From January 2006 100 Very Best Restaurants
THE SCENE. This stylish downtown restaurant is different things to different people: The starched service and quieter, more private dining rooms appeal to people in power suits, while Match-dot-commers and after-work unwinders linger over Champagne-topped mojitos in the leafy bar. But it's Travis Timberlake's appealing, Latin American-accented cooking that makes Ceiba more than just a cool scene.
WHAT YOU'LL LOVE. The little things: tiny shots of Gosling's Black Seal rum and peppered sherry that dress up a workmanlike conch chowder; a paper bag of caramel popcorn that comes with the check; and the sugarcane juice pressed in-house that makes the mojitos Havana-worthy.
WHAT YOU WON'T. Service has a Pavlovian efficiency that can feel robotic, and, when the place isn't jumping, the vibrant, flashy setting (salsa music, colorful murals) seems oddly canned. Some dishes--grouper ceviche, jerk chicken--aim for authenticity but come off like Xeroxes.
BEST DISHES. Spicy yellowfin tuna ceviche cooled on a bed of ice and toned by mango, jìcama, and crushed cashews; grilled octopus salad with gazpacho dressing; the lunchtime Cubano sandwich; feijoada, a Brazilian pork stew; whole red snapper; pastry chef David Guas's coconut Key-lime tart, almond-accented flan, and churros dipped in warm chocolate.