Miami is a melting pot, and that's reflected in its food. From Cuban to Mexican, every population brings its own culinary gifts to the table (literally). During a recent stay at the newly relaunched Gates Hotel in South Beach, I got a taste of the many flavors that make Miami unique.
I spent my first evening at the Hilton Cabana Miami Beach's Salinity Restaurant & Terrace, eating a six-course seafood meal: a duo of oysters garnished with rice wine, cucumber, and cilantro; thin-sliced raw yellowtail with compressed pineapple, ginger, and avocado crème; succulent salmon with a coconut curry sauce; and scallops with candied pork belly, followed by a decadent multi-layered chocolate cake. Executive chef Tim Rowland put something special into every little detail on the plate, from the plantain breading in the salmon to the espresso sauce next to the cake.
The following day, I tasted sugar cane juice from the market in Little Havana before getting lunch at Versailles, which advertises itself as the world's most famous Cuban restaurant. While eating salmon with guava barbecue sauce, sweet plantains, and empanadas, I sipped a milkshake made of mamey, a Cuban fruit that tastes like a blissful combination of papaya and sweet potato.
I left lunch stuffed, but my culinary adventures weren't over for the day. That night at the Gates, sous chef Shane Baruch served a five-course Mexican meal: elote fritters made of Mexican street corn; a "mini tamale" combining cornmeal and chicken with cilantro, Greek yogurt, and salsa in the shape of a Mexican flag; a deep-fried quesadilla filled with beans and topped with beef and avocado purée, a trio of chicken, carnitas, and carne asada tacos, and churros in a glass filled with vanilla ice cream.
Each meal felt like a sample of the city's culture. Miami may be a melting pot, but you can taste every flavor in it.
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