33 Kitchen is closing but the chef has bigger plans in Little Havana

The sign over Union Beer Store lights up with the message that many new Calle Ocho business owners say has brought them to Little Havana: I love Calle Ocho. CARL JUSTE cjuste@miamiherald.com

We hardly knew you, 33 Kitchen.

The nouveau Peruvian spot in Coconut Grove is closing amid rising rents and being sandwiched between several busy restaurants at their sliver of a spot, which nevertheless earned a 3 1/2-star (Excellent) Miami Herald. But chef Sebastian Fernandez has bigger plans.

He will open a new restaurant, Leslie, that will serve as the hub for a new outdoor courtyard in the heart of Little Havana’s revival.

El Jardin will be a new gathering space and courtyard/beer garden between 15th and 16th avenues, tying together new businesses along Calle Ocho and what the area’s re-developers want to dub Calle Siete (seventh street). What is now an alley will become a tree-lined walkway leading to a shaded hangout area with several new restaurants and bars surrounding it.

“It’ll be a communal courtyard,” said developer Bill Fuller, who, along with partner Martin Pinilla, has bought and renovated swaths of properties between 15th and 17th avenues, including the new El Jardin and his nearby Ball & Chain nightclub. “For visiting tourists and locals alike, you’ll be able to enjoy this inner courtyard. We think it’s going to be a magical space.”

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Chef Sebastian Fernandez will open a new restaurant in Little Havana’s El Jardin named Leslie, after his wife (left).
At the heart of El Jardin is Leslie, the name of the new restaurant by 33 Kitchen chef Sebastian Fernandez, whose profile skyrocketed when he was invited to participate at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. The new restaurant will sit inside a pair of restored 1920s bungalows, 1,600 square feet each, that face both Seventh Street and the internal courtyard. It’s slated to open early next year.
In one of the 50-seat bungalows at Leslie (the name of Fernandez’s wife and partner), Fernandez will experiment with his Peruvian-inspired cuisine spun forward. In the other, a wood-fire oven will turn out pizzas and other dishes perfect for that cooking method. Diners can sit at either restaurant or in the courtyard, amid another 50-75 seats, where they can order from both menus. Fernandez said his current 33 Kitchen will remain in business, for now, until the new restaurant is ready.
“It’s going to be beautiful,” Fernandez said. “There’s a lot going on. It’s really a hot area.”