Azul, the upscale restaurant that launched the careers of some of the best names in south Florida dining like Michelle Bernstein and Clay Conley, has closed temporarily during the Mandarin Oriental Miami's renovation. Cafe Sambal, located underneath Azul, has also closed.
According to the hotel's Public Relations Manager, Heidi Barfels, "As the hotel is undergoing a refurbishment, we are not taking reservations at Azul at this time. Azul will reopen to external guests at the end of the year."
Cafe Sambal is being replaced by an "exciting new restaurant concept".
Although rumors abound that Azul might not reopen, the fact that the restaurant recently received the prestigious and highly coveted Forbes Travel Guide Five-Star designation, means its pretty likely we'll see a polished and prettied Azul re-claim its place in the spotlight come Fall.
Azul's chef, Jacob Anaya, who was promoted from his position as the restaurant's sous chef in April 2012 after the departure of Joel Huff, has taken a position in a slightly more modest restaurant.
Anaya has landed at OTC: Over The Counter, the Brickell brewpub that features affordable fare and local craft beer.
We spoke with chef Anaya who confirmed that he quietly started at OTC this past Monday.
Anaya told Short Order that, although he loved working in fine dining for the past decade or so, working at OTC affords him the opportunity to get back to his roots. "I'm going to do the food I want to do. I want to see people at the restaurant three or four times a week instead of once every three months."
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Anaya said that he will be reworking the menu, but the restaurant's heart will stay the same. "Moving forward, for sure, we're still going to stay with the OTC concept, but we want to do some really nice interaction with the beers we serve. Maybe offer some more small plates. I want to focus on all the flavors that I've grown to love in my travels. You'll see influences from California, Hawaii, Asia, and even Australia. The food here is already amazing, so that won't change."
The chef said he was also excited to stay in Brickell. "This is a fantastic, cool neighborhood and coming to OTC is going to give me an opportunity to be a part of this community. For me, that's everything."