It’s about time Miami had a restaurant featuring the famed Spanish cuisine from the Basque Country in the tradition of star chefs including Juan Mari Arzak (Arzak) along with Martin Berasategui and Pedro Subijana ( Akelarre). And, thankfully, now it has what promises to have a worthy showcase with Leku Restaurant Miami in the Rubell Museum. Plus, kudos to the owners for opening at this time, when heaven knows, we can use some new culinary excitement that isn’t about cooking at home. I went with friends last week on opening day and we were all very impressed, plotting our return visit before we even left. They have outdoor seating, too, which is a bottom line for me. Here’s a report on my first look at Leku Restaurant and the culinary standouts.
But first, a word about the team behind the restaurant which speaks volumes about the commitment to quality and professionalism. LEKU is owned by an impressive international group of veteran restaurant and hospitality professionals. The ownership group includes Alejandro Muguerza of Le Basque Catering in Miami; Andreas Schreiner of Schreiner Hospitality; Terry Zarikian of the New York and South Beach Wine & Food Festivals, and the 30-year-old Executive Chef Mikel Goikolea, formerly of Azurmendi Prêt à Porter.
At this point the restaurant is open exclusively for lunch, what they’re calling a summer popup. Diners can choose from the summer menu, or an excellent Miami Spice like menu for $25 plus tax and tip. Ingredients are top quality, and every dish is artfully presented. My friends and I sampled a number of the dishes, and here are my favorites. For starters, we liked the beet tartare with olive oil caviar. It’s an ideal summer dish – flavorful and light. I’m not a squid lover, but my friends gave high marks to the octopus Galician style . The requisite ham croquettes made with top of the line 5 Jotas were creamy, and served piping hot as they should be.
Never passing up Spanish lamb, I ordered the slow cooked rack of lamb which was a rack of chuletitas, small chops, served with a buttery mashed potato puree. The lamb was melt in your mouth tender, thanks to a slow temperature cooking process of 18 hours.
Another top choice, a toss up on which I liked best, was the wild mushroom paella. The rice was Bomba D.O. Calasparra from Murcia whose small fine grain looked like barley, and it had a rich, deep unmistakably mushroom flavor. Next time I’d like to try the seafood paella.
Though the smoked milk ice cream with cold pressed beet juice is one of their signature dishes, we loved the chocolate souffle that was just light enough with a deep chocolate flavor.
Note that the portions are not large – think European style.
The casual yet stylish décor fits in perfectly with the museum aesthetic, and the outdoor area overlooks the courtyard garden. If you sit outside, ask for a table that catches the breezes, at the end of the seating area.
When the restaurant is at a full schedule, there are plans to have a special “Basque grill”. It will be the centerpiece for the outdoor area where wood-fired items will prepared.
Leku Restaurant Miami at the Rubell Museum, 1100 NW 23rd Street (T. 786-464-0615) in Miami’s Allappatah neighborhood.It’s open Wednesday through Sunday from 11:00 AM- 3:30 PM There’s plenty of street parking in the area. And when you go, be sure to leave time for a Museum visit. Its inaugural installation fills the museum’s 40 galleries, and chronicles key artists, moments, and movements in vital arts centers over the past 50 years. Encompassing more than 300 works by over 100 artists, the exhibition is drawn entirely from the Rubells’ collection of over 7,200 works by more than 1,000 artists.
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