Zest (A Review)

Zest is the sister restaurant of Ortanique on the Mile, which I enjoy very much.  It opened up not too long ago downtown, and I really wanted to check it out and see if it was as good as Ortanique.  It’s August in Miami, which means it’s Miami Spice time.  That seemed like a perfect opportunity to check out the place without blowing half of my paycheck.

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To my surprise and delight, the delicious “green bread” that is served at Ortanique is served at Zest as well.  The buttery green spread still eludes me as to the ingredients, but I have been able to glean from the servers that it contains garlic, parsley, and onion.  I’m pretty sure there’s something else in there, though.

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We ordered a ceviche appetizer for the table, which was made with Corvina.  The texture of the fish was kind of firm and chewy, and the marinade was less citrusy than what I expect from ceviche.  Instead, a lot of the tart came from passion fruit, which actually was a good counterpoint for the creamy guacamole and fried plantain strips that were included with the dish.  I think it played well with the texture of the corvina.

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My entree was a cocoa and coffee brisket.  It was served on a bed of polenta with brussel sprouts.  I couldn’t taste cocoa or coffee in the brisket, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  The brisket had a little hint of “something,” but not overwhelmingly of coffee or cocoa, which probably would have been off-putting.  As expected for brisket, it was positively fall-apart tender, although my specific portion had more fat than I would have cared to have in my brisket.

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My friend’s ribeye was also good.  It was cooked to a perfect medium, and the chili butter that they served on top gave it a richness and a kick that really took the meatiness of the steak over the top.  However, the real start of the dish for me were the loaded baked potatoes.  It was like a potato skin and mashed potatoes had a baby, and that baby was made of bacon, scallions, and happiness.

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Despite being too full to finish my entree, I didn’t want to leave without having dessert.  The passion fruit panna cotta caught my eye when I saw it on the menu, and I didn’t want to leave without trying it.  Even now, it is the part of the meal that I remember the most fondly.  The tart hint of passion fruit in the rich and creamy panna cotta worked in perfect harmony.  All of the fruits that were served with the dessert were at the peak of ripeness.  Each piece of fruit was perfectly sweet and firm, and the mango sauce tied everything together.  It has been a long time since I enjoy a restaurant dessert as much as I enjoyed this one.  I’m still dreaming about this silky custardy goodness.

Chef Cindy Huston does it again with Zest.  Their Sunday brunch should be coming back in the Fall, so I will definitely be checking that out.  You should, too.

For more information on Zest, visit the web site at http://zestmiami.com/

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