MIAMI (CBSMiami) – There’s a lot going on in the busy kitchen at Zaika. Sauces are cooking, bread is baking and the aromas of fresh spices fill the air in this hidden gem in North Miami.
Zaika offers a new style of authentic, modern and traditional Indian dishes from all of the flavors of the country.
It all begins with the name, which means “sense of flavor.”
“Zaika is sense of flavor, so me and my chefs wanted to do something different than regular Indian restaurants,” said Manoj Patel, one of the owners of Zaika.
The food represents the many regions of India from the far north to the south.
“In the north, food is more creamy. And the southern part is more coconut based, a bit spicier, there’s bay leaves and curry which at leaves strong flavor,” said Manoj.
The restaurant, owned by Manoj and his three friends – two of them are the chefs – has become quite the hot spot for locals and those who venture out to try these one of a kind dishes.
“We feel so happy to be here. Before we were nervous, this is a new place for us. Then I talk to my partners. If the food is good, the people are going to follow you, and they have,” he said.
Back in the kitchen, the chefs prepared quite the tasting menu.
The handmade naan bread cooks in traditional clay ovens with a slap to the side.
CBS4’s Lisa Perillo’s first tasting dish was the herb marinated, charred lamb chops.
“It’s just bursting with flavor. I can taste the turmeric. There’s a slight taste of ginger cooked perfectly and at the very end there’s some kick,” Petrillo said.
Vegetarian dishes also fill the menu.
Petrillo tried the okra, which is stirred fried with onions, tomatoes, fresh herbs and spices.
“I don’t think I’ve had okra before. It’s an interesting vegetable and it’s got a tomato base in it. Soft bread we saw baking in there like a veggies sandwich. Really good,” Petrillo said.
Plate after plate, exotic dishes filled the table.
There is a delicious malai kabob-chicken with cream cheese and herbs and a chicken tandoori with yogurt, red and black pepper, ginger and garlic.
“I taste the red pepper on top and the yogurt that gives it softness and then it’s right into bone which gives it another special flavor,” Petrillo said after tasting.
Zaika is a truly unique dining experience bringing the best of regional Indian cuisine to the heart of North Miami.
Zaika is opened six days a week from Tuesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner.
Cauliflower is huge this winter, especially in South Florida, where the brassica is in season through April. Many of Miami’s best restaurants are offering this veggie in different ways — none of which are bland. We searched high and low for six of our favorite cauliflower dishes in town — no overplayed cauliflower steak need apply — finding it mixed with bacon in Midtown and charred with smoked almonds in MiMo.
Seared Cauliflower at Byblos
Smoked nuts add depth and crunch to charred cauliflower at Loba in Miami.
Smoked nuts add depth and crunch to charred cauliflower at Loba in Miami. Loba
A recent newcomer to the South Beach scene, Byblos has been knocking it out of the park with its tasty Mediterranean cuisine, giving plenty of love to veggies. Its seared cauliflower ($9) is made with duck fat and garlicky tahini sauce. Already brimming with big flavors, the cauliflower gets additions of sesame seeds and coriander for more earthy nuttiness. It’s a true taste of the Mediterranean and Middle East, served with South Beach style.
Byblos, 1545 Collins Ave., Miami Beach
Cauliflower with Brussels Sprouts at Gigi
Two of the most popular veggies unite inside Midtown’s funky Asian-fusion hot spot, as Gigi brings together cauliflower and brussels sprouts ($10). Soy and crunchy bacon pieces add a salty punch and texture to this dish, which stands up to Gigi’s other veggie-focused small plates like mushroom steamed buns and crispy eggplant with za’atar and yogurt. Gone are the days when your mom had to make you eat your vegetables. At Gigi, you crave them.
Gigi, 3470 N. Miami Ave., Midtown
Charred Cauliflower at Loba
This cozy nook in the MiMo District is home to book-lined walls and tree-trunk tables, from which to enjoy fresh takes on classic Latin cooking. Charred cauliflower ($9) is a good side dish to accompany most any entrée, including the patacón with sliced rib-eye steak and Duroc pork belly. Smoked almonds and scallion give the cauliflower an extra depth and crunch, which chef and owner Jessica Loba seems to nail every time.
Loba, 7420 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
Cauliflower Robata at Makoto
Chef Makoto Okuwa is known for crafting solid robata items at his Japanese spot in the Bal Harbour Shops, and his slow-grilled cauliflower ($16) is one not to miss. While the presentation alone is impressive, this cauliflower is delicious, too, setting aside any preconceived notions you may have had. Served whole, the cauliflower is cooked over Japanese charcoal to give it a deep brown color and fireside flavor. It comes with a whipped feta tofu that adds the right amount of cheesiness, while being topped with micro shiso for a clean finishing touch.
Makoto, 9700 Collins Ave., Bal Harbour
Roasted Cauliflower at Uvaggio
Located on busy Miracle Mile, Uvaggio Wine Bar is known for its wine offerings, but chef Tanner Gil also makes food that’s worthy of a visit. His roasted cauliflower ($13) comes with turmeric, dates, pomegranate molasses and a hint of mint for a fresh finish. A handful of toasted pistachios brings pops of savory saltiness. Gil said the careful mix of sweet and savory gives this cauliflower dish an intense flavor and keeps customers coming back for it.
Uvaggio, 70 Miracle Mile, Coral Gables
Aloo Gobi at Zaika
A true gem in North Miami, Zaika Indian Cuisine rocks at making food that’s hard to come by around here. A staple cauliflower plate at the restaurant, aloo gobi ($12) is cauliflower sautéed with potatoes and a variety of spices, including coriander, cumin and garam masala. To complete the dish, the cauliflower and potatoes are topped with fresh ginger and coriander leaves, then served with a side of fluffy white rice.
Zaika, 2176 NE 123rd St., North Miami
Carissa Chesanek: firstname.lastname@example.org, @chesanek
Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/living/food-drink/article54640785.html#storylink=cpy
Explore the regions of India with food from the Punjab in the north to Kerala in the south at Zaika, meaning a sense of flavor, in the San Souci Plaza in North Miami.
There’s Goan lamb vindaloo; Punjabi tandoori; Konkan fish curry; and Kerala pepper chicken, along with staples such as naan bread, biryani (basmati rice layered with marinated meats or shrimp) and mango lassi to drink.
It is in the former Thai Treat spot at 2176 NE 123rd St. and still has Thai tapestries depicting elephants and other flora and fauna, a tiled bar and pale-melon walls, creating a soothing space. White tablecloths have been added with a rose on each table in a vase.
Zaika is owned by Manoj Patel, from Navsari in Gujarat (famous for a 1930 march by Gandhi to protest the British salt tax) but who grew up in Juhu Beach, Bombay, and his two executive chefs, Avanish Shrivastava (from Bombay) and Shivashankar Malabanti (from Bangalore).
They all went into hospitality, studying hotel management, and worked on Carnival cruise ships in the kitchens and dining rooms. Patel still works early in the morning at the Hyatt in downtown Miami as a troubleshooter. They are very good friends and always dreamed of opening their own place and knew the Indian owner of the former Thai place and bought it from him.
There’s something for everyone, whether you adhere to a vegetarian or vegan diet or want gluten-free dishes. Most are traditional with a modern spin, and all masalas for each dish are made from pan-toasted whole spices that are then ground.
Start with samosas, triangular-shaped pastries stuffed with a mixture of potatoes and peas with spices; homemade paneer cheese pakoras (fritters) dipped in chickpea flour batter and fried, served with cilantro chutney; or mushrooms marinated in achari (pickle spices) and cooked in a tandoor oven. Also from the tandoor comes a whole or half chicken marinated in yogurt, ginger-garlic paste and spices; yogurt- and spice-marinated bone-in lamb chops; and minced lamb kebabs.
Entrees include shrimp vindaloo with potato cooked in a garlic and vinegar gravy; Konkan fish or shrimp curry with coconut milk and spices; and lamb rogan josh (rogan means “fat” and josh means “heat”), a dish brought to Kashmir by the Mogul rulers from Persia that used be made with fatty cuts with lots of mild Kashmiri dried chiles soaked in water and ground to a paste with aromatic spices (cinnamon, cloves and cardamom).
There’s also channa (chickpeas cooked with garam masala); aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower dry curry); stir-fried okra cooked with onions and tomatoes with spices; saag chicken (cooked with spinach and spices); butter chicken in a creamy tomato, butter and ground cashew sauce; malai kofta (cheese dumplings in mace-cardamon gravy) and earthy spiced yellow lentil dal with curry leaves.
Wrap up a feast here with housemade cooling pistachio or mango kulfi (Indian ice cream).
Linda Bladholm is a Miami-based food writer.