Miguel Aguilar grew up eating sopa de frijoles negros and tropical salads -- and now he's out to give others a taste of his Venezuelan childhood by completely reworking the menu at Wynwood Kitchen & Bar.
The executive chef's recently added menu items include plates like hamachi ceviche with mango aji amarillo ($15), fingerling chorizo hash ($8), and even a new dessert called "Latin misu" ($8). That's err -- Miamian for tiramisu, complete with tres leches and espresso. His additions inject ample Latino collagen into the artsy Wynwood eatery's otherwise new American cuisine.
"I lived in Venezuela until I was 10, then I went back when I was 21," he said. "And I grew up eating green mango with salt." "So when I came in, I asked for permission from the owner to re-conceptualized the restaurant."
Since arriving at Wynwood Kitchen a little over a year ago, Aguilar has changed the menu every 3 to 4 months, but this time, his focus was on a consistent Latin flavor profile.
"I took into consideration that Miami is a majority of Latinos, and tourists who come from overseas -- I want to accomodate everyone's palate," he said.
You can expect to find the things he ate growing up (black bean soup with herb crema $7, tropical salad with hearts of palm and avocado, $9), as well as innovative takes on Latin classics like the coconut upside down cake ($8).
"Pineapple upside down cake is very Christmasy in Venezuela... really all over Latin America. I figured pineapple was too predictable, so my sous chef and I tested a coconut upside down cake."
"I like to call it the coco-crack-cake."
There's also plenty Mexican influence in the new dishes. "Mexican food is loved all over the world -- I don't think I've ever met anyone who didn't like Mexican food."
While pork rillette ($14) is typically interpreted as French, Aguilar added Mexican-inspired roasted tomatillo sauce, and a chili oil and scallion salad.
"I've gotten really great feedback on the vaca frita ($15)," he said, noting that it's a healthier take on the Cuban classic (which typically uses shredded flank cuts). "We use skirt steak and pan fry it so it's crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, and that comes with a four bean salad and piquillo pepper pureé." Aguilar said that his next menu revision will include 3 or 4 more ceviches, where he intends to perfect the delicacy of raw fish. Incidentally, only 3 dishes on the current menu have starch, so the rest is pretty carb-friendly.
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But enough of the carb-friendly mumbo-jumbo. Glutons that we are, we'll end this on a particularly sweet note: white chocolate bread pudding ($8). That's Aguilar's ode to the Cuban (and Miamian) staple, pastelitos de guava y queso. The white chocolate bread pudding comes with an orange guava glaze.
Ay Dios mio.