Zuuk Mediterranean Kitchen's Fare Is Healthy, Colorful, and Affordable

Miami's dining scene is getting healthier and more colorful. In a city where only a few years ago, bacon and pork belly reigned supreme, more and more restaurants are offering brighter fare with a focus on local vegetables and clean proteins.

James Beard nominee Sam Gorenstein was an early adapter of this concept with My Ceviche. The chef, along with partner Roger Duarte had a simple concept: use only the freshest seafood in the preparation of an array of ceviches, burritos, and tacos and serve them in a bright, casual environment. 

In a 2012 review of the first My Ceviche (located in a teeny 450-square-foot space adjacent to a hostel in South Beach), New Times' Lee Klein said, "My Ceviche is a fantastic and unpretentious addition to a tony South Beach neighborhood. Fresh, delicious street food at a good value invites no argument." The restaurant caught on and grew. Currently, there are four Miami locations, with restaurants planned for Miami International Airport and Midtown Miami.

Now, Gorenstein and Duarte have opened Zuuk Mediterranean Kitchen at 1250 S. Miami Ave., with chef Daniel Ganem. Ganem, who worked with Gorenstein at BLT Steak at the Betsy Hotel back in 2009, jumped at the opportunity to work with his former mentor. In an interview last year, Ganem told New Times, "Sam and I have always been kind of like brothers."
Walking into Zuuk, which opened about five weeks ago, the first thing you're likely to hear is a big hello from Ganem. Last evening, the executive chef greeted customers with a hearty, "Happy Tuesday!" before walking them through the concept.
The menu and pricing are simple. You start with a base of a bowl ($8.85), salad ($8.85), or roll ($8.25). Bowls are filled with turmeric basmati rice or bulgur wheat and salads start with arugula, spinach, romaine, or power greens. 

You then add up to three dips and spreads. Ganem suggests the roasted red pepper hummus and kalamata olive yogurt dip. Other choices include za'atar-feta, baba ghanoush, mint tzatziki, and traditional hummus.
Then, it's onto your choice of proteins and vegetables. For your base price you can choose from hormone and antibiotic-free chicken seasoned with turmeric, oregano, and lemon; falafel that's baked (not fried), or seasonal roasted vegetables. Slow roasted beef or spiced lamb kefte are $1.95 additional. All proteins are dished out of Staub Cocottes, with dishes freshly prepared on site. 

You finish up with a choice of fresh toppings including fresh herbs, pickled red cabbage, and bulgur tabbouleh and sauces including a bright sumac-citrus dressing and a spicy harissa.
Drinks are chosen with the same care. Instead of the usual branded soft drinks, there's a Boylan's soda fountain. However, opt for the coconut iced tea or locally made kombucha.

Ganem points out a board on the wall that offers helpful hints on what to eat if you're vegan, vegetarian, or on a gluten-free diet. "Most everything is vegan except for the proteins and yogurt and cheese-based products," he says. The chef says that in the past five months, the restaurant has been getting busier, with locals coming in both for lunch and an after work meal. Indeed, Ganem greeted some customers by name. 

Gorenstein, wearing a My Ceviche shirt from the location two doors down, says that Zuuk is catering to the local Brickell crowd, going so far as to market in an unconventional manner. Gorenstein says the focus is more on participating in local community events and working with schools than traditional advertising avenues. Just then, Ganem reminds Gorenstein that a weekly Brickell run is tonight. "We're going to be busy," says Gorenstein. "People like to come in after the run for a healthy meal." 

Zuuk Mediterranean Kitchen is open Sunday through Thursday from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Friday and Saturday from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. The restaurant also delivers locally with a minimum $10 delivery order ($3 delivery charge). 

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Laine Doss is the food and spirits editor for Miami New Times. She has been featured on Cooking Channel's Eat Street and Food Network's Great Food Truck Race. She won an Alternative Weekly award for her feature about what it's like to wait tables.
Contact: Laine Doss