OLA's Polished Staff and Artful Ceviche Shine

Categories: Best of Miami
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John Zur
Ceviche at OLA.
Tucked away inside the Sanctuary Hotel in Miami Beach, OLA is tidy in name, appearance, and cuisine. Chef and owner Douglas Rodriguez, or "El Jefe" as the menu refers to him, oversees the menu with executive chef Horacio Rivadero, who kindly came out of the kitchen and invited us to a tasting of the menu.

Starting things off were a couple of cocktails. The traditional Cuban mojito ($14) is made with Don Q rum, lime, mint, and sugar. It's a well-balanced mojito served in an oversize rocks glass. The vodkajito ($14) is made with Charbay pomegranate vodka, pomegranate purée, lime, and mint. It is both a unique take on the traditional and not overly done-up with the pomegranate, as the description might suggest.

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John Zur
The atmosphere is fun, upbeat, and playful. Our server, Jackson, displayed an accommodating attitude, as did others on the staff. His menu knowledge was strong, and he made educated suggestions.

A tasting of six ceviches came first: hamachi ($18), lobster ($20), rainbow ($18), fire and ice ($18), mixto ($18), and tuna and foie gras ($20). The lobster, with chili-spiced cucumber, lime juice, fresh corn, and tarragon beurre-blanc, was a favorite. The most traditional ceviche on the menu is the mixto, composed of shrimp, octopus, and cobia in lime, orange juice, limo pepper, cilantro, kalamata olives and served with yuca à la huancaína. Also impressive was the tuna and foie gras with kumquat-yuzu sauce, lemon oil, serrano chilies, and baby arugula.

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John Zur
Between courses, the OLA mojito ($14), with Don Q Limón rum, lime, mint, and sugar, was brought out. It had a surprisingly different and noticeably refreshing quality. The cojito ($14) is made with coconut rum, lime juice, mint; comes strained; and is served with a sugar rim and lime wheel. It has a potent coconut flavor and is a strong drink.

A tasting of starters included smoked marlin tacos ($18), with rum vanilla, cured-smoked in a crisp malanga boat with pickled jalapeños. They were definitely a favorite, along with the foie gras empanada ($15), made with anise dough, almond-fig cake stuffed with foie gras, duck serrano and served with frisée salad and black trumpet vinaigrette. The mystery meat balls ($20), with callampa mushroom sauce, are moist and flavorful but perhaps too pricey to stand on their own as a full-size appetizer. The chicharrón ($17), comprising crisp rock shrimp tossed in sweet and spicy panca sauce with micro cilantro, was a nice appetizer full of taste and texture. Falling short of expectations were the king crab salad ($20) and duck salad ($17).

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John Zur
Lamb loin and filet mignon.
The entrées tasted included plantain-crusted mahi ($32) over braised oxtail stew -- which was so delicious it could stand on its own -- and tomato escabeche. The filet mignon churrasco ($42) was a tasty cut of meat with a dressing of chipotle crabmeat and chimichurri that hid the flavor of the beef. The sugar-cane tuna ($36) was tastefully adobo-rubbed and seared, and served over malanga goat cheese fondue, spinach, and shrimp escabeche. The lamb loin ($42) was herb-crusted and served over crisp blue potato, with an artichoke salad, goat cheese soufflé, and lamb demi. The individual components are to be appreciated, but there's a lot going on with the dish overall.

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John Zur
Mahi and ahi tuna.
OLA's desserts are $12 each and include the deconstructed key lime pie, which is a unique twist on traditional key lime pie that could use the irreplaceable graham cracker crust. The flan de queso ice cream has a curious list of ingredients, such as pistachio cake, mixed berry salad, guava foam, and balsamic vinegar reduction sauce. Perhaps the best dessert was the banana tres leches with passion fruit sauce and fresh bananas.

Although the portions in relation to value was indeterminable owing to the tasting sizes, one can't go wrong with OLA, where the food is artistic but not pretentious, the atmosphere displays a touch of class, and even the busboys have manners.

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Location Info

OLA at Sanctuary Hotel

1745 James Ave., Miami Beach, FL

Category: Restaurant

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