Mediterranean fare is drifting to the Miami River — complete with gondolas. A former long-standing fish market will become a 200-seat Greek restaurant called Kiki on the River at 450 NW North River Dr.
The eatery, expected to open in early October, is a partnership among Opium Group founder Roman Jones, former Philippe Chow Miami managing partner Aris Nanos, and former BED South Beach owner Lee Lyon.
The restaurant's name was inspired by Nanos’ Greek grandmother Kleoniki, who was nicknamed Kiki, and is decorated with a distinct Mediterranean vibe. Diners will enjoy their food and drinks amid rustic furnishings, whitewashed walls, and colorful bougainvillea.
Jones says the restaurant is also a tribute to the Miami River and the connection Miami has with the Greek island of Mykonos. "The entire project was inspired by the life of the Miami River and the simplicity of a romantic island garden restaurant and lounge. We are on the site of a 100-year-old building that’s directly next to an active boat repair shop, busy with the comings and goings of the area's fishermen community."
The kitchen will be helmed by executive chef Steve Rhee, who opened Estiatorio Milos in Miami and served three years as sous-chef at Estiatorio Milos' Las Vegas outpost. Jones thought Rhee was a natural for this project. "He loves simple, rustic cuisine but has incredible technical skills and a real knack for elevating dishes with technique and by using amazing, fresh product." The theme will pay homage to Greece by keeping it simple and staying true to ingredients’ flavors, especially fish.
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Seafood is the big player here. Guests can order whole fish, including tsipoura — a Mediterranean sea bream — and a European sea bass found in Greek waters called lavraki, with the option of crusting them in salt. Kiki will also have a raw bar with oysters, caviar service, and sashimi. Whole fish will be market price, with entrées ranging from $18 to $25.
Cocktails will feature ouzo, the anise-flavored aperitif that is widely popular in Greece. Cocktails will range from $12 to $15.
Lunch service will begin opening day with a weekday deal. A $25 prix fixe will offer three dishes, such as a classic trio of Greek spreads, grilled scallops served with herbed couscous, and homemade Greek yogurt mixed with organic honeycomb, thyme, and toasted walnuts.
Dinner might be more tempting when you travel by gondola. Kiki on the River will offer rides up and down the Miami River during lunch and dinner service. Packages will start at $100 and allow riders to sit back and watch the sunset over a bottle of champagne and a mezze platter.