Chef Nelson J. Fernandez and his wife Ivanna planned to invest in a simple Mediterranean restaurant that they could grow and maybe franchise someday. Then they had another idea: a fine-dining concept to serve their own neighborhood.
Their Coral Gables restaurant, Tur Kitchen, opened in January after a seven-month remodel of the 4,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor space on Giralda Avenue. Fernandez's in-laws, Luis and Evelyn Villanueva, are partners in the venture.
The family's enthusiasm is reflected in the high-ceilinged dining room, decorated in earth tones with accents of royal blue and art pieces on loan from the Nader Art Museum. The space also houses an eight-seat bar and chef's table that face the open kitchen. Allowing for social distancing, the covered terrace can accommodate more than 50 additional guests.
Born in Bogotá, Colombia, Fernandez worked in restaurants in London and Canada before helming the kitchen at Byblos restaurant in Miami Beach for four years and serving as assistant dean at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Miami.
He fits a wide array of offerings into Tur Kitchen's pan-Mediterranean menu, but the blend is loyal to the region's emphasis on olive oil, fresh herbs, fish, grains, and seasonal fruits and vegetables. Dishes encompass a mosaic of flavors and textures presented in a modern format.
"I'm not reinventing the wheel. Just grabbing good ingredients and applying different techniques to uplift the flavors," Fernandez says.
Starters include beef carpaccio kicked up with San Marzano tomatoes, seared feta, and Aleppo pepper ($18); and squid served in preserved lemon, chili, honey, and sumac ($15). A salad of cucumber and avocado is enhanced with frisée, garbanzo beans, and bread and butter pickles ($15).
Tartines — simple French open-faced sandwiches served as an appetizer or a light lunch — are offered here with toppings such as prosciutto, dill, greek yogurt, and pea tendrils ($15); and corn, avocado, and radish flavored with lemon and cilantro ($15). From Turkey comes a list of pides (pronounced pea-days) — flatbreads baked in a stone oven and filled with braised lamb, cremini mushrooms, goat cheese, and curry oil with a subtle touch of salsa verde ($15); and forest mushrooms mixed in truffle cream, lemon thyme, and Gorgonzola ($15).
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Main courses include Wagyu bavette (flank steak) served with polenta, broccolini and Reggiano ($29); a dish of seared tuna with zucchini, cucumber, diced golden beets, and hazelnuts ($29); and branzino accompanied by broccoli, capers, lemon, and tomato ($31). Pair with sides of root vegetable puree ($9) or Mejadra rice mixed with lentils, shallots, and Aleppo pepper and topped with yogurt ($18).
Desserts are made in-house. A lemon tart is served alongside a scoop of refreshingly tart raspberry sorbet ($12), while kunafa brings filo dough soaked in rosewater and layered with walnut and pistachio ($11).
Tur Kitchen offers an extensive wine list, along with Champagne and signature cocktails including El Faraon, made with Sacrum mezcal, Faraon Oloroso sherry, Cointreau, fresh lime, Aleppo pepper, and ginger beer ($16); and Moroccan Nectar, a mix of Ketel One mint-cucumber vodka, fresh lime, cucumber, and a dash of agave nectar ($15).
Tur Kitchen. 259 Giralda Ave., Coral Gables; 786-483-8014; turkitchen.com. Monday through Friday noon to 10 p.m., Saturday 1 to 10 p.m. Takeout and delivery available.