‘An amalgam of South Beach meets 1950s Havana meets the Yucatán’

The rooftop bar at Estrella, an Atlanta restaurant open after consultation with Mérida chef Roberto Solis. Photo: Facebook

Mérida chef Roberto Solis has taken his Nectar magic to Atlanta, where diners are finally getting a first look — and taste — of his Yucatán-inspired cuisine.

Estrella, rooftop restaurant and lounge overlooking the Beltline’s eastside trail, opened in late August.

Guests arrive by elevator to find what owner Scott Wilkins describes as “an amalgam of South Beach meets 1950s Havana meets the Yucatán.”

The menu was created by Solis, who serves as Estrella’s executive chef. He features dishes using ingredients and cooking techniques commonly found in Mérida. The chef de cuisine, Cam Floyd, spent time in Mérida cooking with Solis at Nectar, one of the top-rated restaurants in the Yucatecan capital.

The result: A menu of seasonal shareable small plates and main dishes on the menu right now, you’ll find oyster tacos, cochinita pibil spring rolls, Yucatecan pork belly with radish pico, avocado puree and corn tortillas, and traditional chayitas with tomato rustica, dzikilpak salsa and cotija.

The sparkling wines and Latin cocktails on the beverage menu stray a bit from the Peninsula, with classics such as a Hemingway daiquiri and a pisco sour joining a sangrita with reposado tequila and a hibiscus champagne punch.

A roving gin cart offers choices of fresh herbs, citrus and flavored tonics.

“It was quite a feat to do this,” Wilkins told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “There’s a new roof three feet above the existing roof, so from an architectural and engineering standpoint, it was a challenge, especially given that this is a 1940s structure.

“The notion here is we’re betting on good weather most of the time. We have 40 seats inside, and we have about 65 seats outside. But all the doors open up so we can connect the outside and the inside. We play a lot of Latin music, and the idea is to relax and spend time here, which is very much the norm for Latin America.”

Floyd, who leads the kitchen in its day-to-day operations, said learning about Yucatan cuisine, and then adapting some of the dishes with Georgia ingredients, was the biggest challenge.

“These are all traditional dishes to the Yucatán,” he said. “Of course, we always have our own spin on things. But things like the chayitas are completely authentic, with the dzikilpak (sikil p’ak), which is basically a paste from pumpkin seeds.

“The same thing with the spring rolls. Most people wouldn’t expect those to be coming out of the Yucatán. But using the cochinita pibil, and putting it into a spring roll is an innovative way of doing it. I know when I went to Mérida I had no idea any of this food existed. It’s the most fascinating cuisine and maybe not what you think of as Mexican,” Floyd said.

Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution

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