This story has actually been a while in the making. Las Americas has been planning a move to a bigger, better location since last April. Lucky for all of us, they’re just days from opening.
“Basically we shared the [old] place with the Bolivian consulate in Miami Springs. So, when they decided to move, we decided to move somewhere else, because there was no more traffic,” Jose Lujan, one of Las Americas’ owners told us, speaking of the restaurant’s previous location just north of Miami International Airport. Lujan, along with three other Bolivian partners, has been living in Miami for more than 20 years. He, along with chef Aida Claros, hope to not simply bring Bolivian cuisine to Miami, but their culture as well.
Claros, the head chef at Las Americas, hails from Cochabamba, situated in a valley to the south of the towering plateaus and altitudes of La Paz. Her cuisine is an homage to her homeland. “Basically, our food is more like what you’d find in the Altiplano,” she told us, speaking about her heritage. “We have Bolivian food, but we also have folk music, dancing. We are combining cultural things.”
Step into Las Americas and you’ll find what feels like a traditional restaurant from the southern reaches of South America. Wood paneling and low light pairs with traditional flute music played throughout Bolivia. A stage sits at the back of the restaurant, and will eventually be used for live folkloric shows, and other presentations the owners hope to host as they elucidate Bolivian culture.
From the kitchen, the aromas of Claros’ hearty, rustic cuisine waft into the dining room. Although they hope to open full time next week with proper signage, they’ve been doing light lunches for the past couple of months. On a given day, diners can find a small hot box full of salteñas, Bolivia’s version of an empanada. The easiest entry into Bolivian cuisine, these salty sweet stuffed pastries are juicy and filling.
Other dishes in the chef’s repertoire include Silpancho, a hearty plate made of fried beef, potatoes, rice, and a pico de gallo-like salsa to season everything. On a visit last week, she was working on her sopa de trigo, a soup made with wheatberries, vegetables, and tunta, a variety of potato that is allowed to dry in the frigid Andean air, then typically rehydrated for various dishes. If you’re going for South Beach diet cuisine, Las Americas isn’t for you. However, you can always count on 100% fresh ingredients coming out of the kitchen.
Las Americas happens to be one of only a handful of restaurants in the United States serving Singani, Bolivia’s national spirit. Undergoing a process similar to distilling Peru’s famous Pisco, Singani is crisp and clean, perfect for mixing, but great on its own. Perhaps a Chuflay to wash your meal down? Or a glass of spiked chicha morada?
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Both Claros and Lujan told us that they’re waiting on a final inspection next week which will allow them to fully open. Once all has passed, Claros assures us that her full menu will be available. On weekends, there will be sopa de maní, a brothy treat made from chicken and peanuts. She’ll be serving lechón, falso conejo, fricassee, and much more. “I’m also thinking about putting arroz con queso. I’m from Cochabamba, so I have to learn,” Claros told us, eager to delight diners with the flavors of her native country.
Far from the Caribbean-centric Latin dishes so many of us are used to here in Miami, the food at Las Americas speaks more of the Andes and a country proud of one of its top products, the potato. For now, they’re open daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., 9 on the weekends. Starting next week, diners will find a full Bolivian menu, and even a few plates paying homage to their Little Havanna surroundings.
Las Americas is located at 2772 SW Eighth St., on the western end of Calle Ocho. Look for the big red Alex Hanna building.