Rioja Grille, featuring tropical Latin cuisine in a Spanish setting, has opened at the Doubletree by Hilton Miami Airport Convention Center Hotel, helmed by chef Michael Meuse.
Rioja replaces 777 Steak and Pasta, which is still listed on the hotel's website. The hotel's front desk was at first unaware that Rioja was open when we called yesterday. After a brief period on hold, we were transferred to Chef Meuse, who assured us the restaurant is serving dinner.
A large hotel restaurant has its challenges -- serve "hotel" food or try to cater to locals. Meuse might be trying to err on the side of hotel guests. "Basically we are inside a major hotel, so we deal with a vast variety of people. We try to appease everyone," he said.
Asked about the menu, Meuse said, "The restaurant has a warm Spanish feel. I put my little take on Spanish and Mediterranean flavors. I try to put a creative spin on favorite dishes."
Creative spins on classic dishes include a steak-house wedge salad with fried chorizo instead of bacon, and skewered chili lime prawns with mango chunks.
Taking cues from various Latin sources, Rioja will serve steaks and chops, as well as an extensive seafood menu including Peruvian-inspired ceviche ($7). "The seafood mixed grille ($25) and cioppino ($28) are favorites with our guests," Meuse said.
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Rioja also has a bar menu featuring burgers, sandwiches, and light bites.
Meuse is a graduate of Johnson & Wales University and comes to Rioja Grille from the Boca Lago Country Club, where he was executive chef.