Years ago, when New York's Meatpacking District was transitioning from a row of butchers to a trendy nightlife hub, Son Cubano was one of the pioneers in the neighborhood.
The restaurant, which featured Latin beats, mojitos, and Cuban fare, was considered a colorful and exotic place for Manhattanites to fantasize about life in a tropical clime. But the Meatpacking District changed, and the original Son Cubano moved to New Jersey. In its original NYC place? An Uggs store.
Now, Son Cubano is coming to Coral Gables.
The restaurant, located at 2350 Ponce de Leon Blvd., is set to open Friday, January 27, with a private reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony scheduled for tomorrow. The location is a picture-perfect place to pay tribute to Old Havana, with the building a former bakery built around 1924.
The eatery's concept, created by the KDC Restaurant Group, which is run by husband and wife Kevin and Diana Gouchee, along with Diana’s sister Claudia Caraballo, features Cuban cuisine fused with Asian ingredients. "There's a lot of Japanese influences as well," Diana Gouchee says. The restaurant, she says, will cater to an upscale audience seeking a full-fledged experience of food, cocktails, music, and atmosphere — more than a meal from Abuela's kitchen. "This is more modern cuisine. It's not home cooking. Calle Ocho is right here, so we knew we couldn't do straight-out Cuban."
Expect dishes such as udon con pollo (chilled udon noodles with slow-roasted pulled chicken, sweet soy sauce, roasted peanuts, and red shiso); gyoza cubana (pan-seared gyoza with pulled chicken ropa vieja, drizzled with cilantro and wasabi aioli); and Asian paella with shrimp, calamari, octopus, whitefish, chorizo cantipalo, saffron rice, fried eggs, and chili threads. Prices run about $18 a plate.
Cocktails will feature Bacardi rum. Says partner Kevin Gouchee: "We partnered up with Bacardi because it made sense since its headquarters are a block away. Our menu will feature great drinks incorporating some good rums."
The chef tapped to execute the dishes is Benjamin Tellez, who has had firsthand experience with both Asian and Cuban flavors while working at Makoto and with chef Douglas Rodriguez. Martin Ferreira, the longtime manager of Son Cubano in New York and New Jersey, has made the move to Miami to operate the Coral Gables location.
Also making the move to the Sunshine State are partners Kevin and Diana Gouchee. Says Kevin: "We relocated about a year and a half ago. We got tired of the weather, and our kids are loving it."
Kevin says the original plan was to open Son Cubano in Coconut Grove. "We researched for months. Monty Trainer helped us look for locations in the Grove, but there was nothing that had enough space. There were a lot of smaller spaces. We looked in Wynwood and the Design District and were finally introduced to this space in Coral Gables. After that, it happened pretty fast."
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Kevin describes the space as unique. The decor will focus on white with colorful accents. "The bar is a beautiful white marble with an arched back." The main dining room will have folding doors to open out to the street on beautiful days. "It's like one big room on the first floor."
A second floor will offer a lounge with a terrace. "It's a nice sizable area for cigar smoking. We're thinking of having a piano player up there too."
Son Cubano will be open for lunch and dinner six days a week from 11:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday brunch, featuring $20 unlimited mimosas, will begin February 12.