One of South America’s most celebrated chefs just opened a spot downtown

King Crab soup at Cvltvra.
King Crab soup at Cvltvra.

Michelin-starred Argentine chef Sebastian La Rocca has made his Miami debut with the opening of his first U.S. eatery, Cvltvra. (The v’s are pronounced as u’s.) A well-known chef in South America, La Rocca has garnered accolades working with chef Jamie Oliver as executive chef at Barbecoa in London, at the Four Seasons Papagayo in Costa Rica, and at Club Europeo in Argentina.

La Rocca hosts the TV cooking program, “Sabores,” broadcast in Costa Rica, where he lives. Chef Fabian Di Paolo, who has cooked with chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten at the W Hotel in Washington, D.C. heads up the kitchen.

Chef Sebastian La Rocca
Chef Sebastian La Rocca.

The space:

A modern-yet-intimate dining room with a cozy rainforest vibe, located on the ground floor of the ME hotel across from the AA Arena. An inviting bar flanks the open kitchen for culinary theater while the cocktail bar is outfitted with a green mosaic tile wall and artwork from South America.

Be prepared to eat:

Modern Latin American cooking with Mediterranean influences. Small plates are offered mezze-style with sharing encouraged. Prices are reasonable given its downtown location and the pedigree of the chef with starters $7-$15 and mains $16-$39.

The menu is divided into “Vegetales,” “Del Mar” and “Carnitas” with each offering small-to-large variations of mains. Start with “vegetales” plate of avocado hummus, burrata flanked by oranges and a mint cream sauce and a velvety roasted butternut squash and coconut soup topped with a poached egg and spiked with Serrano chile.

25862485.jpg Tuna tiradito at Cvltvra.

Uni (sea urchin roe) lovers will go for the half avocado topped with Russian salad and fresh sea urchin or the bowl of diced tuna dressed with cumin mayo and topped with a generous lobe of uni. Other seafood dishes include a Peruvian-style tuna tiradito with passion fruit leche de tigre, a grilled octopus with braised beans, roasted tomatoes, and savory curry-orange sauce and a King Crab Leg chilled lettuce soup with heirloom tomatoes, shallots and cucumber.

Baby back ribs at Cvltvra.

From the “carnitas” section a slow-cooked short rib with Worcestershire reduction served with roasted ayote is from the chef’s stint in London while baby back ribs are dressed in a sticky guava glaze.

Desserts are Latin-inspired with a coconut-ginger rice pudding topped with banana ice cream and dulce de leche panna cotta topped with caramel popcorn.

Bottom line:

A celeb chef from South America plants his flag in Miami with an ambitious yet approachable menu.

Cvltvra Restaurant

7 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Wednesday, 7 a.m.-midnight Thursday-Saturday, 7 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday

1100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-808-3507

1100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami