September 23, 2020

Niven Patel, a Miami Chef, Is Not Giving Up on 2020

The test included a coconut-lime ceviche of Florida wahoo, summer rolls filled with pickled shiitakes and fresh avocado, and a jerk chicken sandwich with jackfruit barbecue sauce.

Tim Piazza, the executive chef for Mr. Patel’s restaurant company, Aya Hospitality, still worried that some dishes were less suited to takeout than others.

“You want to be eating ceviche five minutes after you made it, not 45 minutes,” he said.

Mamey’s playful, bright-flavored food is reminiscent of the culturally omnivorous, fruit-forward cuisine championed in Miami by chefs like Norman Van Aken, Cindy Hutson and Douglas Rodriguez in the 1990s and early 2000s. That often busy, Latin-Caribbean-inspired cooking was a dominant style in local fine dining in the 2010s, when chefs like Mr. Schwartz and Michelle Bernstein grabbed attention with simpler dishes at more modest, bistrolike restaurants.

With Mamey, Mr. Patel joins a new generation of chefs — Michael Beltran, the 34-year-old chef-owner of Ariete, is another prominent example — who are reorienting Miami fine dining around cuisines brought to South Florida over the years by immigrants from Latin America and the Caribbean. They’re doing so at a moment when others are looking at the cooking of Miami’s recent past with fresh eyes.

“When I started, I said, ‘I’m not going to put fruit on anything,’” said Ms. Bernstein, 51, a Miami native whose restaurant in Little Havana, Café La Trova, is temporarily closed because of the coronavirus. “I’m old enough where I’ve come around. Now I can’t wait to brown butter and put mango in it.”

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