Miami: A Kosher Moda-Moon Over Miami

My daughter’s wedding was in mid-June.  It’s a wondrous weekend, which still has us kvelling.  Following a mini-moon he has to go back to work; she is about to start a new job and has time off post-wedding. So in a somewhat unorthodox move, my modern-Orthodox daughter and I indulge in a brief getaway to Miami. Three days, two nights, exclusively kosher food, and a hashtag of #modamoon – which I’m convinced should become a thing.

My daughter will only eat in kosher restaurants – which I detail in an article published by Tablet a few years ago.  Miami is an ideal destination for keeping it kosher- as there are dozens of kosher restaurants in the area.  In a rare surrender of control, I hand over the dining decisions. As maternal sacrifices go, I suppose it’s a relatively small one.

My mantra “its good for a kosher restaurant” is one I’m hoping to discard in Miami.  It’s still what I say about the DC area, which despite a sizable Jewish population has a declining number of kosher restaurants, and nothing that currently rates in my opinion as better than acceptable.

For the most part, kosher Miami impresses us. We visit five restaurants and over-order in the name of research.

26 Sushi & Tapas

Harding Avenue in Surfside is home to nine kosher restaurants. The highly-regarded 26 Sushi and Tapas is sleek and modern. White leather chairs and white walls exude a Miami vibe. Their motto “kosher never tasted this good” confirms my assertion that kosher restaurants operate on their own playing field.

Peruvian-born Chef Fernando Chang has created a menu that showcases the fusion of Latin American, Chinese, and Japanese ingredients that are the hallmark of Peruvian cuisine.  The choices of ceviches and tiraditos, sushi and maki are both exhilarating and dizzying. Seafood entrees like miso bass and salmon saltado are equally tempting.

We narrow down to flavor profiles that speak to us the loudest.  Cholito samurai maki makes the cut with spicy hamachi, faux crab tempura, tuna, guacamole, and serrano peppers.

26 sushi & tapas maki

26 Sushi & Tapas cholito samurai maki

Hamachi tiradito with amberjack, aji amarillo cream, and cancha and choclo Peruvian corn is a textural delight with a balance of spice that tickles our taste buds.

26 Sushi & Tapas hamachi

26 Sushi & Tapas Hamachi tiradito

Amarillo ceviche with corvina is tart and bold, with cubes of sweet potato adding vibrancy.  A trio of sweet potato, salt and pepper, and truffle fries for $21 is out of place and outrageously expensive compared to other dishes. It’s a disappointment, as the fries are neither crisp nor notable.  Still, it’s hard to dampen our enthusiasm for 26 Sushi & Tapas.  #modamoon for the win.

26 Sushi & Tapas, 9477 Surfside Avenue, Miami, FL
26 Sushi & Tapas Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Fuego BBQ

Fuego is a steakhouse/barbecue smokehouse in Aventura- another area dense with kosher restaurants. Fuego looks like a trendy barbecue restaurant should, with rustic dark wood tables and chairs, and exposed ductwork.

Fuego

The restaurant should devote time to revamping entree descriptions on the menu, as every single one includes a boastful “smoked or grilled to perfection.” This doesn’t prove to be the case during our late lunch here. A cilantro garlic dark chicken sandwich is dry. So is the hefty Fuego burger, which shows promise with toppings of caramelized onions, crispy pastrami, sunny-side-up egg,  and roasted garlic aioli.

Fuego chicken sandwich

Fuego cilantro garlic dark chicken sandwich

Fresh ciabata rolls are worthy of more attention to what’s placed between the buns.  A galvanized steel bucket filled with crisp hot fries appeases us.

Meaty entrees with Latin influences including Argentian churrasco steak or rib eye with chimichurri rub and a full bar with a tequila cocktail called “Jalapeno Business” could warrant a second visit.  If only we had more time.

Fuego, 3585 NE 207th St. at Waterways Shoppes, Aventura, FL

Fuego by Mana Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Acqua Trattoria

The team behind Fuego BBQ also own Acqua Trattoria. Here the focus is fish, pasta, and salads. The light decor with turquoise accents should be accompanied by an ocean breeze, which is unlikely given that the restaurant is in a landlocked shopping center.  It’s a beautiful space with an attention to detail that also comes through in the food.

acqua interior

Our affable server proudly exhibits a wooden box filled with various types of house made pasta, and a suggestion that we try at least one dish from this section of the menu.  Over-achievers that we are, we order two.

Ravioli stuffed with goat cheese atop beet parmesan cream sauce is colorful and rich without being overly heavy.

Acqua goat cheese ravioli

Acqua Trattoria ravioli with goat cheese and beet puree

Wild Mushroom caramale with ricotta cheese and truffle oil is a winning combination. In fact, the dish has me thoroughly distracted from applying my usual kosher filter to my judgement of the food.

Caprese salad is a festive mix of mozzarella balls, plum tomatoes, grilled watermelon, and basil chiffonade. It’s a perfect foil for the pasta.

We never make it to the page of appetizing fish dishes which include seared Sicilian grouper, whole salt crusted Branzino, or steamed lemongrass grouper.  We fall victims to our valiant efforts to fit in as much eating as we can in three days.

We manage to save room for dessert, which at a dairy restaurant is advisable.  No need to futz around with parve ingredients here. Dots and drizzles accessorize much of the food, and dessert is no exception. Dulce de leche cheesecake with ice cream is an applause-worthy ending.

acqua cheesecake

Dulche de leche cheesecake at Acqua

Acqua Trattoria, 3565 NE 207th St Suite A11 Aventura Miami, FL

 

Backyard BBQ & Brew

Backyard BBQ & Brew is appropriately decked out with distressed wood tables lined with butcher paper and exposed brick wall.  Add this to the list of Miami kosher restaurants that demonstrate an attention to detail in pairing menus and decor.  The menu is abbreviated for summer, but options abound including burgers, chicken, steaks, and tacos.

Our lunchtime visit has me ordering a lamb gyro sandwich with non-dairy tzatziki sauce.  It’s not a knock-out in the flavor department.  She chastises me for ordering a gyro in a barbecue joint.  She has a point. My daughter is more enthused by a pulled barbecue brisket sandwich.  She likes it, but says it tastes like something she could make at home.

backyard bbq

I’m impressed when our server (who may be the owner or manager) brings us an order of fries, just because he wants us to try them. But when the item appears on our bill, I’m annoyed.  We’ve consumed the evidence, so I don’t complain. Still, this just isn’t cool.

Backyard BBQ & Brew, 9460 Harding Ave Surfside, FL

The Backyard BBQ & Brew Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Zak the Baker

Zak the Baker is a bakery/cafe in the Wynwood area of Miami. We are nowhere near the kosher enclaves of Miami.  This is the land of graffiti walls, tattoos, and hipsters. Zak the Baker fits right in with its rustic charm.  Zak Stern is an artisan-baker extraordinaire who has an intense dedication to incorporating local ingredients into his food.  The bread is crusty on the outside, light and chewy on the inside- everything that you want from bread is encompassed in these heavenly loaves.

zak the baker

Zak Stern

Zak the Baker makes us giddy and we stuff ourselves with toast slathered with ricotta cheese, honey, and orange peel, a latke topped with fried egg, and a Reuben sandwich with pastrami gravlax, swiss cheese, and sauerkraut.

zak the baker toast

Zak the Baker toast

We buy bread, croissants, and cinnamon rolls for the next day- grateful that we now longer have to worry about fitting into our wedding attire.

zak the baker breads

Zak the Baker is transcendent.  I’ve never been more grateful for an establishment being certified kosher.

Take an inside look at Zak the Baker with this video.

Bon Appetit says it’s the coolest kosher bakery in Miami. (I think it’s that and so much more.)

Zak the Baker, 405 NW 26th St, Miami, FL

Zak the Baker Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

 

Our exploration of kosher Miami makes me ponder yet again why it is that DC is so lacking when it comes to kosher restaurants.  The universe is smaller to be sure, but is it too much to ask for one small but supremely satisfying cafe like Zak the Baker?  Or what about a restaurant with international flavors along the lines of 26 Sushi and Tapas?

As our moda-moon reaches its end, we take a critical look back.  My daughter’s perspective is through the lens of someone who has only patronized kosher restaurants for the last 7 years.  She gushes that three out of the five restaurants are “unbelievably good.”  I am more critical, deeming our foray into dairy more innovative and gratifying than meat, although we’ve barely scratched the surface of the kosher restaurants in Miami.  But I haven’t once regretted the decision to keep it kosher, and never have the feeling that something better to eat is around the corner.  The food on this trip- as always- is important to me.  But nothing can compare to spending quality time with my newly-married daughter. #modamoon

 

 

 

 

 

 

Timber Pizza Co: Fired Up in Petworth

It’s 8:00 pm on a Tuesday night. In Petworth, a steady stream of customers flow into Timber Pizza Co. to grab a “Neapolitan ish” wood-fired pie, freshly made salad, and an icy cocktail or a brew. The woman at the register greets guests with a friendly “Is this your first time here?” The restaurant is a mere two […]

Masseria: An Italian Oasis in DC

Masseria captivates me the moment I step through the gate and into the courtyard. This beautifully appointed spot created by chef/owner Nick Stefanelli is designed to transport visitors to the coast of Italy, which is an admirable feat considering its location on a quiet street of warehouses behind Union Market in DC. And while rustic brick and […]

Oz: Beyond the Vegemite Sandwich

I can’t say that I’ve ever woken up with a craving for Australian food.  In fact, until I received an invitation to visit Oz in Arlington, I never gave the cuisine from the land down under much thought. A glance at the menu at Oz is a little Miley Cyrus meets Liam Hemsworth. There’s flatbread […]

Rammy Awards: Celebrating DC’s Best

Deciding where to dine on my birthday is always difficult.  So many options, so much pressure.  This year was stress-free.  Many of my favorite DC chefs gathered at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center for the annual RAMMY Awards on June 12, and I was right there with them. As someone obsessed with DC restaurants […]

Duck Duck Goose: Winning in Bethesda

As someone who considers restaurant-going a favorite pastime, I often skip the Maryland suburbs and head into DC. These days, however, Bethesda is coming into its own. Duck Duck Goose is one of the newer arrivals, bringing a playful take on French cuisine to Woodmont Triangle. The 28-seat no-reservations brasserie is bustling on a recent weeknight. It’s a […]

Simit + Smith: A Turkish Delight in Georgetown

Confession.  I am a carboholic.  I begin every day by consuming half a bagel topped with a thin layer of light cream cheese.  On occasion, I swap the bagel for a slice of toast, but this isn’t nearly as satisfying. My carb addiction goes far beyond my morning routine, so I am elated when a recent menu […]

Questions or comments?
Send an email to lorisue6@gmail.com