On the corner of 15th Street and Washington Avenue there's a lip-smacking new place to get your fast food fix on the beach. A big smiling monkey face beams down at you from the Kokopo sign, but once inside there is no monkey business. They pump out pizza, rolls and salads with a Mediterranean twist.
Neal Karni, along with his brother-in-law Lanir Rahamin and two friends Ilan Shimon and Yaniv Kaspi, owns and operates this family business.Neal is no stranger to the restaurant business. Having owned the kosher restaurant Grill Time, he knows what it means to have good quality ingredients for customer satisfaction.
Going from high end dining to fast food may seem like a leap for some but Neal feels "now is the right time for high end fast food. With a tough economy people are cutting back and we want to give them a beautiful place to eat better food at better prices."
This food hound was presented with the trifecta of selections and can attest that the same dough amazingly produces a soft and chewy wrap for the smokey Rib Eye Roll ($9.99), and a crunchy airy bowl for the fresh and tangy roasted vegetable salad ($8.99) which was overflowing with roasted sweet potatoes, portabella mushrooms, artichoke hearts and a balsamic vinaigrette made with dates.
But hands down, the true winners are the pizzas. Neal proudly serves them on an ultra thin and crispy dough that becomes one with the porcini spread, cheeses and truffle oil that is on the mushroom pizza ($8.99). The other favorite, fig pizza ($9.99), is a unique combination of figs, sweet potatoes, basil, mozzarella and blue cheese. Somehow all the ingredients coincide in one perfectly harmonious bite. "I have always wanted to make a perfect pizza," Neal tells us.His search started at the age of 13 in Milan where his father took him to a small restaurant that had the thinnest, crispest crust imaginable.
Two years ago he turned his home into a test kitchen and with his wife Alison looking on, started experimenting with his dough on the infamous "press", a space age looking crepe maker that flattens and slightly cooks the dough before it is rolled, fried or baked. Even dessert, what can only be described as a chocolate ganache egg roll starts off as a round piece of dough and before our eyes it is pressed, filled and fried. "A new recipe we are testing" Lanir says with a smile. We bite in, the chocolate oozing out and assure him that it's a keeper. After all, there is truly nothing sweeter than deep fried chocolate...
Kokopo Fresh Kitchen
1541 Washington Ave., Miami Beach