Three Hidden Latin Gems in Miami

By: Amy Sedeño

In Miami, when you say “mi gente” it translates to over 30 countries and 70 percent of the population. The city that was once dubbed as “an extension of Havana” has become a melting pot of nationalities; we’ve got Colombians, Venezuelans, Brazilians, Peruvians, Puerto Ricans, Mexicans… and if I name all the countries you’ll likely move on to the next article. Naturally, Latin food concepts have popped up all over the city, and while Versailles will always be “the place” for a mid-day colada and pastelito, we’ve broadened our horizons to include these three stand-out gems that you might have otherwise missed.

1111 Peruvian Bistro (neighborhood: Brickell)

Peru is a Latin American powerhouse in the culinary scene with Lima being one of the world’s best food cities. Inspired by his native ingredients and celebrity Chef Diego Muñoz, Head Chef Enriquez has created a menu that is accessible and playful but also truly authentic. These are the dishes you can’t leave without trying (unless you are planning to return). First up, their sweet and sour conchitas a la parrilla, juicy plump scallops served on their shell with chili pepper butter and passion fruit glaze topped with potato crunch; insert fire emoji. Follow this with the sticky shrimp in a sesame chow mein cake - you’ll be thinking about those crunchy, sweet, tangy, melt-in-your mouth suckers for days. If you ask Chef Enriquez, he will tell you to go for the ceviche apaltado, a little bit of avocado, a little bit of kewpi mayo, the traditional leche de tigre and a whole lot of flavor. Enriquez has a special love affair with seafood and his first job at the restaurant was to be in charge of the cold kitchen making ceviche and sushi. His skill catapulted him to Head Chef and while his six-hour seared duck and cilantro rice deserve a standing ovation his eyes light up when you say “pescado a lo macho.”

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Sansara (neighborhood: Coral Gables)

Yes, it is Cuban…no, it is not a cliché. Sansara is Spanish for “Samsara” meaning the cycle of life and rebirth in Sanskrit. Thinking back to my last meal there, yes, I was born again.  Chefs Andres Vega and Sachi Statz artfully created a space that is chic without feeling pretentious, homey without feeling outdated and bold without straying too far from their Cuban roots. In Sansara, it is all about the vibe. Start off with a fruity hibiscus lavender cocktail and sip it slowly while listening to Kendrick Lamar (were you expecting Gloria Estefan?) and taking in the beauty of Sachi’s own flower arrangements and the vintage china displayed throughout. The pop-up restaurant is just as creative in the kitchen. Order the papaya salad with pork belly, the perfect balance of fat and acidity, the croqueta cake benedict (need I say more?) and the café con leche pan perdu, soaked in coffee and milk for 24 hours and topped with coffee caramel and evaporated milk foam. Repeat.

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Ocio (Doral + Coral Gables)

It’s Colombia not Columbia. The friendly waitress from Medellin was wearing the t-shirt proudly as she served plates of pan de bonos, tequeños, pork rinds and arepas. Ocio offers an elegant atmosphere and homemade Colombian dishes. Bring your parcero for lunch and taste a traditional bandeja Paisa, sancocho de gallina (a Colombian-style hen soup only served on Fridays and Sundays and glorified hangover cure) and Colombian potatoes. For breakfast, enjoy an arepa de choclo (sweet corn), coffee and beef empanada. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, try the arequipe milhoja, the Latin version of a mille-feuille.  Take the time to look over their extensive and highly visual menu; it’s truly a work of art.

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