OLA is back. This time, the executive chef is Carlos Castro, and the location is the Gates Hotel South Beach. Joining him is a team of restaurant veterans with a 16-year history of working together since the Miami Beach eatery's inception.
The restaurant, which debuted in 2003 at the Sanctuary Hotel, was originally helmed by Douglas Rodriguez, a member of Miami’s famed “Mango Gang” of chefs. OLA, an acronym for "Of Latin America," served guests for more than a decade before damage from Hurricane Irma in 2017 forced a short move to Miami Beach's SoFi neighborhood. Now the restaurant has a permanent home at the Gates.
“I’m inspired by la familia de OLA," Chef Castro says of his role in managing the close-knit culinary team. "Having worked together for 16 years, the OLA team is truly a family, and the collective knowledge, passion, and hard work is an inspiration every single day."
A blend of Latin American and Caribbean influences created by Castro, the menu also offers several of OLA’s signature dishes. It’s an homage to Rodriguez and those 16-year veterans.
In conceptualizing the menu, Castro turned to the restaurant's original chef for inspiration. “By taking a cue from the master, Douglas Rodriguez, we use local and fresh ingredients to create the unique cuisine that defines the Latin American palate that is Miami,” Castro says.
That "Latin American palate," he says, “is the cultural heartbeat of Miami and drums the harmony of OLA’s flavor profile."
Castro visits his native Colombia several times a year to work on techniques and nuances he can incorporate into his dishes. The country's pan de bono — a cheesy roll present on all Colombian menus — is something he's "forever perfecting," he says.
New menu items include a crispy chispa of fresh octopus and corvina tossed with lemon habanero butter for a nice kick of spice ($18), and ensalada de pulpo with charred octopus, juicy cherry tomatoes, baby kale, a sweet passionfruit glaze, hearts of palm, and black olive aioli ($22). Hearts of palm also make an appearance in Castro's red snapper fillet dish, served with arroz verde and a hearts of palm salad with a light lemon vinaigrette.
Still on the menu from Rodriguez's days are the filet mignon churrasco with chipotle crabmeat dressing, chimichurri, and grilled asparagus ($58); panela-cured salmon with red quinoa, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower in a huancaína sauce with radish salad ($36); and roast Cuban pork served with garlic yuca mash, black bean broth, Creole-style pepper salad with mustard mojo, and light, crisp chicharrón ($38).
Desserts include a chocolate cigar made from almond chocolate cake served with semisweet chocolate mousse and a candy matchbox. A must-try is the deconstructed key lime pie, with key lime custard, toasted meringue, and toasted cinnamon walnut tuile.
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The restaurant is located in a lovely space, where the tables look out onto the pool and diners stroll through a lobby that’s dotted with beautiful art. Castro says he couldn’t ask for a better place to curate a menu.
“It is an exciting challenge. The Gates is a tremendous space with infinite potential. Having established ourselves as one of Miami’s premier fine-dining dinner venues, to now take over the resort vibe of the Gates' breakfast and lunch operation is yet another source of inspiration,” he says.
OLA's menu is available in the dining room, at the pool, and in the lobby bar. A catering menu is also available for private events.
OLA at the Gates Hotel South Beach. 2360 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-695-9125; olamiami.com. Sunday through Thursday 6:30 to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday 6 to 11 p.m.