Anything new from Miami’s beloved chef/restaurateur Eileen Andrade is cause for celebration. Since she first bubbled up on the scene in 2014 upon the launch of her wildly-successful Finka Table & Tap in Kendall, Andrade has been known for knee-buckling soulful cooking, informed by her Cuban heritage and deep love and appreciation for Korean cuisine. Those two polestars have formed the basis of her career and helped catapult her to the list of Miami’s most respected and successful F&B owner/operators. On Thursday, June 15, her latest passion project will open its doors: the newly-elevated and elegant Amelia’s 1931. More than double its original size, the new Amelia’s is far from its original concept, a Cuban-inspired diner that also served, in its way, as an adjunct to the perpetually-packed Finka, which is mere minutes away. Now, with a sexy and sophisticated new look; full bar; an intoxicating array of signature cocktails and a completely new menu and menu concept, Amelia’s 1931 will surely remind locals, savvy travelers, and adventurous foodies from all over why Andrade is one of the Magic City’s most signature talents.
So how did the new Amelia’s 1931, which is named after her abuela and opened in late-2017 as a Cuban-diner, come to be? Says Andrade, “Three years ago, as we were all struggling with the COVID crisis, my landlord asked me if I’d like the space next door, a dry cleaner, which was on its way out. The original Amelia’s was very small and though there was so much uncertainty as to the future of anything I saw it as an opportunity and took it. Over the last three years we’ve been secretly transforming that space into the new Amelia’s 1931.” In fact, the entire original footprint for Amelia’s is now the restaurant’s living room lounge and no longer serves as the main entrance. The honor has been bestowed on what was the dry cleaner’s front door but more on that later.
First, the food; Cuban diner fare no more. The new menu signals the arrival of the Chef’s most precise and polished menu concept yet. “Ultimately, I aim to cook food that makes people happy,” says the diminutive culinary powerhouse. “But with Amelia’s 1931 I wanted something not quite ‘fine dining’ with all the trappings that come with that term but certainly something more elevated than what folks find at Finka or even Barbakoa (her BBQ concept at Doral Yard), both of which are closer to comfort food. I loved what we did with Amelia’s when we originally opened but this menu, the new look and the cocktail list feels right for a restaurant with my grandmother’s name. It’s a little more dramatic, a bit grander but still feels in sync with what people in this neighborhood, which is my neighborhood, are looking for.”
Andrade’s unique culinary fingerprints are all over the menu, a precise melding of Cuban and Asian influences, flavors and textures. Eye-catching selections from the Small section include escargot with umami butter and Cuban bread points; kimchi clam chowder; col morada (red cabbage) with Granny Smith apple, avocado, red onions and chives; pork belly with house-made sweet chili and queso frito and filet mignon “anticucho” with aji Amarillo, salsa criolla and choclo (Peruvian corn). Fuerte options are as diverse as they are tempting; hard choices will have to be made. Composed plates expected to draw big raves and deliver big flavors range from boniato gnocchi with rocoto cream sauce, toasted panko and fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano; braised oxtail with tamal en cazuela; gochujang paella brimming with clams, shrimp, octopus, halibut and peas; steak frites – Niman Ranch grass-fed sirloin, dressed with guajillo black bean pepper sauce and served with fries; pan-seared halibut with pickled Thai chili, haricot vert, black garlic beurre blanc and arroz con pato. Three desserts, three reasons to leave space for sweetness. They are: Dirty Dee’s Peach Cobbler, created by and named after one of Andrade’s beloved kitchen crew, served with a scoop of Azucar apple pie ice cream; coconut cheesecake, sporting an Oreo crust and served with raspberry compote and a not-so-classic Cuban timba, made here with coconut cream cheese mousse, guava and a Maria cookie.
Compliments of Andrade’s corporate beverage director Alex Aportela, the new cocktail list at Amelia’s 1931 is as sublime as its cuisine, laced with just enough mischievousness to undercut any whiff of pretension. To wit, the Yass Queen, a heady mix of Haku vodka infused with Earl Gray, mixed with St. Elizabeth all-spice dram, fresh lemon juice, orange blossom honey syrup then sprayed with an Ardbeg mist and topped with grated nutmeg; the Machu Pikachu – Hornitos tequila infused with aji Amarillo, mixed with yellow chartreuse, fresh lime and cucumber juices, simple syrup, sage and a salt and perhaps Aportela’s wildest creation, the Cereal Killer. Served in a snifter glass, this drink incorporates clarified Toki whisky with lemon, honey, Cheerios and strawberry Champagne air.
Though there will be plenty of fireworks on diners’ palates, there’ll be plenty to behold visually. To begin, for the restaurant Andrade literally flipped the space while expanding on it. The original restaurant was a quaint shoebox-sized diner with a handful of seats and a comfy L-shaped eat-in counter, seating close to 50 people. That is now the living room lounge and no longer Amelia’s main entrance, which is now what was the front door for the dry cleaner. Which leads us to the whimsy at work here. The new dining room’s windows remain dressed as if what awaits inside is a vintage drycleaner, not a fabulous new restaurant. Once across the threshold diners find themselves in an intimate hostess/reception area with the look and feel of an actual drycleaner, complete with a large commercial washing machine (just the façade), hanging pipes that ape the metalwork used to hang clean clothes and, speaking of which, a wall of cleaned and bagged clothes which is the speakeasy-style “curtain” through which guests enter the dining room. That room is an alluring space seating 127 (including the lounge). “Handmade” is the operative word when it comes to the design. The fabric from the plush, multi-colored, and multi-textural banquettes match that of the handmade chandeliers, which evoke a surprisingly Parisian air. What at first glance looks like textured wallpaper is quickly revealed to be a painstakingly hand-painted egg & dart style design in faint gold against a light green background. Terrazzo-style flooring delivers a bit of Old Florida with track lighting from above and generous use of moody backlighting creating a bewitching vibe. One of Andrade’s happiest and most expensive design decisions, all tables, again handmade, include a covert drawer from which servers can make manifest new silverware whenever necessary – a small bit of sleight of hand that complements a space that promises magic at every turn.
Amelia’s 1931 is located at 13601 SW 26 Street in Miami, Florida. Dinner will be served Tuesday through Sunday, 5PM-11PM; Friday and Saturday 5PM to 1AM. Telephone: (305) 554-4949; www.amelias1931.com.
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