Life can feel repetitive. Eating can feel repetitive. Restaurants can feel repetitive. This paragraph is even starting to feel repetitive.
Our point is, if you eat out in Miami often enough, menus blend together into a mash of tartares, octopus, and burrata blobs. Which is fine, occasionally, when done well. But sometimes you need to uppercut life right in its repetition, and there’s no better restaurant in Miami to do that than Zitz Sum. That’s because the Coral Gables spot serves food that’s wonderfully unlike anything you’ll find in the county.
The menu (which changes often, by the way) is mostly Chinese, though there are also Korean, Japanese, Laotian, and other Asian influences, too. Some dishes may look relatively simple, like the pork potstickers sitting in a pool of Calabrian chili, soy, and crunchy garlic. But there is nothing simple about the way the perfectly-calibrated chili oil sends a numbing tingle from your spine to your scalp, forcing you to dance in your seat as if possessed à la Beetlejuice. There’s simply nothing here that isn’t a blast to eat. The crispy-bottomed sheng jian bao brisket bun is one of the more satisfying things you’ll ever have the pleasure of biting into. The handrolls come with strips of nori so you can assemble your own from a gorgeous bowl consisting of layers of steak tartare, short grain rice, and Japanese egg salad.
And even when they tackle those common Miami dishes, they do it with enough originality to make you feel like you’re meeting these foods for the very first time. Their phenomenal croquettes (called korokke on the menu) come stuffed with melted cheddar and diced Chinese sausage. Their version of a tuna tartare is tossed in miso, onion white soy, and topped with a blizzard of shaved parmigiano.
Like any great restaurant, Zitz Sum is also more than just the food. It has plenty of qualities we look for in a fun restaurant: personal sake juice boxes, wonderful service, and a playlist that’ll have you dancing in between bites. It’s also got a neat location, buried inside a Coral Gables office building with an intimate dining room and outdoor seating in a narrow, secluded courtyard.
But it’s easy to forget you’re in Coral Gables during dinner here. You may even forget you’re in Miami. Zitz Sum is truly a restaurant that deserves its own zip code. Because there’s just nothing like it in the city. And that’s the point.
The menu at Zitz Sum changes frequently, but here are a few examples of the kind of dishes you might find here.
Sheng Jian Bao
What do we like most about this bao? Is it the perfectly seared, crispy bottom? Or the fluffy dough waiting underneath that crispy exterior? Maybe it’s the incredible brisket inside? Perhaps the spicy hoisin dipping sauce? We can’t pick. Please just order this and don’t make us.
This big hunk of cabbage gets grilled over binchotan before receiving a light snowfall of parmigiano-reggiano and chives. It’s crunchy and savory with a nice heat from the fresno chili butter it’s sitting on. You will finish it, and leave with a new appreciation for the talents of cabbage.
The postickers are just great, with an excellent pork filling and crispy bottoms. But the best part of this dish is the numbing Calabrian chili and crunchy garlic, which hurts good, like a deep tissue massage or a much-needed cry. When you’re finished, ask your server to save the sauce so you can recycle it on everything else you order.
Wonton in Phrodo
No disrespect to these wonderful chicken wontons, but what really makes this dish is the citrusy pho broth they’re floating in. You can also order a side of just the broth, which isn’t the worst idea in the world.
Korean Style Handroll
If your favorite part of elementary school was arts and crafts, you’re going to love this. We’d still thoroughly enjoy this bowl of steak tartare, short grain rice, and Japanese egg salad if we had to eat it with a spoon. But making your own handrolls is both fun, and will give you a newfound respect for the professionals who make it look so easy.
Close your eyes and take a stab at this lovely nest of chewy noodles. It doesn’t matter what you hit - the perfectly-cooked shrimp, the crab curry, or the shokupan breadcrumbs - you’re in for a delicious bite. If you get a little bit of everything on your chopsticks, please resist the urge to do a backflip.