The goods: Catharsis, a charming newcomer in Little Havana, does it best to approximate the romantic, subterranean vibe of a Tuscan wine cave. Hospitality vets Leo Hidalgo, Hernan Sturvet, Marcelo Malvicino, and Dr. Vivian Gonzalez-Diaz teamed up to create the cozy Calle Ocho spot. There’s a small stage at the back of the dining room where Latin Grammy winners Carlos Manuel and Carmen Lydia perform Fridays at 10pm.
Ambience: Housed in a former Latin rock club, the polished supper club is decked out in arched beige ceilings, cream-colored banquettes and flickering candles. It works as an offbeat date spot or an intimate spot to bring friends.
The grub: Latin cooking with a strong Caribbean influence. Prices are reasonable and portions are generous. Most starters average $10 and entrees top out at $24. House-made bread hits the table at the start of the meal. After that, it’s on to appetizers like corvina and shrimp ceviche flecked with habanero peppers, grilled Provoleta cheese (grilled cheese topped with diced tomatoes) and a plate of lightly fried tostones served with a Floribbean mango salsa.
Mains include a grilled corvina served over mashed carrots and scallion emulsion; a pesto, pear, and gorgonzola ravioli; and a hearty three-hour short rib soaked in red wine. Desserts include a guava mousse, mango sorbet and bouncy dulce de leche crepes.
Verdict: A lively Latin-fusion retreat on an urban stretch of Call Ocho.