Larios on the Beach: New Spin on Cuban Classics

The Estefans' restaurant, Larios on the Beach, reopened on May 16 with a new look and a revamped menu and we were invited to stop in for lunch.

Larios features traditional Cuban food, such as ropa vieja (shredded beef in a tomato-based sauce) and arroz con pollo (chicken with yellow rice), fried plantains, and the like, but the menu also includes some items that put a contemporary twist on Cuban classics.

We began with samples of three appetizers, barbecue guava ribs ($12), fried green plantains stuffed with shrimp ($12), and a black bean hummus ($11) served with fried green plantain chips. We happen to be partial to sweet and savory when it comes to barbecue sauce and found the guava-sweetened sauce on the ribs to be a perfect compliment to the oven-roasted pork. The stuffed green plantains were traditionally prepared and pretty standard fare.

See also: Larios On the Beach Reopens Today

The black bean hummus is not the traditional kind, in fact, you may call it a dip. With its drizzle of cilantro and lime aioli, it's quite light and refreshing. Don't expect a traditional bean dip -- enjoy it for what it is -- a flavorful take on traditional hummus.

Other contemporary Cuban items include three types of sliders: frita cubana ($14), palomilla steak ($14), and roasted pork ($12). We tried a frita slider and a palomilla slider, which weren't just miniature versions of the iconic frita and pan con bistec. The frita slider does consist of the traditional beef and chorizo patty, but the bun is smeared with a complimentary roasted red pepper sauce, and the mini pan con bistec lacks tomato, and is topped with a spring mix.

We reverted to somewhat traditional items for our entrees, ordering the fried whole snapper (market price) and the grilled seafood platter ($49), but ordered Larios' brown rice alternative as a side as well as vegetable fried rice ($17) from the "Chino Cubano" section of the menu.

The snapper was cooked to perfection and plated impressively, as was the seafood platter, which includes lobster; shrimp; scallops; calamari; baby clams, and mussels. Both main courses are satisfying, but neither is outstanding.

A nice surprise was the vegetable fried rice served with maduros (fried sweet plantains). The chunks of sweet plantain complimented the salty soy sauce flavor of the rice. We like that the Estefans chose to include Cuban-Chinese in recognition of the Chinese who began immigrating to Cuba in the late 1800s.

Although Chinese cuisine never became as integrated with local cuisine as it did in Peru, it did tango with the island's cuisine. Why do you think so many Chinese restaurants in Miami serve maduros? It isn't just because of the local Cuban population.

We couldn't leave without trying Larios "world-famous mojitos" or the traditional flan ($8). We opted for the frozen raspberry mojito ($15), which consisted of expert amounts of alcohol and fruit. It's an ideal option for Miami weather. The flan, we're happy to say, was creamy and not overly sweet, served with edible flowers and a light caramel sauce.

It's true that the menu items may be a bit pricey for locals, but if you want to splurge, and eat a great meal right on Ocean Drive, Larios is a good choice.

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