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Mixed Results at D. Rodriguez Cuba; Fresh and Tasty Fish Shack & Market

Victoria Pesce Elliott cuts right to the chase, saying that, "In his latest endeavor, the namesake D. Rodriguez Cuba at the Hotel Astor, he returns to his roots with mixed results." On her multiple visits, Elliott "found the food as up and down as a circus acrobat." While the frita sliders were "luscious," the rice served with the "tender lobster knuckles" was "so cakey I thought it came from a box of Chinese takeout at the back of my fridge." Yikes. Service ranged from "overbearing to exemplarily professional." And while VPE liked the ambience, she also adds "all that atmosphere can't make up for erratic food, drinks and service." Mojitos were good on the first visit and then "watery and metallic" on another. Although she liked the "addictively crunchy plantain chips," sofrito dip was "so cold it was frosty." Warming up to the "perfect avocado salad," VPE doesn't credit the chef for that one which "may owe more to the season than the kitchen." One definite culinary "revelation" were the "delightfully crackly 'Cuban pizzas'." Ceviches were lauded until the reviewer had a run in with one that "had such an overpoweringly fishy smell that it made me queasy." Oxtail stew was "oddly flavorless," and Cuban roasted pork, "a secret passion of mine, disappointed, too." After a few more dishes, "at one point I stared out at a sea of plates--no fewer than seven--and realized that though I was still hungry, there was not one dish I really wanted to dig into." Even "inventive desserts" didn't help smooth things over, with VPE ending her review with just two stars and the conclusion that "Rodriguez's motto is, ``Who lives life better than us?'' I'm not sure, but I do know others are dining better." [Miami Herald]

Six-month-old Fish Shack & Market is the product of Andre Revodero and Lucho Cuba, who worked at Caffe Abbracci for 14 years. Cuba's tenure at the venerable Coral Gables restaurant was evident in Lee Klein's visit in which the reviewer notes that "he and the Shack's service staff pamper guests in a style that's rare for a casual seafood joint." Revodero is an aulm of NYC's Fulton Market. But Fish Shack is neither New York, nor Coral Gables, mimicking " a relaxed Keys eatery." The fish hails from the Keys too. "Upon close inspection, you can see its fresh shiny-eyed quality; much of the fish comes from the waters around Islamorada." Klein called the mayo-based mahi-mahi spread with Saltines "delicious," and while New England clam chowder "arrived pasty," the conch chowder "was based in a bright, spicy broth." Appetizers "aren't bad," Klein says, with props going to the ceviches. "A whole, fried yellowtail snapper, hooked from local waters, came posed on the plate as though battered and flash-fried while swimming, like something found at Mount Vesuvius." But the fish tacos were the biggest winners. "These tacos alone are worth a trek to the Shack; add a Venezuelan Polar beer and it's a meal," says Klein, who, in general, seemed pretty pleased, ending with: "Fresh, well-prepared fish and homemade desserts? Try to curb your enthusiasm."

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