Few restaurants in Miami have undergone as many pandemic-related pivots as NIU Kitchen, and—at the time of this writing—this is our third re-review of this restaurant. The original NIU Kitchen, which we loved with every molecule of our being, was a tiny, narrow Catalan spot in Downtown Miami. Every dinner there was intimate, exciting, and delicious, with the kind of atmosphere that made you feel a solid 38% cooler than normal.
And then the pandemic happened, which was awful for everyone, but especially devastating for tiny, excellent restaurants around the world. NIU Kitchen had to close its original dining room and eventually merged with its sister restaurant, Arson, a bigger space just down the street. A few months later, the team decided to end the Arson concept, and have NIU Kitchen take over the entire restaurant.
Long story, we know. But here’s the most important part: just about everything we loved about the original NIU Kitchen lives on in its newest form, and it’s still one of the most exciting dinners in Miami. Plus, they’ve turned the original NIU Kitchen space into a perfect little wine and tapas bar called NIU Wine, which we also now love with every molecule of our being.
Many of our favorite NIU dishes survived the trip down the street, like the simple and perfect pa amb tomáque or the much less simple but nonetheless perfect cold tomato soup. But the menu is constantly changing, so even if you come on a biweekly basis (which is not a bad idea) you’ll still find new things that have an above-average chance of making you pound the table with delight. Also, wine (specifically natural and biodynamic wines) is still an essential part of the meal here, so get a bottle on the table.
There are things we miss about the old NIU, specifically how the tiny dining room created an atmosphere of intimacy that, to quote the pre-pandemic us in our first review, made the place “feel more like the dinner party you’ve always dreamed of being invited to than an actual restaurant.” But the food was always the biggest reason to come here, and it’s still as interesting and delicious as ever. Plus, that atmosphere of intimacy we loved so much still exists at NIU Wine, which is approximately 37 steps away and a perfect place for a post-dinner glass of wine and dessert.
And when you’ve sipped the last drop of wine and scraped the plates clean, there’s a good chance you’ll not only feel 38% cooler than normal, but also grateful that such a great restaurant survived such a sh*tty year.
Pa Amb Tomáque
The best things in life are simple—and this crunchy bread with grated tomato and garlic oil is proof of that.
Cold Tomato Soup
There’s a big scoop of mustard ice cream sitting right in the middle of this bowl of tomato soup. Taste it on its own (because it’s not often you get to taste mustard ice cream) and then mix it into the soup. The result is creamy, cold, refreshing, and the best tomato soup we’ve ever had.
This is one of those rare dishes that’s both fun to watch and amazing to eat. The oyster (one per order) comes topped with the perfect amount of ponzu and rice vinegar mayo, and then gets burnt for just a couple seconds with a hot coal once it hits the table. It gives the whole thing a wonderful charred, smoky flavor.
If, for some strange reason, you are only able to order one dish, make it this. It’s a bowl of runny poached eggs, truffled potato foam, black truffle, and crispy bits of jamón ibérico. You mix the whole thing up, and then spend the next five minutes absorbing every last drop of this magical mixture with bread. Don’t expect to have a conversation while you eat this, unless you plan to communicate exclusively in moans.
These four squares of flatbread topped with anchovies, tuna belly, romesco, and escalivada (roasted eggplant and bell peppers) are the closest we’ve come to a perfect bite since that time we got all seven marshmallows in one spoonful of Lucky Charms.
This awesome little sea monster comes whole, from its triangular tail to its crispy tentacles, and we are very jealous of the fact that it gets to lay on top of the super soft potato cream. If we got to lay on top of that potato cream, we’d get 18 hours of REM sleep a night.