NIU Kitchen casts a gastronomic glow overs its corner of Downtown Miami. It beckons diners in with the soft scent of garlic, the sound of bottles being uncorked and wine happily sloshing into glasses, the sight of every table in the place packed with friends sharing a table-full of delicious looking dishes. This Catalan tapas restaurant, while found in a unprepossessing spot, is a perennially popular place to grab a bite week-round. Probably because the food here is worth the trip.
The menu at NIU Kitchen effortlessly blends tradition and innovation. The clams are made to Barcelona-born chef and co-owner Deme Lomas’ mum’s recipe. The traditional gazpacho is given a modern twist; the light Manchego and basil spiked tomato broth is festooned with a dollop of mustard “ice cream”. And you’d be missing a trick if you didn’t soak up every last flavourful drop of it with a hunk of toasted bread liberally seasoned with salt and fruity olive oil.
There are typical tapas ingredients, like botifarra (a Catalan sausage), and typical tapas dishes, like grilled steak. But nothing about the food here could be described as “typical”. The steak alone comes drizzled with a heady rosemary vinaigrette and pimped with escalivada (Catalan roasted veg). Even simple dishes, like tomato salad, have their flavour quotient upped dramatically here, thanks to the judicious use of sherry vinegar and anchovies. And eggs become haute cuisine at NIU Kitchen when poached and served with truffled potato foam, jamon iberico, and black truffle.
The space is intimate in the best way; while small in size, it exudes warmth and comfort beyond its square-footage. And the co-owners are a cheerful, welcoming presence, always ready to top up a glass or make a recommendation, if the dishes on the chalkboard prove to all be too tempting to decide between.