The following is an excerpt from one of our favorite bloggers, Mitch & Mel Take Miami, on their visit to Cindy Hutson’s new restaurant, Zest, located downtown in Miami’s Southeast Financial Center. The full article can be read on their blog through the link here.
I was once worked for a Caribbean company and fell in love with everything about the islands. The people, the hospitality, the beaches, and the food – everything is second to none near the Caribbean Sea. Many years ago, when working for said company, I went to a business meeting at Ortanique on the Mile and had the best pumpkin soup I’ve ever had in my life. After that encounter, in a restaurant that’s really stood the test of time (now in it’s 15th year,) I became a fan not only of Ortanique but also of Chef Cindy Hutson. Ortanique and its Caribbean-inspired cuisine has always held a special place in my heart. So when I heard Chef Hutson was venturing to open a second restaurant in Downtown Miami, my heart pitter pattered a little.
The new restaurant, Zest, offers an eclectic fusion of different nations coupled with a modern take on island fare. Inside Miami’s iconic Southeast Financial Center, Zest’s vibrant décor is reminiscent of its Coral Gables sister. You’ll find bright colors and funky island décor in a 3,500 square foot restaurant and a menu that will blow you away.
We kicked off our meal with the Ire-zest-able Cocktail, which consisted of Casamigos Reposado Tequila, fresh grapefruit juice, lime juice, agave, Aperol, smoked sea salt, and a cinnamon sugar rim, all garnished with an orange twist and a clever name. It’s the kind of drink you want to kick off any good night with – refreshing, strong, and bold.
In preparation for our four-course sit-down meal, we also enjoyed the Gold Tequila Queso, with pico de gallo, yellow peppers, and Caribbean chips. This is the kind of dish you want to kick off every happy hour with.
Alas, because I’m unapologetic and gluttonous, I enjoyed another pre-dinner snack: the 50/50 Meatball, a dish that has quickly become a house favorite. With ground certified angus beef and Niman Ranch ground lamb, aromatic spiced tomato sauce, and house made goat’s milk ricotta, it’s easy to see why this is one of the more coveted dishes.
Although everything was phenomenal upon arrival, it was the sit-down dinner that really blew our socks off. The following was the four-course meal that I devoured at Zest. I thoroughly enjoyed every bite, every conversation, and especially the treasure of meeting Chef Hutson who is as vivacious and stirring as the food she cooks.
First Course: Fresh Mango & Burrata Salad (with heirloom tomatoes, arugula, baby iceberg, pepita seed pesto, pepper vinaigrette, toasted macadamia nuts, and finished with sorrel flower glaze) and Jerk Tuna Tataki (with Caribbean green papaya law and wasabi aioli).
Chef Hutson’s Caribbean influence is easy to see in dishes like these. She makes sure to spice up otherwise traditional dishes with sprinkles of our beloved island vibes. Adding mango to the burrata salad and jerk and papaya to the ubiquitous tuna tataki makes these dishes very memorable and true delicacies.
Second Course: Root Beer Braised Pork Belly (with cherry vanilla demi, boniato foam, micro green salad, and Caribbean yam crunch) and Certified Angus Beef Short Rib Ravioli (with sautéed mushrooms, short rib demi, and truffle Parmesan foam).
This second course was a rich, thick combination of pork belly and angus beef short rib that shows off Chef Hutson's skills in the meat department - oozing with flavor and texture and unique touches to make this dish unique to Zest (i.e. truffle Parmesan foam.)
Third Course: Local Snapper Rundown (with kaffir lime jasmine rice, scotch bonnet “rundown” sauce, carrots, peppers, fresh coconut cream) and Pan Roasted Cobia (with “WOO” sauce risotto, mango mustarda, and cucumber salad).
Seafood is an area where Zest shines. With Caribbean favorites like local snapper with kaffir lime jasmine rice, you feel like you’ve been transported to island time. A huge standout dish for me was definitely the pan roasted cobia. This dish again highlights the pairings with fruits and vegetables (mango, cucumber) that are so unique to Zest and the unexpected surprises that you’ll come to love from Chef Hutson’s dishes – read: "WOO" sauce (a.k.a. a semi-sweet, hot pepper sauce) risotto.
To continue reading more about Mitch & Mel's visit to Zest follow link to their site here.
200 Biscayne Blvd.