; it’s available in a pitcher (as are all the restaurant’s mojitos) for $65.

Come to Estefan Kitchen with an appetite, for as in any good Cuban home, Abuela is ready to feed you ʼtil you burst with her delectable cuisine, only in this case, it’s Chef Odell Torres bringing Cuban favorites to life.


Men in guayaberas and women in fine dresses arrive with a touch of nostalgia for a bygone era, surrounded by a new generation attracted by unabashed glamour and great food.


Start with handmade Ham or Chicken Croquetas, made with a creamy béchamel sauce and balsamic guava reduction or Bacon Wrapped Maduros, sweet plantains wrapped in Applewood smoked bacon, queso blanco and Estefan Kitchen Guava Cream. The Mini Cuban Sandwiches are just as you would imagine: bite-sized portions of the classic pressed sandwich made from slow-roasted pork, ham, fontina cheese, pickles and mustard, but with a little extra: tiny Cuban flags on toothpicks stand proudly on each morsel.

Small plates include the not-to-be-missed Lechón Crispy Moros with award-winning roasted pork, sweet plantains, grilled onions, cilantro sauce, organic honey and truffle oil. Yes, it is as mind-blowing as it sounds, and makes it harder to progress to main courses, as nearly every dish is as tempting. Favorites include Tuna Tartare with fresh tuna, avocado, fresh-squeezed lime juice, gluten-free soy sauce and sesame oil; Masitas de Puerco, mojo-marinated crispy pork bites, grilled onions, mojo and fufu (mashed green and sweet plantains) and Salmon Tira-dito, made with thinly sliced salmon, fresh-squeezed lime and orange juice, red onion, pickled pineapple, jalapeño pepper and chili cream.

Chef ’s specials, or Tajasos, change weekly, and sometimes more, for Chef Torres infuses more traditional Cuban favorites into the menu, which includes such favorites as Lechon Asado, Chicken Vaca Frita, Paella for two and the famous China Cubana, Cuban-style fried rice with shrimp, steak, chicken, bacon, egg, vegetables, sweet plantains, gluten-free soy sauce and sesame oil (a vegetarian option is available).

Talented servers break into song accompanied by a pianist seven nights a week, while weekends (Friday–Saturday) usher in a Buena Vista Social Club-mood with piano, horns and a conga beat. When the band takes a break, some of the best, rarely seen videos from the 1980s (think A-Ha’s “Take on Me,” Earth Wind and Fire’s “September” and Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration,”) keep the happy vibes going.
The restaurant continues the afternoon Cafecito tradition with an express café for traditional Cuban “grab & go” items, espresso drinks, fresh juices and healthy shakes available throughout the day.