Chef Samuel "Sam" Gorenstein has finally returned to Miami Beach — with a new project that shines a light on how he eats at home.
Gorenstein, along with partner Omer Horev, founder of Pura Vida Miami, will open Abba Telavivian Kitchen in a small converted bungalow in Miami Beach's South of Fifth neighborhood. Slated to open at the end of February, Abba will bring the flavors and spices of Tel Aviv to Miami.
The chef explains that the restaurant is a passion project for both partners on many levels. Born and raised in Tel Aviv, Horev moved to Miami 15 years ago, but his love of the food he grew up with remains. Gorenstein, a twice James Beard-nominated chef and creator of the seafood restaurant My Ceviche — which was birthed in a tiny room inside a South of Fifth hostel — and Zuuk Mediterranean Kitchen, has roots in Colombian, as well as Turkish and Syrian culture. Now they want to share the cuisine they cook for their loved ones.
The restaurant's name itself is derived from love and family. The Hebrew word "Abba" translates as "father" — terms, Gorenstein asserts, that apply to two shared aspects of the partners' lives.
"I had a son six months ago, and my partner has two children with another on the way. We're also fathers to this restaurant," he says.
As for the cuisine, Gorenstein compares the Israeli coastal city of Tel Aviv to Miami.
"Both are melting pots of flavors and cultures. People flock to both cities for the beach and the casual vibe," he explains. "And, like Miami, there's an amazing food scene with up-and-coming chefs doing extremely fantastic things."
The culinary influences of Tel Aviv are vast, Gorenstein says.
"Because of the historical migrations of so many different people — from North Africa, Eastern Europe, and Turkey — there's this vast variety of flavors."
And it's a melting pot, says the chef, whose varied and delicious contents aren't widely available in Miami, where the majority of Mediterranean-inspired eateries trade in falafel, shwarma, and the like.
And Israeli food is so much more than that.
At Abba, Gorenstein wants guests to begin with salatim, an array of vegetables, sauces, and dips — from roasted vegetables to hummus to labneh with za'atar to roasted beets with tahini and pistachios — served with fresh pita from the stone oven.
Nishnushim, the Hebrew word for "snacks," will include falafel, a local fish crudo, house-cured salmon, and house-made potato chips. Abba will also offer salads, sandwiches, and fresh fish simply roasted with olive oil and sea salt.
Breakfast will be served daily, with house-made granola, eggs dishes, and citrus-cured salmon to be featured on the menu.
Gorenstein describes the food as "simple and straightforward, made with well-sourced ingredients."
To start with, Abba will limit service to breakfast and lunch. He and Horev will wait awhile before tackling dinner. When that time comes, Gorenstein envisions a rotating evening menu with a concise list of about 15 "wines that Omer and I like to drink ourselves."
Though prices are not yet available, Gorenstein promises the meals will be affordable.
"We don't want to break peoples' banks," he says. "Even though we're located at South of Fifth, we don't want to overcharge for a meal."
And he's looking forward to getting back to the kitchen.
"For the past few years, I did some consulting work in South America. Before that, at My Ceviche and Zuuk, I was more focused on the process and growing the brand," says the chef. "I haven't really been behind the burner since my days at BLT Steak. Now I just want to get back to creating. I want to get excited again."
Abba Telavivian Kitchen. 864 Commerce St., Miami Beach; abbatlv.com. Opening February 2021.
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