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 service.
What Didn’t Work
Chef Douglas Rodriguez, one of the creators of Nuevo Latino cuisine, which he started at Yuca, an upscale Cuban restauirant originally in Coral Gables.