Q. Why did you choose Coral Gables — what was it about Coral Gables that attracted you?
Coral Gables is an affluent community with deep South American roots, which makes it a very attractive market for us. It’s also a banking capital of the South, centrally located, with close proximity to the Miami airport, Port of Miami and Downtown Miami. We had a great opportunity to open in the Westin Colonnade Hotel, it was a prime location and a beautiful space, we are proud to be calling Coral Gables our new home.
Q. How did you redesign the space in Coral Gables?
We completely transformed the space, added much more light, and of course SUSHISAMBA signature colors which are most notable in the ceiling design. Award-winning architectural firm CetraRuddy designed the restaurant’s 6,500-square-foot space, complete with a lounge, two bars, alfresco dining and a premier event space. The restaurant features the only robata grill in the Gables, and an outdoor bar, also the first in the Gables.
Q. What is the concept of SUGARCANE, and overall, how many people do you employ in South Florida?
SUGARCANE raw bar grill is located in the heart of Miami’s emerging Midtown district at 3252 NE First Ave. The restaurant is inspired by international influences and South American spirit, led by executive chef and partner Timon Balloo. Three distinct kitchens — robata, hot and raw bar unite for a fresh take on tradition and a unique culmination of flavors. Embarking on a quest for the simple pleasures of life: eating well, kicking back and celebrating with friends – the concept focuses on a ‘shared experience’ through its menu: eclectic small plates, artisanal cocktails, and an extensive rum selection. With 4,200-square-feet of interior space, an impressive outdoor terrace, a private dining area, and indoor/outdoor bars – SUGARCANE raw bar grill is the perfect venue for any day.
SUGARCANE has been celebrated locally with a three star review from The Miami Herald; a nod for “Best New Restaurant,” and “Best Up-and-Coming Chef” from the Miami New Times; and the titles, “Restaurant of the Year” and “Chef of the Year” (Miami) by Eater. On a national level, the restaurant earned recognition as a semi-finalist for “Best New Restaurant” by the James Beard Foundation and Balloo received a nomination for “The People’s Best New Chef” from Food & Wine magazine in 2011. Most recently, Balloo was honored as Distinguished Visiting Chef by Johnson & Wales University, not to mention the restaurant received a AAA Four Diamond rating for 2013.
Currently between three locations, Samba Brands Management employs over 200 people in South Florida, with plans for further expansion.
Q. Can you tell me about the company’s total revenues?
About $60 million in revenues in 2012, up 18 percent from 2011.
Q. What is your next step? I understand you plan to open another restaurant in South Florida by the end of the year? Please tell me about that and any other plans globally.
We are planning on opening a fourth location in South Florida by the end of the year, which will be announced soon. Unfortunately, I am unable to discuss this further at this time.
Globally we are looking at further expansion in the U.S. – specifically New York, as well as Europe and Asia.