Openings: In the Exceedingly Good Looking Serena, Miami Gets a New ‘Statement’ Restaurant

Top three images by Michael Kleinberg

Though the past 12 months have arguably been the worst year in the entire history of the business of hospitality, there have been odd pockets of success and audacity. In an October interview with BlackBook, star chef and restaurateur Matthew Kenney revealed that his company was actually thriving, especially his culinary school. And Virgin recently announced that it would be opening at least five new hotels in the next couple of years.

Pre-pandemic, Marriott’s Moxy was in an explosive phase of growth…which we can guess has been at least somewhat mitigated by the still serious coronavirus crisis. But their spectacular new Moxy Miami South Beach opened quite ceremoniously this month, and it’s not at all shy about its ultimate grand intentions, with 202 rooms, a 72-foot swimming pool, about 25,000 square feet of meeting space (should you actually prefer business over poolside cocktails), and six total food and drink venues, some of which will be debuting in springtime.

But one eatery, the charmingly branded Serena (the name means “clear, tranquil, serene”) has already opened its doors – and it is surely just what the world needs right now: a new “statement” restaurant. Indeed, such an ambitious undertaking sends exactly the message that the biz needs to hear: one of confidence, and energetic enthusiasm for the future of dining out.

Lorded over by the Coyo Taco group (with seven locations in Florida, the DR, Panama and Portugal), it is a big, breezy, open-air rooftop stunner, with a playfully cool but elegant design by Saladino Design Studios, inspired by the legendary architect Luis Barragán, and meant to evoke the buzzy patio restaurants of Oaxaca and Mexico City (we do love that sense of internationalism). The garden area dazzles with mosaics of pink, orange, coral and blue, and there’s a wonderful hodgepodge of seating options (overstuffed banquettes, swinging barstools), which imbues the space with a sexy sort of informality – and surely makes it easier to meet a cute / interesting stranger.

Chef Scott Linquist is the best-selling author of Mod Mex, and was Exec Chef at NYC’s Dos Caminos – so who better then to oversee a culinary program of contemporary updates of Latin and Mexican classics? And here it starts with Oysters Serena or Grilled Cactus & Shrimp, followed by a selection of Agua Chiles (Mexican ceviche from the Pacific coast of Sinaloa), then Uni & Crab Tostadas, Huitlacoche Quesadillas, Chorizo Huaraches, and Local Red Snapper Filet. The menu rises decisively above the predictable, without at all being too overly-concepted.

The seafood eatery Como Como, and the mezcal lounge Mezcalista are both scheduled to open at the Moxy Miami South Beach in late April; though we’re guessing Serena is going to remain the hotel’s decisive social energy center. And honestly, it’s just good to see a restaurant like this opening again…and we hope it’s the start of a trend.

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