Though we were too full to eat dessert, we were hesitant to leave a place that met nearly every expectation we had for a great Mexican restaurant. As we lingered over our Tecate and wine-based margarita - Las Puertas has a nice selection of wines and Mexican beers, but no hard liquor - Mr. Lopez summoned the chef to our table to answer some questions we had about which provinces of Mexico the restaurant's cuisine was from. My companion asked the knowledgeable young woman if she is Mexican.

"No, I'm a nice Jewish girl from New York," replied the chef, whose name is Cindy Rothman. She told us about the woman who taught her to cook: "a Mexican who now runs her own restaurant in New York...I followed her around her house for days and wrote down every move she made, every ingredient she touched."

"Her name wouldn't be Zarela Martinez?" ventured my dining companion, who had once interviewed perhaps the most famous Mexican chef in the United States, a New Yorker commissioned to cook for heads of state gathering in Williamsburg for an economic summit.

"Yes, Zarela," replied Rothman.
It's a small world, we noted. And a lucky break for Miami. Mazeltov and buena suerte to one of Miami's newest, most beautiful Mexican restaurants. On a street replete with fine restaurants, we had only one word to describe this one: "Ole!"

LAS PUERTAS
148 Giralda Ave, Coral Gables; 442-0708. Hours: Lunch Monday - Friday 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Dinner Sunday and Monday 5:30 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., Tuesday - Saturday 5:30 p.m. to 11:00 p.m.

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