This past March, chef Niven Patel announced he was leaving his post at Michael's Genuine Food & Drink to open his own restaurant, with interim plans to run the kitchen at Cheeca Lodge in Islamorada. The chef's restaurant plans have become concrete with the announcement of Ghee Indian Kitchen.
Patel, along with his wife Shivani, will open their first restaurant this December at 8945 SW 72nd Pl. in Downtown Dadeland. The chef will offer Indian home cooking using locally sourced ingredients from artisan purveyors, along with fresh produce from the couple's two-acre Homestead farm, lovingly nicknamed Rancho Patel.
Patel is leaving Cheeca Lodge in the next few weeks to concentrate on opening Ghee, which happened much more quickly than he anticipated. "I left Michael's because it never gave me time to work on my dream project, and the focus was getting Ghee off the ground. I thought it would take me at least a year to find a space and move forward, but the downtown Dadeland people approached me, and I really liked how they worked and the vision for the area. I couldn't be happier with the location."
Patel says downtown Dadeland has plenty of benefits that a Miami Beach or downtown Miami location wouldn't provide. "It's cool and up-and-coming. Barley and the Brick are opening, and it has a real neighborhood feel. You don't have the seasonality when it comes to establishing a client base. Accessibility is also easier, and there's an underground parking garage that's free when you eat at Ghee."
The chef named the restaurant after the clarified butter used in India for everything from cooking to medicinal cures. “'Ghee' means 'pure' and has a symbolic meaning both spiritually and in the kitchen of an Indian home. I want to share with my guests true Indian cuisine with dishes that incorporate modern techniques with traditional Indian-style cooking.”
Patel says the menu will be more indicative of what you would find on his dinner table than what's offered at a typical Indian restaurant in America. "Honestly, when you go to an Indian restaurant, it's not like what you eat at an Indian household. Our meals are a lot lighter. We don't use a lot of curry powders. We use whole spices that enhance the dishes rather than overtake the dish. I want to bring over a lot of childhood favorites. There are a lot of dishes people don't cook anymore because they're labor-intensive."
Patel will incorporate seasonal ingredients into the traditional dishes. "Obviously, working with Michael [Schwartz], I created a great relationship with farmers. My whole vision is to update Indian food, lightening it up and steering it to be ingredient-driven instead of focusing on saucy, heavy, spicy food. I want people to experience an ever-changing menu instead of the usual chicken tikka masala. I want dishes where you can actually taste the vegetables or fish or meat."
The seasonal menu will be printed daily, based on what local produce is available at the time. Vegetables considered staples at the restaurant include colocasia leaves (elephant ears), purple potato, ivy gourd, fenugreek leaf, curry leaf, and a variety of homegrown herb blends and spices.
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Though the menu hasn't been finalized, a signature dish will be
Ghee will also feature handcrafted sodas, made by blending fresh pressed sugar cane through a circular cylinder press with a variety of other ingredients.
“We want our guests to walk into Ghee with the sense of entering our home, and we want them to feel at home,” says Shivani Patel. “We want them to smell the aromas and spices and get more engaged in their meal. Niven always encourages our cooks to ask questions and to be inquisitive if there is something that they don’t know, and we want our guests to do the same.”