Latin fusion done glamorously right in Miami
Matador Room is an updated take on the glamorous supper clubs of the 1950s. While its own history runs back decades, the restaurant (located inside The Miami Beach Edition hotel) is an all-modern affair helmed by world-renowned chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Despite the name and mesmerizing images of bullfighters gracing the walls, you won't find Spanish tapas here. What you will find is a much welcomed modern mix of Spanish, Caribbean, Latin and South American flavors cooked up with a tropical flair that is uniquely Miami.
Like a sampling of Matador's sophisticated cuisine, the spaces inside the restaurant are varied and distinct. You’ll find a main dining room reminiscent of bygone supper clubs, a very lovely and verdant outdoor terrace, and an elegant indoor bar that showcases a series of photographs by famed French photographer Lucien Clergue (he majestically captures the art and beauty of working matadors). Inside Matador Bar, you’ll see a stunning black walnut and stone bar surrounded by custom furniture and plush, jewel-toned velvet banquettes lined against black walnut-paneled walls. Floor-to-ceiling windows give way to the splendid views of the Atlantic. Upon entering the main oval-shaped dining room, you'll want to take a moment to marvel at the massive restored white chandelier suspended over a sunken seating space (an homage to the Plaza de Toros bullring).
The lush green-encased Matador Terrace gives way to ocean and poolside views. Set beneath a custom pergola covered with gorgeous climbing bougainvillea, you can perch here for a candle-lit dinner or a casual Saturday or Sunday brunch and take in the picturesque setting and soft sea breeze.
Vongerichten is the culinary tour-de-force (he’s won numerous James Beard Awards and oversees myriad restaurants worldwide) behind the concept at Matador. However, Florida-born chef de cuisine Jeremy Ford is the one who makes Vongerichten’s grand vision come to life day-to-day, and he does so with impeccable precision and laid-back, cool-cat vibe.
Upscale but never stuffy, the highly shareable menu features the region's bounty of seasonal, locally sourced fish, vegetables and fruit. You'll want to start with both the much-lauded sweet pea guacamole served with warm crunchy tortillas, and the warm marinated olives with poblano and mint pesto. Tasty larger options include dishes like pan-seared Florida cobia with glazed artichokes, and the roasted dry-aged ribeye (it’s perfect for two). There’s also a few inventive pizzas up for offer (think umami-spiked black truffle with fontina cheese), as well as some really good tacos (chipotle chicken, glazed short rib). Lighter seafood dishes are also popular — choose from options like raw shaved Florida red snapper with green chile dressing, and spicy shrimp in "Agua Diablo" with bananas and almonds. Do save room for dessert and ask about the tres leches cake served with glazed starfruit.
Chances are good you’ll want to stay awhile when you settle in for a cocktail at Matador Bar — the list of spirits is thoughtfully curated and the sumptuous setting will transport you to a bygone era. It's the type of place where you can pull up a seat at the bar and chat it up with the bartenders as they expertly create a creative array of cocktails. Each libation is crafted with fresh ingredients and, like the food, the menu changes seasonally.
The oversized signature cocktail, The Pineapple, is made with Elyx vodka, Palo Cortado sherry, salted caramel bitters, and pineapple and rosemary syrup — it’s served in a shiny copper pineapple. Another standout is the Mexican Bull, which features Cazadores Reposado Tequilla, pineapple, lime and cardamom syrup. The wine list is quite eclectic, too, with more than 150 internationally sourced wines.