Argentinian chef Sebastian La Rocca’s new restaurant in downtown Miami pays homage to the food he loves most in a culinary journey through Latin America’s diversity of flavors.
Based on the cocina de mercado concept, the everyday unfussy market cuisine that features primary products and simple techniques, Cvltvra (pronounced “cultura”) incorporates a classic Mediterranean approach for a genuine crossover of cultures.
“The idea is to introduce Latin food to Miami’s dining scene on a different level,” La Rocca says. “It is a cuisine with many possibilities. We want to showcase flavors that are out of the mold.”
La Rocca describes his food as a translation of his nomadic spirit, underpinned by a lifelong dedication to gastronomy.
Apart from the culinary experience he garnered working alongside chefs like Jamie Oliver at the Barbecoa in London and in the kitchens of the Four Seasons Papagayo in Costa Rica and Club Europeo in Argentina, La Rocca’s chief inspiration is his grandmother’s cooking and the Latin American foodscape itself, which he explores in his Costa Rican TV cooking program Sabores.
Housed on the ground floor of the ME Miami hotel on Biscayne Boulevard, Cvltvra has an open feel, with an expanse of windows and a spacious dining room decked out in soft colors, tile walls, and vibrant South American art and motifs. There’s a bar along the open kitchen, run by executive chef Fabian Di Paolo, who has over two decades of experience, including work with chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten at the W Hotel in Washington, D.C.
The menu emphasizes fresh ingredients, many sourced from local and artisanal vendors. Guests are encouraged to experience a meze-style spread of two or three shareable dishes, starting with appetizers like crispy chicharrón with habanero sweet chill sauce ($8) and velvety avocado hummus served with yuca arepas, cotija cheese, and coriander seeds ($11).
Courtesy of Cvltvra
Entrée highlights include grilled chimichurri baby chicken with jasmine rice sautéed with fried plantain, pineapple, coconut, and fermented soybeans ($26); pork Milanese with tomato, avocado, radishes, cilantro, and jalapeño ($20); and “the Burger,” served with ham and Swiss cheese, avocado, pickled shallots, cumin mayo, and plantain fries ($15).
For dessert, there are coconut-ginger rice pudding and dulce de leche panna cotta with caramelized popcorn and cocoa nibs ($9 each). The list of libations is made up of signature drinks like La Rosita, a mix of Lechon cachaça, port, passionfruit, lime, and mint; and La Piscolita with Ocucaje pisco, egg white, lime, papaya salt, and Angostura bitters ($15 each).
“Cvltvra is not about fine dining,” La Rocca ays. “We’re about coming in with friends and family and enjoying a nice meal in a casual chic atmosphere.”
Cvltvra. 1100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-808-3507; cvltvra.com. Open Monday through Wednesday 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., Thursday through Saturday 7 a.m. to midnight, and Sunday 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.