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Cleo Offers Classy, Affordable Mediterranean Fare in SoBe

At Cleo, the Redbury Hotel's new eatery, Danny Elmaleh proffers a dip called lebaneh. To make it, the soft-spoken chef-partner lets kefir cheese drain for 48 hours and then adds olive oil, lemon juice, and za'atar (his version is a blend of thyme, sesame seeds, and sumac). Finally, he tosses morsels of creamy feta into the mixture.

Then he hands over a paper bag filled with warm laffa, a type of Middle Eastern flatbread.

Combine the two and you get something tangy, intense, and, frankly, exquisite.

The versatile dip sneaks its way into several dishes at Cleo. Take, for example, the spicy cigars, a traditional Moroccan appetizer featuring ground beef rolled in feuilles de brick, a pastry of Tunisian origin. These piquant, delicately fried sticks would get gobbled up even if they weren't resting atop a bowl of lebaneh, but they're even better with it.

See also: Dewey LoSasso on Schnebly's New Dining Concept

Arriving at Cleo, you might be deterred by the hotel's $25 valet parking fee. Pay it. Or park nearby. You will quickly cozy up to Cleo. Stellar cocktails and mezzes certainly help, while the affordable menu (nothing exceeds $16) and reasonably priced wine list are impressive for South Beach.

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Valeria Nekhim was born in the Ukraine and raised in Montreal. She has lived in Manhattan and Miami. Her favorite part of food writing is learning the stories of chefs and restaurateurs.