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.