Design District: Havana Style at Estefan Kitchen

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Design District: Havana Style at Estefan Kitchen

Tucked in a corner at Design District’s Palm Court is Estefan Kitchen named for mega-superstars and owners Gloria and Emilio Estefan. This Cuban fine-dining locale embodies all things Miami. A see-and-be-seen spot, Estefan Kitchen is marked by its blue and purple mood lighting, glittering white pillars, mirrored walls, and star-studded tables. In the far corner, a live pianist plays both the classics and the latest hits, and behind the bar, a lone singer livens up the room as she sings along with him. In the midst of it all, smiling waiters buzz between tables, happily doling out cocktails in their finest whites—because at Estefan Kitchen, life is always bueno.

When it’s time for a main dish, the seared and shredded Chicken Vaca Frita is a menu favorite, as is the Award-Winning Lechón Asado with Cuban-style, 24-hour marinated and roasted pork, yucca, and white rice. For a sweet ending, order the Natilla. Served in a stemless wine glass, this sugary dish douses Cuban-style homemade vanilla bean pudding in sweet caramel… and it’s worth every calorie.

But with so much to choose from on the menu, it's hard to pick one favorite everyone can agree on. For Chef Torres, however, the award-winning Lechón Crispy Moros with roasted pork, sweet plantains, grilled onions, cilantro sauce, organic honey, and crispy moros is the absolute best.

“It’s my favorite dish because it has all the flavors of Cuba in one bite. You have the moros, the maduros, and the lechón, all of which is very traditionally Cuban. Then, you also have sautéed onions, which usually go with the pork, and the cilantro, which brightens it up a little bit.” - Chef Odell

“I make my moros different than most. I use Valencia rice instead of typical white rice, and when I cook it, I make sure the outside gets crispy and the inside maintains its creaminess. I created a cilantro vinaigrette that I make fresh everyday, and finish it all off with a little truffle oil.”

And like his moros, good Cuban food is everywhere in Miami; so to stand out, Chef Odell constantly looks for ways to add his own flair.

“I think, when it comes to any recipes, every person makes it their own. As for me, I’m a firm believer in farm-to-table,” he says. “I use as many local products as possible and I make everything in house. Nothing here comes out of a box. Our Fish of the Day is whatever was caught that morning, and we’ll use it in everything. Take our ceviche, for example. Not only do we use the Fish of the Day as our base, but we top it with juices, all of which are squeezed fresh.”

When it comes down to it, at Estefan Kitchen, a meal is about more than food. It’s about tradition. And to get to the heart of that tradition, Chef Odell Torres starts by getting to the core of the food he whips up: its flavor.

“For me, cooking is all about one thing: simplicity. I buy the freshest ingredients and I don’t overcomplicate any dish,” Chef Odell Torres says. “That’s why the food is so good. The flavor just shines through.”

Estefan Kitchen is located at 140 NE 39th Street, Suite 33. It is open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. The restaurant’s hours are Sunday through Thursday, from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to Midnight. Cafecito is available at the bar from 9 a.m. to close.

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