Coral Gables seems to be getting some excellent restaurants of late, and you can add another one to my hit list. There is no better restaurant in Miami right now serving dim sum and Izakaya than Zitz Sum.
The menu is mostly Chinese, though there are also Korean, Japanese, Laotian, and even Miami influences.
The restaurant opened last April 2021 and is not the easiest to find. It is located inside a office building at 396 Alhambra Circle in Coral Gables, with no signage inside or outside. Just follow the happy banter once inside the building and it will lead you there.
The indoor space is small and cozy, with a cute narrow outdoor courtyard with additional seating adjacent. The good news is they take reservations, although when you book a later table you may still have to wait outside in the hall until people vacate their seats. The place is casual but pleasant, with two hand-painted wall murals, stone and wood tables, and bamboo-style folding chairs … Majong anyone? A soft, groovy playlist is playing in the background.
Chef/owner Pablo Zitzmann of Columbia, formerly of No Name Chinese Restaurant, knows a thing or two about Asian cuisine, having spent time in Hong Kong, Japan, and Hawaii. His sauces are fragrant, and some mind-numbing spicy, but in a good way, multidimensional flavours interplayed with different textures. This is not your typical American Chinese restaurant, it is the real deal. Chef Pablo is in the kitchen every morning from 8am until 8pm preparing and perfecting these sauces. When you bite into one of his creations you may just dance in your seat.
From the pork potstickers with an excellent filling to a perfectly crisp bottom, that sits on top of a sinus-clearing Calabrian chili and crunchy garlic, to the Shrimp Har Gow, crystal dumplings in a fragrant salsa, parsley, and lime sauce, you will be licking your lips. Our one mistake was ordering only ONE Sheng Jian Bao, a seared, shredded brisket stuffed in a homemade bun, with pickles, ginger, and hoisin. The hoisin sauce is made from the pan drippings of the brisket, with hoisin and kombucha. The bun was perfectly seared crispy on the bottom with a fluffy dough inside, and that dipping sauce is unbelievable. Next time we are each getting our own bun. For those who thought they would never order a cabbage dish, maybe I can change your mind. A big hunk of cabbage gets charred over the grill before receiving a light dusting of parmigiana Reggiano and chives, and finished in fresno chili butter. Another must-order, and you just might leave with a new appreciation of cabbage. Trust me.
The Wonton in Phrodo (no that is not a typo), are delicate chicken wonton floating in a citrusy pho broth. Or in contrast, there’s the shrimp noodles that pack a punch. The shrimp are perfectly cooked, with lovely chewy noodles in a crab and curry sauce that will tingle your tastebuds.
Even if you are feeling full at this point, try and make some room for dessert by pastry chef and co-owner Natalia Restrepo, you will thank me afterwards. My first choice is the Hong Kong-style French Toast, coated in Japanese bread crumbs and quickly flash-fried, served alongside homemade peanut butter, peanut crumble, and milk iced tea gelato made especially for the restaurant. I’m still dreaming about this dessert. The sticky banana date cake is no slouch either. It was served with a whipped creme fraiche, brown butter crumble, and a heavenly miso caramel. They were both insane choices.
The cocktail list was fun and creative. I enjoyed the “I Can’t Believe it’s not Guava”, made with vermouth Rossi, hibiscus, orgeat, and nigori sake. My better half had a fantastic drink called “The Lone Rider”, made with passion fruit, jumai, and O’s Ginger Beer. There are also beers, biodynamic wines, sakes, and nonalcoholic choices.
Everything in the restaurant is homemade and served family-style. The staff is friendly and knowledgeable. Diana the manager, is so passionate about the restaurant and can tell you the ingredients of each dish and how it is prepared.
Our server Maynor was also extremely helpful in making our selections.
After eating at Zitz Sum, the pain of driving an hour in rush hour traffic to get there was soon forgotten.
Zitz Sum is truly a buried treasure.