Home / 2016 / March

azul cooking classIt’s only natural that a triple five-star hotel such as Mandarin Oriental, Miami {500 Brickell Key Drive, Brickell; 305.913.8358} would have restaurants helmed by some of the most talented chefs around. But it’s not every day that you can get an up-close-and-personal look inside the workings of these chefs’ kitchens.

But that’s exactly what the luxury hotel on Brickell Key is doing. Award-winning Chefs Benjamin Murray of Azul (above) and Diego Oka of La Mar by Gastón Acurio (below) are inviting both guests and locals alike into their culinary workspaces for a series of interactive cooking classes and demonstrations.

chef diego okaLearn what goes on behind the scenes in preparing world-class menu items, while picking up basic cooking tips and tricks to take to your own kitchen. For example: Did you know that the flavor you get from a lime’s juice depends on the way you slice it? Do you know which fish varieties have the least amount of fat? What about the best tools for sautéing meat over an open-flame stove?

At Azul, Chef Murray shows how to prepare the ultimate gourmet lunch in the restaurant’s marble-clad open kitchen. The session is followed by a three-course tasting menu matched with flights of premium wines by sommelier Dwayne Savoie. Classes are $175 per person and take place from 10am-1pm.

At La Mar, Chef Oka demonstrates how to create classic Peruvian dishes such as cebiche and a selection of causas. You’ll also learn how to create a traditional pisco sour at La Mar’s waterfront bar by Lef Kraounakis. Classes are $100 per person and take place from 6-7:30pm.

2016 Cooking Classes Schedule:

Saturday, April 23: Springtime Flavors with Chef Murray of Azul
Friday, May 6: Causa Tasting with Chef Oka of La Mar
Saturday, June 11: Japanese Techniques with Chef Murray of Azul
Saturday, September 24: Couples Cooking with Chef Murray of Azul
Saturday, November 12: Festive Ways to Prepare for the Holidays with Chef Murray of Azul
Friday, December 9: The Secrets of Leche de Tigre with Chef Oka of La Mar

Each student is given recipe cards and cooking notes for easy step-by-step reference. And upon completion, you’ll receive a certificate of participation and a signature apron, earning you bragging chef rights at your next big family dinner celebration.

—Sherri Balefsky | Miami Editor


Savor the good life. That’s the motto of award-winning chef and owner of Ortanique, Cindy Hutson, who introduced her newest projects Zest {200 South Biscayne Boulevard, Miami; 305.374.ZEST} and Zest MRKT to Miami’s Southeast Financial Center in early March. Hutson’s self-coined, ethnically diverse, and seasonally driven culinary style allows guests to experience global cuisine with hints of her signature island flavors.

After the success of Ortanique, Cindy and her partner, Delius Shirley, are excited to expand their legacy with Zest, while maintaining the quality and originality of her iconic cuisine. Zest’s “Cuisine of the Sun” will be crafted daily by Hutson and Chef de Cuisine Mike Fischetti, who has cooked at many Ortanique locations over the past decade. Entrée highlights include the Surf n’ Turf Ravioli with oxtail and lobster and the Curried Octopus with golden raisins and roasted cashew pilau.

The beverage program at Zest will also refresh your palate. Relax at the indoor- outdoor state-of-the-art bar and connecting lounge area while you indulge in something from Hutson’s innovative drink menu, which reflects her cosmopolitan flair. Housemade syrups and infusions, craft beers, and a carefully curated wine list will invigorate your senses as you nibble on the lounge’s “Bar Bites.”

For hungry DiningOut readers on the go, Zest’s open kitchen will be shared with Zest MRKT, which is open weekdays for breakfast and lunch. The menu offers healthy grab-and-go options such as sandwiches, soups, salads, and fresh juices. The standout on the MRKT menu is the Shawarma, which will offer an array of flavor profiles, rotated weekly.


Events_MC Kitchen0410

Through the Looking Glass: The Cushman School Gala – April 30
There’s no doubt that the fantastical “Alice in Wonderland” appeals to adults and youngsters alike—but did you know it also appeals to foodies? In fact, Alice’s Wonderland is the inspiration for this year’s Through the Looking Glass Gala, The Cushman School’s premier fundraising event hosted at Mana Wynwood.

Part of the magic of the gala comes to life in the dining experience. Tickets (starting at $295) include cocktails from the open bar and an elegant dinner presented by two local star chefs: author, restaurant owner, and James Beard and Emmy Award-winning Chef Michelle Bernstein; and nationally acclaimed Chef Dena Marino, chef/partner at MC Kitchen in Miami’s Design District and advocate for organizations such as Oxfam America, No Kid Hungry, and Common Threads. Together, the chefs will present a spread of sophisticated, seasonal eats, including Bernstein’s signature Braised Short Ribs finished on the grill and Marino’s Ricotta Cavatelli with vine-ripened tomato sauce—a family dish taught to her by her great-grandmother.

“I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to cook with one of my favorite chefs and good friend, Dena Marino,” says Bernstein. “I’m also happy to support The Cushman School—my son attends school there, and I want to help in any way I can to better the school’s future.”

“I’m very honored and proud that I can cook with a wonderful person and chef like Michelle for such an amazing cause,” echoes Marino, whose son also attends Cushman.

Proceeds from the event benefit Play To Learn, a campaign to bring a performing arts and athletic center to the school and the community. Key sponsors include TracFone and Royal Caribbean, who will bring the magical wonderland theme to life with performances by gymnasts, aerial dancers, and other live entertainers. Guests can get in on the fun by coming in costume—1800s Victorian aristocratic and steampunk fashion is encouraged.
Learn more at cushmanschool.org/gala.

South Beach Tour des Forks Tours – Whenever You Want!
Locals and tourists alike can learn and eat something new on a Tour des Forks Tour, which offers culinary excursions in Miami. If you’re visiting, skip the tourist traps and let one of the experienced guides introduce you to five of the best local joints. If you’re a local, spend a fun day gaining a fresh perspective on the cuisine and history of your city. When you aren’t indulging in some of Miami’s best eats, your guide will immerse you in the Art Deco District of Miami and teach you about some of the most famous historical and architectural sites. Tickets are $58 for three hours of food, culture, and a lot of sunshine.

Veritage Miami: Best in Glass – May 15-16 
Veritage is hosting its 21st Best in Glass wine challenge this spring, and it is the perfect opportunity to sip new wine in the company of expert sommeliers. Wine and food enthusiasts will enjoy watching the blind taste tests as the judges award gold and silver medals to the top wines from around the globe. This year, the challenge is focusing on wines that work well in a by-the-glass environment. All proceeds will go to United Way of Miami-Dade, a nonprofit dedicated to transforming lives through various educational, financial, and health programs.

South Florida Taste of the Nation for No Kid Hungry – June 17
Since 1988, South Florida’s Taste of the Nation for No Kid Hungry has been combining two of our favorite things: delectable dishes and a good cause. Just as in years past, guests will experience an exquisite evening of gourmet cuisine from over 50 of Florida’s finest restaurants and vendors. The event will also include cooking competitions and live entertainment, as well as live and silent wine auctions, to ensure a rich culinary evening centered around giving back to the community. All proceeds benefit Share Our Strength’s mission to end childhood hunger in America. Tickets are $125 ($250 for VIP).

Savbor Food & Wine Exhibition – June 22-23 
Savbor is presenting its third year of “The Best of Spain” exhibition, a vibrant market-style event in which over 100 top-quality food suppliers showcase their exceptional products. Savbor prides itself on product quality, and focuses on serving the food and wine industry in America, Europe, and beyond. The merchants at Savbor are all originally from Spain, and looking to expand their partnerships and customer bases throughout North America. Admission is free, so be sure to check out the exhibition and try a few samples. Who knows? You might just discover your new favorite food or drink.

International Mango Festival – July 9-10 
The Fairchild Tropical Botanical Gardens believes no other tropical fruit has the ability to bring a community together like the mango. This summer, join in celebrating the 24th annual International Mango Festival—two days of highlighting all the spectacular varieties of the king of tropical fruits. From mango trees for sale, to cooking demonstrations, to delicious treats, the Mango Festival has a little something for everyone who appreciates the juicy stone fruit. Tickets for nonmembers of Fairchild Gardens are $25 and admission is free for members.

By Jane O’Connor | Contributor

Bulla Gastrobar

It’s lunchtime at Bulla, and the food keeps coming: slices of Spanish cheese and cured meats artfully arranged on wooden boards; rustic Pan con Tomate (grilled tomato bread); a wedge of Tortilla Española with streaks of garlic aïoli; and spicy, briny Gambas al Ajillo (sautéed shrimp) swimming in extra virgin olive oil flecked with garlic.

It all reflects the beauty of dining tapas-style, which the Spanish-themed Bulla encourages. The food comes out in quick bursts; diners never wait for the often frustrating slower pace of a traditional kitchen. Instead, dishes hit the table minutes after they are ordered—especially the cheese and cured meat selections.

Most impressively, Bulla’s culinary team is efficient without sacrificing quality. In fact, most dishes are prepped and cooked à la minute—as they are ordered. The delicious Ensalada de Pulpo (octopus salad) is a perfect example. The chefs chop heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers on the spot, quickly bathing the octopus in olive oil, oregano, and lemon before grilling it and, finally, sautéing the croutons. When this dish arrives, it is fresh and flavorful.


This Spanish cooking style—simple, clean, and artisanal—is what Bulla Owner Carlos Centurion continues to perfect. When the restaurateur first launched Bulla three years ago, the entire menu featured traditional tapas from Spain, and while the Coral Gables eatery has evolved over time to incorporate a few American food trends— including burgers, kale salad, and quinoa—the philosophy of Bulla has remained intact. It’s a family-style neighborhood restaurant focusing on straightforward cooking techniques utilizing the best ingredients.

Many people don’t think of us as a Spanish restaurant. They think of us as the neighborhood restaurant. Most of our crowd is made up of locals. —Carlos Centurion, owner

“We want to be a restaurant that everyone likes,” says Centurion. “We don’t want to hear somebody say, ‘I don’t like Spanish food.’ We have options that aren’t in-your-face Spanish.” The Costillas de Res (braised short ribs) almost seems French in its preparation, with the short ribs braised in red wine in the oven for three hours and topped with glazed cipollini onions. But instead of plating it as one large slab of meat, it is portioned into three pieces for easy sharing.

Bulla’s version of the Tortilla Española—a classic small plate found on menus from Marbella to Miami—is made fresh every morning with eggs, thinly sliced potatoes confited with onions, olive oil, and roasted garlic aïoli. The secret? Cooking the omelette to medium-rare so the eggs remain tender and soft.

On the other hand, one of Bulla’s most popular— and experimental—dishes is the Huevos Bulla. While it seems like another egg-based small plate with potatoes, it’s anything but. Two fried eggs are nestled in a bowl with homemade potato chips, potato foam, truffle oil, and slices of serrano ham. The magic happens tableside, as the server swirls it all together with two forks, creating vibrant yellow rivers of egg yolks oozing over the potato chips. Each bite can only be described as transcendent.

Speaking of heavenly ingredients, it’s worth the splurge to order the Jamón de Bellota “5J.” Why is this Ibérico ham such a delicacy? It starts with free-range pigs that are fed primarily acorns. Next, the highest quality cuts of pork are selected, processed, and cured in salt for 36 months. The result is meat with a nutty flavor that, when sliced right, melts in your mouth. Bulla’s ham pairs well with its cheese selection, all sourced from Spain, including Cabrales, Tetilla, Mahón, and Manchego.


Another do-not-miss specialty? Bulla’s Paella, prepared two ways. The traditional Valencia paella involves cooking both the rice and seafood together with savory fish stock. The Catalonian technique, called Arroz a Banda, translates to “rice apart from seafood” and entails cooking the seafood and rice separately. Both paella dishes are layered with flavor and red-orange in color, which is actually more authentic than the bright yellow hue some diners may have grown to expect.

“In the ’80s and ’90s, the best restaurants in Spain put yellow food coloring in their paellas,” Centurion says. “It doesn’t add any flavor. It just makes it yellow. Tourists think this yellow color is good.” He explains that Bulla uses saffron to flavor its paella, which gives it more of a red- orange color. “Now, all the great restaurants in Spain use saffron. When you see a paella that is bright yellow, it most likely has added dye.”

In response to customers’ frequent requests, Bulla recently added a hamburger to the menu. Centurion held out for a year and a half before finally adding it to the lunch menu. But this American classic is prepared with Spanish influences, of course. Cipollini onions, piquillo peppers, honey-thyme glaze, and Tetilla cheese make it as unique as Bulla itself. Within one month, this became Bulla’s best-selling sandwich.

Brunch also came later in the process, with a few tweaks before it emerged as a popular weekend indulgence. Bulla’s brunch spans both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, and offers the option of all-you-can-drink mimosas and sangría for an extra charge. Three versions of sangría include white wine, red wine, and beer.

These brunch beverages are all part of a mixology program that’s both classic and innovative, with many cocktails featuring fresh fruit and herbs. The Gin & Tonic, for example, starts with bottled Fever Tree tonic water poured into a large wine glass with oversized ice cubes. In go the gin, five
juniper berries, a lime wheel, and lemon peel, making for an aromatic and refreshing result.

Bulla designed the bar to be food-friendly, too, adding extra-deep countertops, bar stools with backs, and great views throughout the restaurant. “It’s a gastronomic bar,” says Centurion, “and the bartenders are very knowledgeable about both food and drink.” They can steer you through the 75-bottle wine list and point you to a tasty bar snack like Patatas Bravas (crispy potatoes with aïoli).

Thanks to the friendly and approachable staff, a fun atmosphere (including a playlist spanning everything from Latin and Spanish rock to modern flamenco), and affordable pricing, Bulla has become a vibrant local hangout in Coral Gables. “We do our best to be part of the community,” Centurion says. “Many people don’t think of us as a Spanish restaurant. They think of us as the neighborhood restaurant. Most of our crowd is made up of locals.”

Although Bulla’s vibrant ambience and neighborly feel very much reflect Miami’s dining community, residents in other cities can get excited, too. Bulla, which is Spanish slang for “chatter,” is buzzing with expansion plans. The concept will launch in Doral in April and Winter Park (outside Orlando) in September. Future locations in Tampa, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, and Charlotte are also in the works. To that, all we can say is olé!

By Jacquelynn Powers Maurice | Contributor 


Daniel Boulud and Clark Bowen

Daniel Boulud (left) with Chef Clark Bowen

Celebrity Chef Daniel Boulud’s db Bistro Moderne at the JW Marriott Marquis {255 Biscayne Boulevard Way, Downtown; 305.421.8800} may have a new executive chef at the helm, but Chef Clark Bowen is no stranger to the db kitchen; for the last five years, he has served as the restaurant’s sous chef. In his new position, Bowen looks forward to adding his creative touch to the menu. Beginning this spring, look for lighter dishes, lots of seafood, and bright, vibrant Miami flavors (after all, Bowen was born and raised in the Magic City). While details of the new menu are still in the works, you can rest assured that the menu’s French classics like Coq au Vin, Escargot, Duck Confit, and Steak Frites will still be offered.

1. How did you get started in the food world? What made you decide you wanted to be a chef?
When I was 15, I got my first job working at Subway. Then I started working at pasta places and steakhouses while I was in school. One day I realized, while working for Chef Patrick Broadhead at Max’s Grill, that I could make a career out of what I loved doing, which was cooking. That’s when I really dove in. I started working double shifts at the best places I could find. Eventually, I met Pascal Oudin from Pascal’s On Ponce.

2. How did you end up working as sous chef at db Bistro?
My wife was pregnant with our first child and I had been with Pascal for about five years and my ceiling for growth was limited. I had always tried to put myself in position to work with the best chefs in town, so when Daniel Boulud came to Miami, it was a no-brainer that I had to work for him.

3. What is it like working with a culinary icon such as Daniel Boulud?
It is inspiring to see someone who is essentially at the top of the game still bringing it harder than anyone else. His knowledge and dedication are impressive, but his thirst for the next new thing to stay ahead of the curve is what keeps him in another stratosphere.

4. What do you think is the biggest difference between being sous chef and being executive chef?
Paperwork and PR!

5. What are some of the changes you’re planning on implementing to the menu?
I’m trying to keep the menu light to pair with the Miami weather. Still working out some kinks, but I can’t wait to share our new menu.

6. How does your background influence your cooking style?
My mother is Cuban and my father is English. I grew up eating classic Cuban foods, so that impacted my palate right from the beginning. But more than being a chef with a Cuban background, I’m a chef who grew up in Miami. There is so much diversity. It’s not just Cuban. I had friends from all over South America and the Caribbean growing up, and I’d go to their houses to eat their family food. It’s a melting pot.

7. How does Miami influence you when you’re creating menu items and selecting ingredients?
It is great to be in a location where we can find the best citrus, best tomatoes, and seasonal produce and fish that were all either in the ground or swimming just hours before purchasing.

8. What are your personal favorite items on the menu?
All the menu items have a place in my heart, otherwise I wouldn’t put them on the menu. But if you have never been here before, order the db Burger and enjoy!

9. Do you have a favorite cooking show on TV?
I’ve been trying to stay away from network cooking shows—they just bring back the stress of the day. I don’t think that those shows are made for people who work in the industry. I do enjoy some of the specialized series on Netflix. Those seem more inspiring and directed to those who live the life.

10. Do you have a food guilty pleasure?
My children call me the cookie monster. I have no self-control when it comes to cookies. Just ask my pastry chef!

—Sherri Balefsky | Miami Editor

coya art
Join Brickell’s newest hot spot, COYA Pisco Bar {999 Brickell Avenue, Brickell; 305.415.9990}, TONIGHT, from 7-10pm, for cocktails, canapes, music by DJ Ella Romano, and an auction featuring decorated Macchu Pisco bottles by artist Miguel Paredes. All proceeds benefit the Junior League of Miami.
Click here to purchase tickets. Includes two signature pisco cocktails.

segafredo bayside

In December, the partners of Segafredo Espresso L’Originale {1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach; 305.673.0047} celebrated the grand opening of their newest location in downtown Miami’s Bayside Marketplace.

Located at the waterfront plaza amphitheater, Segafredo Bayside’s 580-square-foot state-of-the-art kiosk and 2,500-square-foot outdoor space boasts a self-contained kitchen serving light Italian-inspired fare such as tapas, panini, and pizzas, and a full bar offering an extensive selection of signature cocktails, along with wines and local Wynwood Brewery beers on tap.

segafredo bayside

Within walking distance of American Airlines Arena, the casual-chic spot is the perfect place to head pre-Heat game or concert to sip on a cocktail or signature coffee drink while taking advantage of its open-air ambience, live music, and beautiful marina views.

—Sherri Balefsky | Miami Editor

Sea spice Courtyard_Night

We were recently invited to Seaspice {422 Northwest North River Drive, Miami; 305.440.4200} to experience the newly updated menu by Executive Chefs Angel Lèon and Benjamin Goldman and Executive Pastry Chef Jill Montinola.

Entering Seaspice is visually stunning and captivating, as though you have just entered a private villa on the water. The entire space opens to the sparkling river, where private yachts and fishing boats occasionally sail by, adding to the nautical ambience.

We were seated at a table directly next to the water, where we were greeted by our lovely server, who articulated the specials of the evening and her not-to-miss dishes. The serene setting and outstanding service are hard to live up to, but it’s the food here that steals the show.


We started with a special appetizer of Japanese Amberjack served tiradito-style with a spicy amarillo sauce. Each bite was an explosion of flavors and freshness—just enough crunch, just enough kick. We also had a special Salmon Sashimi appetizer (above), which was decadently drizzled with crème fraîche and sprinkled with salmon caviar. Both were exquisitely executed, artfully presented, and divine to taste.

seaspice wagyu

For entrées, we could not pass up the interactive hot stone experience, which is now offered as part of the restaurant’s main menu. As strongly encouraged by our waitress, we opted for the A5 Wagyu Hot Stone (above) with black lava salt. A modest portion of the coveted beef was presented simply sliced and ready for the very hot stone that came along with it. As instructed, we seared the meat briefly on each side, added a pinch of salt, and savored the finest cut of meat imaginable.

The special fish of the night was local Branzino, which was filleted and served with Thai raspberry vinaigrette and sprinkled with peanuts. The end result was a unique, delicately balanced flavor combination, and one of the most beautiful versions of the fish that we have ever experienced.

We had to round out the night with dessert, of course: a delightful plate of fruit, ice cream, and slices of white chocolate. Also worth mentioning is the restaurant’s fine selection of Port wine that complemented our dessert and our overall experience.

 —Erin Lavan | Contributor 

BLT Steak at Betsy South Beach

Easter Sunday is less than a week away! Do you know what your plans are? In addition to the restaurants included in our Easter roundupBLT Steak at The Betsy-South Beach {1440 Ocean Drive, Miami Beach; 305.673.0044} is offering a gourmet three-course brunch for just $40 per person from 11am-4pm. Executive Chef Laurent Tourondel (the “LT” of BLT) has created a delectable menu with enticing selections all to be enjoyed in the beautiful dining area of the storied beachfront hotel’s main floor.

For appetizers, choose the Sweet Pea and Avocado Soup or the Porcini-Crusted Lamb Carpaccio; for the main course, choose the Lake Meadow Farms Eggs en Cocotte or the BLT Short Rib Sliders; and for dessert, choose the Banana Kuchen or the Challah Bread Pudding. And, of course, there will be plenty of the restaurant’s famous Popovers to go around.

—Sherri Balefsky | Online Editor

John Kulhanjian

John “JK” Kulhanjian has his work cut out for him. The director of restaurants for Adena Foods is not only in charge of the day-to-day goings-on of Gulfstream Park’s Adena Grill & Wine Bar {900 Silks Run, Unit 1740, Hallandale Beach; 954.464.2333}, but also its next-door neighbor, Frankey’s Sports Bar, also under the Adena Foods umbrella. DiningOut caught up with JK to discuss his current role, the unique farm-to-table concept of Adena Grill, and what’s in store for the Adena brand in the future.

1. Tell us a bit about your background. How did you get started in the restaurant world? 
I am American-born, raised in Miami, and of Armenian descent. Our family life revolves around food and the next great meal. My grandfather, father, godfather, and three uncles were all in the restaurant business, so it was naturally in my bloodlines. My first restaurant job was working for my father during the summers in fast food fried chicken concepts.

2. How long have you been with Adena?
I have been with Adena for two years.

3. Why did you want to be a part of this concept?
I share a lot of the same philosophies with Frank [Stronarch, owner] and Giovanni [Arias, chef], having spent many years working for high-end steak restaurant chains. The Adena brand is all about something new and fresh that no one has done to this scale. The chance to bring a brand alive from ground level was most intriguing.

4. Describe what a typical workday is like for you.
A typical day is about 10 hours working in all facets of the restaurant to make it successful: building inspection for cleanliness and organization; making sure we do not run out of anything; meeting with chefs and the management team; mentoring employees; mingling with guests; doing quality checks of food and beverage; doing inventory; balancing labor and sales; planning out reservations, parties, and events; discussing marketing ideas; spending a lot of time working smart and not hard; and always trying to improve an area within.

5. What might surprise guests about Adena Grill?
Adena Grill is owned by Frank Stronach and he has personally designed the restaurant and picked out all of the accessories and furnishings. He is also a foodie and has a strong influence on the menu and recipes.

Adena Grill

Adena Grill Main Dining Room

6. Tell us about Adena Grill’s overall menu and its farm-to-table approach.
The menu is very similar to a steakhouse menu with some of our house specialties like roasted Bone Marrow. All proteins come from our farm [Adena Farms, which has approximately 90,000 acres in Ocala, Florida] handled by our employees, and delivered on our own truck to our restaurants; this has never been done before.

7. Do you have any personal favorite menu items? Or, what is a must-try for first-timer visitors?
Some of my favorite items and must-tries are the Bone Marrow, the Celery Purée, the Cowboy Steak, and the grilled Cauliflower Steak.

P3. Cowboy Steak Adena Grill

Cowboy Steak

8. Tell us a little bit about the restaurant’s wine program.
We feature an array of very affordable wines from around the world from over 12 countries mixed with some rare finds and unique vintages. There is something for everyone. There is a half-price “captain’s list” on Wednesdays and we try to bring in a few new wines every quarter to keep it interesting for our regulars.

9. What’s in store for the future of Adena Grill?
The plan is to open many more locations up the Eastern seaboard. We are also developing retail stores and butcher shops to feature our farm-raised proteins.

10. What is one guilty pleasure food you can’t live without?
Crème brûlée without the sugar on top—and sour cream and onion Pringles!

—Sherri Balefsky | Miami Editor