First look: Rybak’s Café

Trio of sliders at Rybak's.

The goods: A building with as much sex appeal as Latitudes in Miami’s downtown needs a sexy resto to complete the look. Enter Rybak’s Café, the brainchild of chef Garrette Gray, formerly of the Fairmount Turnberry Isle and the Mayfair in the Grove. The dark wood tables, brilliant orange chairs, shiny copper patina on the floor along and gleaming stainless steel from the open kitchen make the place feel like a New York import.

There are several cameras in the kitchen, and the activities are broadcast on plasma screens throughout, so you know for sure nobody’s spitting in your oxtail. True foodies, reality show addicts and those looking to steal Gray’s recipes will soon be able to log on to their website and watch the action.

Residents of the neighborhood wander over from Neo Vertika with their dogs or stop by after work to relax on the expansive terrace, where there are a few sofas and chairs in case you just want to skip dinner and get straight to the drinks. An extra bonus if you don’t come walking: valet parking is free.

The grub: Eclectic international cuisine with Jamaican flare. The late night crowd often sticks with the starters, the most popular being the trio of sliders, burgers with ostrich meat, kobe beef and tuna. Another fun treat is Rybak’s satay — skewers of shrimp, meat and chicken served over a small flame to keep them toasty. Most starters run between $9 and $16.

If you go for an entrée, try the veal cutlet served with a sweet sauce and a bowl of rice and peas that will make you forget your no-carb New Year’s vow. A crowd favorite is the whole yellowtail, which is fried in such a way that the fish appears to be jumping off your plate. The fish is stripped of its meat before it gets dunked in hot oil and the golden chunks of fried meat are served on top. Entrees will run you between $22 and $38. There’s a sushi menu if you want to keep it light, with a mix of modern and traditional offerings. The most popular is the Rybak’s roll, with barbeque eel, wahoo and grouper.

For dessert, there’s no refrigerated Costco pie here. Rybak’s pastry chef pops out new creations daily, or try standards like the Chocolate Fortress, a fluffy cylinder of chocolate mousse surrounded by a fence of chocolate sticks. It’s decadent, but the prudent portion will not destroy your diet.

The verdict:
With international cuisine, a sushi menu, coffee shop, pastry chef and fancy cocktails, Rybak’s Café has got all of the bases covered.

Rybak’s Café, 117 SW 7th St, Miami. Coffee shop opens at 7 a.m.-9 p.m. daily, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Mon-Thurs, 11 a.m.-1 a.m. Fri-Sat, 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Sundays, bar open till four on Fridays and Saturdays

Published: 1/09

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