Mama Joon is the inaugural signature restaurant for the Life House brand, which also launched Life House Little Havana and its Cuban-inspired Parcela Cafe earlier this year. The restaurant will be open all day but will specialize in dinner, weekend brunch, and an afternoon tea program that will launch later this winter.
Nestled in the hotel's courtyard overlooking the Collins canal, Mama Joon draws creative inspiration from Life House founder and CEO Rami Zeidan's Lebanese background.
When creating the menu, Zeidan says, he consulted his stepmother to handpick the best of his family's favorite recipes before giving them a Miami twist with the help of executive chef Harry Capacetti. As a result, half the menu is vegetarian or vegan.
The Mama Joon dining experience begins with a ritualistic "breaking of bread." Upon sitting, guests will receive a selection of fresh Mediterranean breads such as carta di musica — a flat, crisp cracker — depending upon the season.
The menu of sharable plates continues with nearly a dozen mezzes presented in colorful ceramic vessels. Authentic and modern Mediterranean dips and dishes include a house labneh, house-made marinated chili feta, and tabbouleh served alongside traditional Turkish and Lebanese flatbreads, bazlama, and za'atar-spiced manoushe ($14 to $24).
Signature small plates include spicy eggplant toast ($12) — serrano pepper-infused house-made eggplant purée on warm ghee-dusted bread served with a fresh vegetable garnish — and a haloumi and avocado herb manousheh toast ($15). Larger specialty dishes range from roasted cauliflower with crisp squash, lemon, capers, sunflower seeds, and herbs ($16) to grilled lamb chops kafta with cucumber relish, olives, and mint ($32) and zaa’tar-dusted local corvina prepared with chili-roasted carrots, sautéed spinach, and a house-made spiced yogurt ($26).
Early in the morning, Mama Joon will serve tea and coffee at Mama's Cafe in the hotel lobby. At night, the café space will transform into Mama’s Bar, pouring drinks such as low-alcohol spritzers inspired by the Mediterranean coast and containing ingredients such as falernum, kaffir lime, and herb-infused mastika.
"After a childhood of being uncomfortable with my heritage, I’m really excited to now be able to share this story so other people can experience other cultures and cuisines," says Zeidan, who grew up in Minnesota. "My goal with Life House, and Mama Joon, is to really break down those internal biases that we have amongst ourselves and people and other heritages."
Mama Joon at Life House Collins Park. 2216 Park Ave., Miami Beach; lifehousehotels.com. Set to open November 2.