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There exists a place in Miami where in-the-know locals go to enjoy authentic Mexican cuisine; and, no—it’s NOT Chipotle! It’s Cantina La Veinte {495 Brickell Avenue, Brickell; 786.623.6135}, a hidden gem located at the Icon condominium building that’s been taking the Downtown/Brickell restaurant scene by storm.


Helming the restaurant is Executive Chef Santiago Gomez, a Mexico City-born gourmand who brings a playful yet sophisticated approach to traditional Mexican cuisine. The 32-year-old chef spent ample time working at Nobu, a regular of which happened to be Alberto Cinta, CEO and co-founder of Cinbersol Group, Mexico’s largest hospitality group. Over the years, Chef Gomez worked on various restaurant concepts for Cinbersol, which eventually led to the opening of Cantina La Numero 20 in Mexico City. The concept was so popular that it began a multi-city expansion, including its July 2014 opening in Miami.

Chef Santiago Gomez cantina la veinte

DiningOut recently was invited to an exclusive media tasting dinner hosted by Chef Gomez himself along with Don Julio tequila. The food was excellent and the décor and quality of service were equally impressive. We caught up with the chef a few days later to chat.

1. Tell us a bit about your background. What made you decide to be a chef?
My interest for cooking sparked while I was working as a delivery man for a local seafood distributor. Delivering seafood to the restaurants gave me the opportunity to meet the best chefs in town and walk around their kitchens. This eventually inspired me to go to culinary school.

2. How did you end up working with Cinbersol Group?
I was working at Nobu Miami and Cinbersol Group hired the executive pastry chef, who soon brought me to the group. I started working as a sous chef at an Asian restaurant concept and from there, I started creating La Veinte’s concept.

3. Can you explain the overall concept? What made the brand decide to expand to Miami?
Cantina La Veinte is a 100-percent Mexican restaurant, from the owner, the designer, the architect, and the chef. The idea was to re-create the traditional cantina concept from Mexico and bring it to the next level of Mexican cuisine. Miami was a great spot to take it internationally because of all the Latin people who wanted a place with good Mexican food, which included great ambience and, of course, authentic margaritas.

4. How is the restaurant’s concept reflected on the menu?
We use the freshest ingredients from Mexico. We have items on the menu from all around the country and we want to continue to use traditional recipes and flavors—we want people to know the true taste of Mexico! Additionally, we want to show the evolution of Mexican cuisine while trying to reflect what is happening nowadays in Mexico.

5. What are your personal favorite menu items?
The Soft Shell Crab Tacos with jalapeño sauce, the traditional Cochinita Pibil (Yucatán-style), the Sweet Corn (crab, smoked mayo), and the Tuna Tostadas.

6. How does Miami influence the creation of new menu items, ingredients, etc.?
We use a lot of seafood here in Miami. We adapt to the seasons and are always seeking new products to use on our menu. We are constantly looking for trendy dishes in Miami, while giving them our own Mexican twist.

7. What local chefs or celebrity chefs do you admire?
Chef Thomas Buckley (Nobu), Chef Jose Mendin (Pubbelly), and Chef Michelle Bernstein (Cena by Michy).

8. What might surprise visitors about Cantina La Veinte if they are coming for the first time?
The art is amazing, from the high ceilings to the crafts on the walls, to the kitchen having an open space, which is the first thing that customers see—especially while fresh tortillas are being made in the rotary comal!

9. What does the future hold for Cantina La Veinte?
In September 2016, we are opening a high-end taqueria with traditional and creative tacos. It will be called “Farm to Taco” and will be located in the Brickell City Centre. We are also currently looking for spaces in New York and Vegas in hopes of expanding there.

10. Do you have a favorite food or food guilty pleasure?
I can’t get enough of raw fish—however, it’s all about the product!

—Sherri Balefsky | Miami Editor

Chef Bee Oishi Thai

Piyarat Potha Arreeratn, aka Chef Bee, is no stranger to the kitchen. Growing up in northern Thailand, his parents were farmers, who taught him about growing and preparing his own food. His grandmother was also a cook, who taught him how to make various Thai street foods that she sold at the local market.

Chef Bee eventually made his way to Miami, where he worked up the ranks to ultimately become a sushi chef at Nobu Miami Beach. In 2005, he opened his first restaurant, Oishi Thai {14841 Biscayne Boulevard, North Miami Beach; 305.947.4338} to critical acclaim. This fall, Chef Bee will open his second restaurant, NaiYaRa {1854 Bay Road, Miami Beach}, in the burgeoning Sunset Harbour neighborhood. DiningOut had the chance to catch up with Chef Bee to discuss his new venture.

1. Tell us about your background. Where are you originally from? What made you decide to be a chef?
I’m originally from Thailand. I started cooking with my mother at a very young age, preparing meals for our family in our hometown of Chiang Rai. Throughout the years, I’ve worked as a dishwasher, a busboy, a server, a cashier, and a sushi chef. I’ve always known that I wanted to open my own restaurant.

2. What made you decide to come to the United States, particularly Miami?
I decided to come to the United States to study and open a business many years ago. Miami is one of the best cities in the world. I’m from the mountains in Thailand, but I’ve always loved the sun, beach, and sand. I love the people in Miami and the culture.

3. How did you get the nickname “Chef Bee”?
I am and always have been a workaholic. My friends started noticing how much I worked when I was in my 20s—I had two jobs and slept five hours a day! When I worked with Chef Kevin Cory at Siam River, I would open AND close the restaurant. Friends and customers started calling me “Busy Bee” and it stuck. Oishi Thai has been open for over a decade and you will always see me there—unless I’m sick.

4. How did opening Oishi Thai prepare you for opening a second restaurant?
When I opened Oishi Thai, it was in the middle of nowhere. It was wrong in every sense—there were no residents around, no offices—it was a mistake. But I’ve carried the restaurant through tough times for over a decade. Consistency in food and service is the key to success. NaiYaRa will open in Sunset Harbour, which is a popular destination, not like our first.

5. Tell us about the overall concept for NaiYaRa. How does it differ from Oishi Thai?
Oishi Thai has always been about me. I came to this country to take risks and open a business. NaiYaRa will be for and about my daughter (Naiya-ra is my daughter’s name—in Thai, it means elephant, friendly, honest, hard work, and long life). She was born and raised in America and this restaurant is to show her my roots.

6. And the menu?
The menu will be similar to Oishi Thai, but it will have an emphasis on Thai street food with organic and health-conscious dishes throughout. All the recipes are from my mother and my hometown. I want my daughter to discover and understand how I grew up and our roots.

7. How often do you travel back to your native Thailand and how does this influence your cooking?
I go to Thailand once a year to visit my father and mother. Whenever I’m home, my mother and aunt cook for my daughter and me. The cooking is based on whatever produce is available in their own backyard and in season.

8. What are your personal favorite items on the menu? What do you hope will be your signature dishes?
I have many favorite menu items. Two years ago, I started making a dish called Burmese Noodle Wraps—fresh chow fun noodles filled with roasted chile paste, palm sugar, lime juice, and ground peanuts. It originated in Myanmar, which is next to Chiang Rai. This year, I’m trying to support my Thai friends who are farmers in Homestead. Two signature dishes will be the Organic Crispy Bok Choy with garlic chips topped with sweet sesame soy, and the Crispy Chicken Dumplings with spicy garlic soy vinaigrette.

9. What Miami chefs or celebrity chefs do you admire?
Chef Kevin Cory from NAOE, Chef Brad Kilgore from Alter, Chef Aaron Brooks from Edge Steak, Chef Michael Schwartz of Michael’s Genuine, Chef Michelle Bernstein and Chef Duangwiwat Khoetchapalayook (aka Chef Danny) from Oishi Thai.

10. Do you have a favorite food or guilty pleasure?
I can eat barbecue all day. Tom Jenkins BBQ is my favorite.

By Sherri Balefsky | Miami Editor

Chef Angelina Bastidas

The Village of Merrick Park’s newest eatery Piripi {320 San Lorenzo Avenue, Coral Gables; 305.448.2423} opened its doors in March with a bang. Already, it’s stirring the pot by introducing a brand-new executive chef: Angelina Bastidas.

At only 25 years old, Bastidas has had more than her fair share of culinary experience. She was still a student at Le Cordon Bleu when she began her career at Wish with Marco Ferraro (a Jean-Georges protégée). She then honed her skills in a number of Miami’s top dining destinations before taking on the position of chef de cuisine at South Beach’s popular Tongue & Cheek, where she was selected by Zagat Miami as one of the 30 Under 30 Miami Rock Stars Redefining the Industry.

Just weeks into her new position at Piripi, we had the opportunity to talk with Chef Bastidas about her background, her inspiration, what changes she has in store for the new menus, and even her guilty pleasures.

1. Tell us a bit about your history.
I am originally from the Bronx, but I was raised in Miami and my background is Dominican-Colombian. I have been interested in food since I was a young girl—I grew up with it as part of our family culture. As soon as I graduated high school, I enrolled at Le Cordon Bleu, and after two weeks, I started working in the kitchen at Wish. I’ve also worked at Area 31, The Bazaar by José Andrés, The Biltmore Palme d’Or, and Tongue & Cheek.

2. What drew you to Piripi?
As soon as I heard there was a restaurant opening named Piripi, I was intrigued. To me, it’s a word that perfectly describes Miami (“piripi” is Spanish for “tipsy”). I remember the first time I walked into the restaurant; I was really impressed with the space itself—it’s beautiful and immense—and I guess I felt a little “piripi” myself just walking in the door.

3. Tell us about the new menus. What are some changes you’re making?
We are introducing new brunch, lunch, and kids’ menus, and at some point, a happy hour menu. We have such a great bar, I’d love to see some dishes suited just for dining there. I am also restructuring the dinner menu; there will be a mix of new dishes, plus re-creations of some that are already on the menu. New dishes that I’m excited about are the Chistorra Piripi, the Roasted Beet Salad, and the classic Shrimp al Ajillo. In the future, I also plan on expanding the charcuterie menu, where we can feature housemade meats, torchons, terrines, etc.

4. What is your personal favorite menu item?
My personal favorite has to be the Chistorra Piripi. It’s probably going to be the biggest hit for Piripi yet. It has crispy potatoes, poached egg, and pan-fried chistorra with a Manchego espuma that melts in your mouth!

5. What might surprise visitors about Pirpi if they are coming in for the first time?
I think the first thing guests notice when they walk in has to be the extravagant artwork over the bar. I also think that some of the new dishes and composed plates we are presenting will surprise visitors—even those who are regulars. We are not changing the cuisine, we are reinventing it. At our core, we are still a Spanish restaurant, but we are ready to have fun with our food, with different textures and flavors.

6. How does Miami play a part when creating menu items, selecting ingredients, etc.?
Our location in Miami always defines my menus. I love to embrace what’s local and in season—that’s key to how I create my menus.

7. What Miami chefs or celebrity chefs do you admire?
Florida chefs I admire would have to be Norman Van Aken, Lindsay Autry, and Jeremy Ford. Celebrity chefs I admire are Curtis Duffy, Emeril Lagasse, and Daniel Barber.

8. Do you have a favorite cooking show on TV?
If I had to pick, it would probably have to be “Kitchen Nightmares.” Although it gives me major anxiety, it helps me improve on “cleanliness!”

9. Do you have a favorite food or guilty food pleasure?
My go-to has to be Hershey’s Pie. It relieves me from all the stress I deal with at work.

10. What do you love most about working at Piripi so far?
Working with the Piripi family has been a pleasure. Everyone is committed to doing their best and working as a team. When you’re around great energy, the workflow is just so much smoother.

By Sherri Balefsky | Online Editor

db bistro moderne miami

Street View

If you’ve ever crossed over the bridge from Brickell Avenue into downtown, then you’ve certainly passed by db Bistro Moderne {255 Biscayne Boulevard Way, Miami; 305.421.8800}. But because of its unpretentious facade, you might have missed it. Those in-the-know know that on the ground floor of the luxe JW Marriott Marquis Miami is where Chef Daniel Boulud’s only South Florida restaurant finds its home. DiningOut recently had the opportunity to dine at this trés chic French eatery with the added bonus of spending some time chatting with Executive Chef Jason Pringle.

db bistro moderne miami bar

Bar & Lounge Area

Our first exposure to the restaurant was via the bar and lounge area, which was abuzz for happy hour (which takes place Monday-Friday 5-8pm). Young professionals and business execs find this casual haven to be the perfect spot for after-work drinks with friends or colleagues.

db bistro moderne miami

White Oak Dining Room

We were seated in the White Oak Dining Room, which features the same sophisticated vibe of db Bistro’s Manhattan and Singapore counterparts, but has been updated to reflect Miami’s tropical lifestyle. Designed by the internationally renowned firm Yabu Pushelberg, each distinct dining room (there are several, making this the perfect location for small groups and special events) feels as if it has been plucked directly from a hip SoHo establishment and pieced together to create one cohesive restaurant that’s worthy of serving up Boulud’s unrivaled cuisine.

chefs jason pringle and daniel boulud

Executive Chef Jason Pringle with Daniel Boulud

We were soon greeted by Chef Pringle, a San Francisco native with over 13 years of culinary experience under his belt. Prior to making his way to Miami, he worked at Boulud’s Michelin-starred Café Boulud in New York City. Though humble and soft-spoken, Chef Pringle shared with us the nuances of the menu, which changes seasonally and features only the freshest, locally sourced ingredients. When prompted to select his favorite dish on the menu, he said coyly, “I wouldn’t NOT recommend anything.”

db bistro

Trio of Appetizers

And so, our culinary journey began. To start, Chef Pringle sent out a trio of bite-sized appetizers, our favorite of which was the Tuna Crudo. Then came the first course: Florida Key Shrimp al Ajillo, local rock shrimp sautéed with butter and citrus, and the Heirloom Tomato Salad with arugula and fennel.

db bistro

Heirloom Tomato Salad

For our main course, we shared the Almond-Crusted Halibut (by far the standout dish of the evening), which is served with forbidden rice, orange emulsion, and bok choy, and the Spaghetti Chitarra, which was like a fettuccini served in a creamy citrus sauce. “I had a guest from Italy come in and said that we make excellent pasta for a French restaurant,” our server told us (who, by the way, was fantastic and beyond attentive).

db bistro

Almond-Crusted Halibut

db bistro

Spaghetti Chitarra

Dessert was certainly a grand finale. In addition to being treated to an assortment of chocolates and macarons and a warm basket of madeleines (which we boxed up and took home for later), we shared the Crunchy Chocolate Bar. This unforgettable delight was prepared with a caramel-praline glaze, brownies, candied hazelnuts, and served with a toasted marshmallow ice cream.

db bistro


Our only regret? That we didn’t try the famous db Burger, which we hear is an experience unto itself.

By Sherri Balefsky | Miami Editor

Fish Fish Chef

For the freshest seafood in town, DiningOut has always been a huge fan of Fish Fish {13488 Biscayne Boulevard, North Miami; 786.732.3124}. But now, we’re borderline obsessed! The restaurant has brought on Chef Peter Cadavieco, a Miami native previously of Red Fish Grill, the Doral Marriott (now the Trump National Doral), and Blue Point Ocean Grill at the Hard Rock in Hollywood. He has created a new and improved menu to go along with the restaurant’s already cool ambience and friendly atmosphere.

We had the chance to sit down with Chef Cadavieco to discuss his background, the new menu, tips for preparing fish, and much more. See below for the conversation that unfolded.

Tell us a bit about your background. Where are you originally from? How did you get started in the food world?
I was born and raised in Miami. It’s pretty rare these days, as most people here are transplants from somewhere else. I started cooking at an early age because my grandmother was a terrible cook. My mother subscribed to Gourmet magazine, and I just started experimenting. My mother actually forbade me to go to culinary school out of high school. So, I went to FIU and tried to do it like everyone else. But eventually, I made it back to the kitchen.

What drew you to Fish Fish?
I was looking for a small, privately owned business that I could team up with and create something special. This was a unique opportunity to do that with a beautiful restaurant with owners that care and a customer base that was eager for a breath of fresh air.

Fish Fish Ceviche

Tell us about the new menu. What changes have you made?
The new menu is a much more modern approach to seafood. It’s simple yet with complex flavors. The focal point is the fresh fish and ingredients that stand out on their own. Some of the new items include Grouper Reuben Sliders and Coconut Curry Mussels. I also introduced an authentic ceviche (pictured above)—bold, tart, and spicy.

How did your background influence these changes?
I am probably in the minority of chefs whose background really doesn’t influence their cooking. I grew up eating simple Cuban food. Honestly, if I never eat arroz con pollo again, I will die a happy man.

What do you hope to expand upon in the future?
As we grow our business, I hope to introduce more fresh catch-of-the-day items. We are also introducing a Burger Night on Sundays that will feature one beef burger and some type of seafood burger each week. The first Burger Night takes place on May 24 and will feature a Shrimp and Pork Belly Burger with watercress and spicy mayo and a Barbecue Bison Burger with housemade barbecue sauce, fried leeks, and fire-roasted poblanos.

shrimp scampi fish fish

Favorite new menu items?
It’s a toss up between the Shrimp Scampi (pictured above) and the Whole Grilled Lobster. The Shrimp Scampi is different in that we serve the whole head-on prawns. It really adds to the flavor of the dish—and the presentation is magnificent. Our Maine Lobster is truly a sight to behold: a two pound lobster split in the middle, brushed with garlic butter, and grilled whole. It’s served with a massive bed of truffle fries and Carolina-style coleslaw. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!

What tips would you give for someone preparing fish at home?
Preparing fish is all about getting the freshest fish possible. Unfortunately, the major grocery stores are not very good with their handling of fresh fish. For cooking, I always recommend to stay clear of heavy cream sauces. Use vinaigrettes instead. They will enhance the fish’s wonderful flavor.

What do you love most about working at Fish Fish so far?
The fact that it’s a small restaurant and that I have control over the food and have the last say with it. Another great plus is that I get to interact with the guests at their tables and talk food with them. It’s a rewarding experience when you see the smile on guests’ faces after they eat your dish.

Fish Fish Chef

Do you have a favorite food or guilty pleasure?
My favorite food on this earth will always be foie gras. I don’t use it in the traditional sense. I actually use it more like a butter to add fat in my food. Of course, it is an indulgence. I have to say my everyday favorite food is a properly smoked beef brisket sandwich. That and some scratch-made mashed potatoes and I’m a happy guy!

-Sherri Balefsky | Online Editor