Dinner Cabaret Calle Dragones Opens on Calle Ocho with Asian-Influenced Cuban Fare

The interior of Calle Dragones on Calle Ocho
The interior of Calle Dragones on Calle Ocho Calle Dragones photo
"When people come in, I want them to be proud and to feel the elegance of what Cuba once was," Luis Pous says while holding back tears.

Calle Dragones, the chef's new Calle Ocho restaurant, means the world to him. A native Cuban, he moved to Miami in 1999 after winning a visa lottery.

Pous made the most of his leap of faith. The chef has risen the culinary ranks, serving as a guest chef at James Beard House in New York City and working in prestigious spots like George V Hotel in Paris and Little Palm Island in the Keys. Still, Pous had a different goal in mind: to open a restaurant that celebrates Havana's heyday.

"My dream was always to do a Cuban restaurant, and now it's here," he says. "My idea was to focus on the glamourous times of Havana. When people think of Cuban food, they think of rice and beans. But there are remnants of such a beautiful Cuba from before the revolution with beautiful buildings, cabarets, and places to really wine and dine. This place captures it all."

Pous says construction on the space, in a partnership with the creators of Salvaje Hospitality Group, started approximately 18 months before the pandemic. He has since opened locations in Bogotá and Cartagena, Colombia.

The Miami location was designed by Spanish architect and interior designer García de Vinuesa. Design highlights include red velvet curtains, black crystal chandeliers, terrazzo flooring, 1950s velvet furniture, and a vintage white grand piano.

On the entertainment front, nightly programming includes Spanish Fiesta Thursdays, Havana Tropical Nights Fridays, Salsa Disco Fever on Saturdays, and World Carnaval Day on Sundays. The performances and live music are curated by musical director Dayhan Días, who has worked alongside the likes of Andrés Cepeda, Rey Ruiz, and Amaury Gutiérrez.

The dining menu pays homage to Pous' heritage with an Asian flair — the restaurant, after all, is named after a street in Havana's predominantly Chinese neighborhood. Among its standout items, according to Pous, are a mojo-roasted duck with guava hoisin and Chinese pancakes, a crab fricasé with Thai sofrito, and a risotto with short rib vaca frita.

"I have a lot of talented people around me to bring this idea that was in my head to life," says Pous. "The attention and detail have been like nothing else."

Calle Dragones. 1036 SW Eighth St., Miami; 786-722-8370; Monday through Wednesday 5 p.m. to midnight, and Thursday through Saturday 5 p.m. to 3 a.m. Brunch is served Sunday noon to 5 p.m.
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Jesse Scott is a Fort Lauderdale-based contributor for Miami New Times covering culture, food, travel, and entertainment in South Florida and beyond. His work has appeared in Condé Nast Traveler, Lonely Planet, National Geographic, and his hometown newspaper, the Free Lance-Star, among others.

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