For Niven Patel, one of the hardest parts about opening a second location of his Dadeland hit Ghee Indian Kitchen wasn't the menu, staff, or space. It was telling the NE Second Avenue space's former tenant and his former boss, Michael Schwartz, he'd be taking over the room that once held the James Beard Award-winning chef's Cypress Room.
"He was very gracious in wishing me the best of luck," Patel says. "I obviously wanted to be the first one to call him. Out of respect, I didn't want him to find out through some other way, through a news story."
Patel hasn't put an opening date on his second location. He learned after the first one that it's always a moving target. However, the restaurant's chef, Pushkar Marathe, has already been locked in. The two met while working at 3030 Ocean and then again in Cayman Islands.
Maranthe's family comes from the west Indian state of Mahashtra, which includes the city of Mumbai. Being just south of Gujarat means a significant amount of overlap exists between the products available in the two states, which share a hot tropical climate not dissimilar to South Florida's.
"Their kind of cuisine is very similar to our style," Patel says.
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Since opening this past spring, Ghee quickly cemented its position as one of Miami-Dade's best restaurants. The New York Times has paid it two visits. Yet in only a short time, Ghee has also fulfilled its promise of slowly expanding the eating public's curry-laden perception of Indian food. Patel has long since dropped the opening menu's fried-egg-topped rice and pork belly vindaloo in favor of green millet ($10) — a humble, tasty grain that has sustained countless Indians over the eons. He has reinterpreted Indian street snacks with dishes such as avocado bhel ($8), which coats puffed rice in Homestead avocados, while his pani puri ($9) have been the source of earthy punches, with crisp puffs filled with beets and green juice.
The menu at Ghee's second location will be largely similar to the original's. "Pushkar will have some flexibility," Patel explains. "The idea is that if he develops something there, I'll develop something here." The kitchen also boasts the wood-burning oven the Cypress Room left behind, giving the Design District kitchen the ability to impart some smoky char to dishes.
Yet the main goal will be delivery. Ghee's second location sits essentially in the shadow of rising residential towers near midtown and Edgewater. Though the drive might be worth it, it can be hard to fight the traffic to Dadeland. This outpost will help, but it's also a double-edged sword, because who knows what might happen when the delivery orders start pouring into a packed house on Saturday night. The most elaborate dishes will be reserved for the restaurant, but that's OK. The prospect of enjoying Patel's food while ensconced deep in your own couch, under a blanket, is worth the small price.