On your first visit to Fooq’s, you might encounter a disheveled-looking man sitting in front of the adjacent lot with a sign that reads, “$10 parking.” Don’t pay him — your car will get booted. Ignore the fella, feed the meter, and walk into the intimate 40-seat restaurant to instantly forget you’re in the heart of downtown.
Opened three weeks ago at 1035 N. Miami Ave., just down the street from Club Space, Fooq’s is a labor of love by David Foulquier (a guy with a passion for food who’s worked front of house at Gigi and OTC and kitchens in Barcelona and Japan) and Nicole Votano, who prior to being plucked by Foulquier was singlehandedly taking on lunch crowds at Michelle Bernstein’s Crumb on Parchment.
The two have created a menu and ambiance that are close to home in every way possible. From using hyper-local ingredients to support local farms to paying homage to their roots by fusing their backgrounds (Persian, French, Italian) and childhood experiences, Fooq’s delivers the type of heartfelt and genuine culinary experience you’d expect from a neighborhood joint.
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On our visit (New Times was invited for a taste), Foulquier tended to every single table, and Votano came by the table more than once to ask for feedback. “We need to know those kind of things so we can make them better,” she said.
The menus for lunch and dinner are very different. Nothing on the lunch menu costs more than $12. The idea is to lure regulars. "I know from Crumb that if you have a good lunch, people will come every day." Fooq’s offers organic juices from Wynwood’s newest player, Jucy Lu, for $10 a pop. Foulquier has even created a custom Jucy Lu Fooq’s juice for its mimosa, which pairs champagne with pineapple, mango, mandarin orange, turmeric, and lime. Good luck having just one.
Rather than offering a breadbasket, Fooq’s has a daily local tartine. “You don’t see enough amuse-bouches in America because people don’t want to give things away,” Foulquier says. “Instead, they put out mediocre breadbaskets. Sure, we aren’t a fine-dining restaurant, but this is our welcome-to-Fooq’s to set the tone for the meal and show that you’re not just getting value and tasty food but that I want to invite you into my home.” It also gives Votano a chance to unleash her creative freedom on a daily basis. During New Times' visit, produce from three farms (Verde, Teena’s Pride, and Swank) and cheese topped the Zak the Baker piece of bread.
Votano's meatballs ($15) are a must. A blend of Fooq's ground burger mix — short rib, skirt steak, and brisket — plus Berkshire pork, the colossal spheres are tender and moist. They're served with a savory San Marzano tomato sauce and Parmigiano-Reggiano.
"Crack head" shrimp ($16) was a favorite at the table. Perfectly cooked royal red shrimp swim in a pool of fragrant saffron-orange broth with tarragon. Put your toasted baguette to good use by sopping up the remaining sauce.
Trio of jars ($16) is a nice way to kick off a meal. “Ask what they’re filled with today,” the menu prompts. For us, it was chicken liver mousse, eggplant tapenade, and smoked salmon dip. The last was the least exciting of the three.
Daily specials are a big thing at Fooq’s. We noshed on Brussels sprouts with dill.
The chef’s daily crudo is also popular. Ours was cobia, apple, and jalapeño.
The must-try dish at Fooq’s is the bucatini amatriciana ($18). “Not only is it Nicole’s signature recipe that she cooked for three years at Crumb on Parchment as a special once a week and was gone in the first hour,” Foulquier says, “but it was the first dish she made for me. That’s when I was like, Damn, this is the chick I want running my restaurant.” Smoked pancetta, sweet onions, San Marzano tomatoes, garlic chips, Sicilian chili flakes, and Pecorino-Romano come together in a bowl of goodness.
The Fooq’s burger ($16) went through some serious testing before they landed on a winning recipe. “We must’ve tried around 15 different combinations.” The victor: a blend of short rib, brisket, and skirt steak topped with melted Jarlsberg cheese and special sauce on a toasted brioche bun. It’s served with house-cut fries.
The underdog on Fooq’s menu is definitely the caramelized Swank Farms cauliflower steak ($18), which pairs the meaty vegetable with toasted quinoa, charred greens, marinated tomatoes, and a winter pomegranate reduction. “We want to appeal to vegetarians because not enough restaurants are vegetarian-friendly," Votano says. She’ll constantly introduce green dishes.
Pan-roasted fish of the day (market price) changes depending upon the local catch (ours was a cobia). It’s served with a vibrant assortment of greens — smashed avocado, Swank Farms peas, butter-poached radishes, asparagus, carrot ribbons, and sweet potatoes. Though our fish was a tad overcooked, the amalgamation of flavors was spot on, especially the matcha green tea beurre blanc, which uses green tea from JoJo Tea. It's ingenious.
Persian pomegranate fesenjan chicken ($22) is one of those close-to-home dishes — Foulquier’s family is half-Persian. When he and Nicole embarked on this venture, he took her to New York, where his grandmother made her a complete Persian meal. "There are always going to be Persian influences on the menu," he says. "This is one of the traditional winter dishes I grew up eating at least once or twice a month.” Chicken thighs are braised in pomegranate molasses and Persian spices and served with crisp basmati rice.
Desserts ($10 each) include croissant bread pudding, a seasonal fruit crisp, lavender latte panna cotta, and Valrhona dark-chocolate olive-oil cremaux. The last is not only pretty but also exciting and unique.
Also unique is the Persian sundae. The complex and crave-worthy dessert features saffron and rosewater gelato from midtown’s Italian Latteria, shredded halava, roasted salted pistachios, pomegranate molasses, medjool dates, and Valrhona chocolate pearls.