Estefans’ restaurant will turn Puerto Rican for one night with help from La Placita

Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s plans to turn their Estefan Kitchen restaurant into a social and entertainment hub in Miami’s Design District is set to get one of its biggest workouts Friday.

Estefan Kitchen will be the site of a Tribute to Puerto Rico, a celebration of the island’s musical, culinary, fashion and artistic contributions on Friday.

Post-Hurricane Maria, “this will be the first time in two years something fabulous is happening for one of the largest communities in South Florida,” said Susana Baker, the chair of the arts of the Puerto Rican Chamber and one of the event’s organizers.

She hopes this first Tribute to Puerto Rico will turn into an annual event at Estefan Kitchen and its grounds.


Expect the true flavors of Puerto Rico, organizers promise.

Chef Jose Mendin of Pubbelly and the new La Placita, a five-time James Beard Award semifinalist for Best Chef, Southeast (and recently one of People magazine’s “sexiest chefs in America”), and Chef Brian Dominquez, managing director of Casa Borinquen, teamed to prepare the menu.

Chef Jose Mendin of Pubbelly is one of the chefs offering a special menu for Estefan Kitchen’s Tribute to Puerto Rico on July 12, 2019. Mendin, along with Chef Brian Dominquez prepared the menu offerings. Foto de archivo de el Nuevo Herald

There’s a lobster ceviche appetizer, marrying lobster, lemon, coconut milk and yuzu — a pickled pineapple served in the coconut by Mendin.

The entree, dubbed a Boricua Flavorful Tower, features pork shoulder picnic, pastel, and pigeon pea rice served on a shredded plantain nest.

The dessert is creamy coconut pudding served with a passion fruit sauce.

Brian Dominquez Chef of Casa Borinque_fitted.jpeg
Chef Brian Dominquez of Casa Borinquen is co-presenting the menu for Tribute to Puerto Rico at Estefan Kitchen on July 12, 2019. Cortesía Susana Baker


Musical performers include Lefty Perez aka “El Salsero” and Plenatrium’s Bomba y Plena percussion outfit.

Perez plans to perform a tune or two from his album, “Mi Puerto Rico.”

Lefty Perez Cro_fitted.jpeg
Lefty Perez, also known as El Salsero, will debut a new song at the Tribute to Puerto Rico event at Miami’s Estefan Kitchen on July 12, 2019. Cortesía Susana Baker

Gloria and Emilio Estefan won’t be performing.

This is, after all, a tribute to Puerto Rican culture.

But the Miami couple — Gloria was the first Cuban-American to earn a Kennedy Center Honors distinction in 2017 — have long championed the culture in South Florida, where a reported 400,000 Puerto Ricans call home.

“We cannot thank enough Estefan Enterprises for their generosity, not just on July 12th, but for the Estefans’ generosity since the beginning to ease the devastation of Maria, from filling up planes continuously to sending much-needed supplies to the devastated island, they will always be remembered by the Puerto Rican community,” Baker said in a statement.

Art and fashion

Lisa Tho_fitted.jpeg
Lisa Thon, a San Juan-born designer, has featured at New York and Miami Fashion Week. She’s supporting the Tribute to Puerto Rico in Miami with a fashion show on July 12, 2019. Courtesía Susana Baker

Fashion designer Lisa Thon, of San Juan, will bring her models in for a stroll along the catwalk just outside the restaurant.

In 2006, Thon was the first Puerto Rican designer to feature a design at New York’s Fashion Week. She has also showcased at Miami Fashion Week.

Cherilyn Marrocco, artistic director of MAD Performing Arts promises 30 performers — ages 8 to 18 — from her North Miami academy in a performance called “Carnival de Barrio.”

Students from Cherilyn Marrocco’s MAD Performing Arts academy in North Miami will feature in one of the performances at Tribute to Puerto Rico at Estefan Kitchen on July 12, 2019. Cortesía Susana Baker

And Puerto Rican visual artist Erni Vales will showcase his famed graffiti art, including his painting of Gloria Estefan. Vales developed a three-dimensional graffiti style. Vales also designed a series of watch faces for Invicta.

Erni Vales Artist Spotlight.jpg
Visual artist Erni Cales, born in New York’s Chinatown and of Puerto Rican heritage, is known for developing a three-dimensional graffiti style. He’s showcasing three new pieces at the Estefan Kitchen’s Tribute to Puerto Rico on July 12, 2019. Cortesía Susana Baker

Honoring Maurice Ferré

An emotional highlight of the event: an award presentation to recognize the lifetime achievement of former Miami mayor, Maurice Ferré.

Former Miami Mayor Maurice Ferré will be honored at Estefan Kitchen’s Tribute to Puerto Rico event on July 12, 2019. Foto de archivo de el Nuevo Herald

Now 84, Ferré is expected to attend to accept his honor, Baker said. His wife Mercedes will also be there and his son Carlos, “who looks identical and sounds like him,” just flew in in from Boston for the occasion, Baker added. Miami’s current mayor, Francis Suarez, will be there, too, she said.

If you haven’t booked your seat at one of the restaurant’s tables you might have to savor the $50 three-course menu’s aroma from your neighbors’ plates.

“Every chair, every nook and cranny has been booked — within two hours,” Baker said, excitedly.

The musical performances, the art and fashion displays and shows, are all free, spilling out of the restaurant’s doors and into the large open-air mall’s courtyard.

If you go

0002 Estefan Kitche_fitted.jpeg
Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s new restaurant Estefan Kitchen in the Design District on Saturday, March 4, 2017. Handout Estefan Kitchen

What: Tribute to Puerto Rico

When: 6:30-midnight July 12

Where: Estefan Kitchen at 140 NE 39th St., in Miami’s Design District.

Information: Call 786-843-3880 for info.

Related stories from Miami Herald

Miami Herald Real Time/Breaking News reporter Howard Cohen, a 2017 Media Excellence Awards winner, has covered pop music, theater, health and fitness, obituaries, municipal government and general assignment. He started his career in the Features department at the Miami Herald in 1991.
Support my work with a digital subscription