Growing up in rural Cuba, Frank Valdes learned how to milk a goat; the value of family, hard work and respect; and, from his Spanish-born grandfather, how to prepare the rich, earthy dishes of both countries.
Valdes fled Cuba on his uncle’s boat in 1980. With lengthy study, he became an aircraft inspector, first in Miami, Florida, then in Tulsa. However, his grandfather and father both ran restaurants, so that line of work is in his blood. While spending 70 hours a week making sure planes were safe to fly, Valdes opened Miami Nights.
Despite his rural background, Valdes serves dishes that, like himself, are urbane, complex and sophisticated. Zarzuela is a savory stew with bell peppers, onions, garlic, olive oil, wine, crushed tomatoes, shrimp, scallops and half a lobster. Cordero al vino is a fork-tender lamb shank in a decadent cabernet sauce. Paella, made in the traditional Valencian fashion, is served in the traditional steel pan.
“We get a lot of our ingredients from Miami,” Valdes says. “We make it all from scratch, and when you taste our food it’s like going to the skies with no shoes on.”