Ah, Miami Beach… a place known for its outstanding Cuban food but this time, I have decided to go a different route and return to an old Puerto Rican favourite of mine: Jimmy’z Kitchen. This is a nondescript little restaurant that is not along Ocean Drive, which is the street filled with bars and restaurants facing the beach, nor along Lincoln Avenue, the shopping street equally filled with bars and restaurants. Jimmyz faces a carpark — there are about ten seats indoor and another eight outside, though due to its well-lit nature, it cannot really be considered a hole-in-the-wall (I think!).
I was first introduced to Jimmyz by a couple I met in Miami when I was living there. My then housemate and I shared the mofongo with shrimp and the blackened chicken panini. What is mofongo? It is mashed up, thinly sliced fried plantains (similar to a savoury banana…I love plantains but really don’t fancy bananas… go figure) with pork rind and garlic. In Jimmyz’s version, you can have it topped with shrimp cooked in a Creole sauce, seafood, Cuban pork, chicken or steak. Previously, the toppings were limited to shrimp and chicken so we were glad the repertoire has expanded. This time, we tried the seafood version and the Cuban pork version. The mofongo was as good as I remembered, and the accompanying sauces enhanced the subtle flavour of the mofongo. My preference was for the seafood sauce as the tomato and onion flavor was light enough not to overpower the mofongo. While I usually love Cuban roast pork, this version was a tad too salty and heavy for my taste.
But my very favourite still remains the blackened chicken panini. I have always liked blackened food as the spices provide a kick not entirely different from Southeast Asian spices, yet special enough for the food to almost always turn out uniquely delicious. The Cajun spices on the plentiful slices of moist chicken meat, grilled onions, provolone cheese, roasted pepper aioli sauce and the grilled whole wheat bread really brought the sandwich together. I’m not usually a giant fan of sandwiches but this one truly blends all the flavours together beautifully! Even the whole grain bread tasted good, toasted and buttered with the crunchy grain bits baked on the outside of the bread. I was also excited to discover a new go-to dish: one of my dining companions had the seared Ahi tuna daily special that was served with a simple but delightful avocado and tomato salad with jasmine rice. It was incredibly light and fresh, perfect for a humid summer day out in Miami Beach. Prices average US$20 per person with tip.
For those looking for recommendations on Cuban food in Miami Beach: I would suggest two places: Puerta Sagua and Larios. Puerta Sagua is practically an institution in Miami Beach, with the majority of servers being older Cuban women who insist on speaking to you in Spanish. It’s not a pretty restaurant but the food is seriously amazing. Larios is the glamorous opposite: it is right on Ocean Drive facing the beach, and is owned by Gloria Estefan. A mix of Latin and top 40s music is played all night. Dishes to try in both places include roasted Cuban pork, Ropa Vieja (directly translates to old clothes, but it is actually shredded beef), the Cuban and medianoche sandwiches. Another two restaurants — Versailles and La Carreta — while not on Miami Beach itself, are also worth a visit. Both of them also have outposts in the Miami airport where you can pick up guava pastries (pastelitos de guayaba).
1542 Alton Road
Miami Beach, FL 33139
Florida, United States
Tel: +1 305 534 8216
Mofongo is available only on Fri, Sat and Sun