The goods: The much-loved Hotel Nash is once again a South Beach dining destination with the recent opening of Cha Cha Rooster, a disco diva of a restaurant. Owner Brian Gorman transformed the deco gem into the gay-friendly Lords of South Beach, completed with a bright, sun-kissed makeover featuring canary yellow couches and gold tiled walls.
Ambience: Cha Cha Rooster’s subterranean dining room occupies the old Mark’s South Beach spot, flanking the hotel’s small dipping pool. Mod white chairs play off original polished terrazzo flooring for a funky effect. Large framed black and white photos of sassy females – the namesake roosters – line the walls.
The grub: Globe-trotting Latin cuisine. Chef Surelys Figueroa is Puerto Rican and her background includes stints at the Raleigh (when Eric Ripert was consulting chef) and Sushi Samba. So expect Latin classics with French techniques and Asian flavors. Prices are reasonable given the tourist-heavy territory. Starters are $7-$13 and most mains are under $20. Sides are $5.
Start off with tuna tiradito enlivened with a yuzu and white soy emulsion. Heirloom tomatoes and organic olive oil share the plate with a creamy Italian burrata. The braised short rib is already the restaurant's most popular dish, served atop a truffled celery root puree with caramelized pearl onions and artichoke confit. Other main include a black grouper accompanied by a handful of clams, baby zucchini and squash and doused with a ginger-lemongrass broth. Vegetarians will be heartened to find the quinoa entrée spiced with cilantro, mint and golden raisins.
Desserts include a molten chocolate cake with a scoop of rum and Coke ice cream and a “Midnight Mousse," made with goat cheese, fig, and a sherry Port reduction.
The verdict: Tourists and locals will walk out of Cha Cha Rooster happy and with a full belly.
Photo by Manny Fernandez