Yuca

“Take us to The W, please.”

I had a quick work trip in Fort Lauderdale, Florida this summer, and after the long flight my colleagues and I were relieved to get in the cab and ask our driver to take us to our hotel, only a few minutes away. Except he took us to the wrong one. In Miami, an hour away.

And that’s how I found myself in Miami for dinner one evening. It turned out to be worth the detour, and I took in as much of South Beach as I could while we searched for a good Cuban restaurant. We settled on Yuca — not quite the homestyle, authentic cuisine I was looking for, but rather an upscale, fusion-y rendition of Cuban classics. Or as Yuca calls it, “nuevo Latino.”

Hemingway Mojito

I started with a Hemingway mojito. Mojitos were a favorite of Ernest Hemingway’s, but I’m not quite sure what makes a mojito “Hemingway” as opposed to not. Regardless, this was one of the best mojitos I’ve had – rummy and heavy on the mint, just the way I like it.

Beef and chicken empanadas

We shared a few appetizers too, including beef and chicken empanadas served with jalapeno chimichurri dipping sauce. These were crispy on the outside, flaky on the inside, and piping hot with spicy meat. No complaints here.

We also shared an order of a citrusy shrimp, calamari, and octopus ceviche, and a plate of piquillos de pepin. Okay, two plates of piquillos de pepin. What are piquillos de pepin? And why isn’t there a photo? You might be wondering. Sorry, I was too busy scarfing down what might be the most delicious appetizer I’ve ever tasted to snap a picture. Imagine roasted Spanish piquillo peppers stuffed with porcini mushrooms and chorizo, drizzled with creamy cabrales cheese sauce. My new food goal in life is to learn how to make these at home.

Ropa vieja with plantain fufu and fried onions

I had the ropa vieja with plantain fufu and fried onions as my entree. Fancy ropa vieja is fancy. Ropa vieja translates to “old clothing,” so I couldn’t help but appreciate the irony here. Angus steak, slow cooked to shredded perfection and the fufu soaked up the garlicy tomato sauce. This dish may have been having an identity crisis, but it was delicious.

Yuca was reason enough to make our accidental detour worth it — and the additional hour ride back to Fort Lauderdale. I’ll raise a Hemingway mojito to that.

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