D. Rodriguez Cuba

 

Highs, lows & lots of in betweens at D. Rodriguez Cuba

Chef Douglas Rodriguez
Chef Douglas Rodriguez, one of the creators of Nuevo Latino cuisine, which he started at Yuca, an upscale Cuban restauirant originally in Coral Gables.
 

Victoria Pesce Elliott

Douglas Rodriguez has always been bold. He has taken unfamiliar flavors from Peru, Argentina, Ecuador and other Spanish-speaking points to the finest tables. The Godfather of Nuevo Latino still impresses diners with his Alma de Cuba in Philadelphia and Deseo in Scottsdale, Ariz., and his OLA Miami Beach may serve the best ceviches in town.  In his latest endeavor, the namesake D. Rodriguez Cuba at the Hotel Astor, he returns to his roots with mixed results. On several visits, I found the food as up and down as a circus acrobat – service, too, could be graphed on a sine curve, veering from overbearing to exemplarily professional. At one point I stared out at a sea of plates … no fewer than seven … and realized that though I was still hungry, there was not one dish I really wanted to dig into.

Ambiance: Much as it did in its last incarnation as Maison D'Azur, the dining room glows with its sumptuous coffee and cream color scheme and low lighting. Smoky mirrors, burnished wood columns, terrazzo floors, ceiling fans and a vintage Cuban jazz soundtrack lend a festive and authentic air, and the adjacent garden is enchanting. But all that atmosphere can't make up for the erratic food, drinks and service.

What Worked

  • Luscious frita sliders on sweet egg buns
  • Tender lobster knuckles
  • An icy and sweet classic mojito loaded with well-muddled mint
  • Addictively crunchy plantain chips dunked in a frosty cold sofrito dip
  • A perfect avocado salad - a fan of creamy slices with tomato slivers and super-tangy oregano vinaigrette
  • Delightfully crackly “Cuban pizzas” on yuca-flour flatbread topped with slivers of unctuous duck foie gras and smoky sweet dates beneath peppery micro herbs
  • Sour orange snapper and conch salad
  • Cozy little sliders of chorizo-spiked pork served with lots of crispy matchstick potatoes
  • Authentic ham and bechamel croquetas
  • Good enough, but cold, oxtail empanadas in a golden crust
  • Fresh and briny clam soup
  • Smooth, dense guava cheesecake
  • Creamy quatro leche
  • A signature cigar box filled with fruity hookah-pipe smoke


What Didn’t Work

  • Gritty octopus
  • Rice so cakey it resembled a box of Chinese takeout at the back of the fridge
  • A second mojito tasting watery and metallic with a single floppy mint sprig at the bottom of the glass
  • Rubbery mixed seafood ceviche with an overpowering, quease-inducing fishy smell
  • Oddly flavorless oxtail stew as bland as baby food
  • Disappointing Cuban roasted pork with crispy skin, but meat was as dry as yesterday's bacon
  • Cod fritters as rubbery as pencil erasers
  • A lobster enchilado overwhelmed by cachucha peppers

 

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