Itching for a vacay? Join the club. After all, who wouldn’t want to be eating their way through the Basque region of Spain—imbibing copious amounts of gin and tonics and gawking at modernist art and architecture—instead of going on month four of a global pandemic with no imminent resolve?
Well, how about we give you a bit of good news amidst said global pandemic: after a delayed opening, you can now get a slice of Basque heaven in Allapattah. Enter Leku.
While Allapattah is about the last place you’d expect to find a Basque marvel, Leku is just that. Nestled within the new Rubell Museum (whose owners are the same folks behind the legendary Studio 54 in New York), Leku’s expansive indoor/outdoor space is prime for social distancing, and hopefully by the time Art Basel rolls around, lots of immersive experiences.
Ownership here includes some local heavy-hitters like Spanish native Alejandro Muguerza (president of Le Basque Catering), Terry Zarikian, and Andreas Schreiner (one of the original Pubbelly boys). Steering the kitchen is executive chef Mikel Goikolea who helmed the kitchen at the three-Michelin starred Azurmendi Prêt à Porter in Vizcaya, Spain.
The menu exemplifies the delicate balancing act that is Basque cuisine: a paradox of simplicity and complexity. Complete with a Basque grill dishing out wood-fired items, Leku is currently serving up a pre-fixe menu consisting of your choice of appetizer, entree, and dessert in addition to a summer pop-up menu. The pre-fixe menu features smaller portions of the summer pop up. We tried all the pre-fixe offerings (for your viewing pleasure) of course.
Classics like Croquetas 5 Jotas are oozing with bright yet dense bechamel and morsels of 5 Jotas (the creme de la creme of Iberian ham). A unique take on Pulpo A La Gallega, bits of octopus tentacle are cooked tender and swim in an ineffable potato puree that has the consistency of congee and smacking taste of paprika. Beet Tartare is vibrant in color and flavor, finished with olive oil caviar. A seasonal tomato and basil cracked is refreshing and a reminder that few ingredients go a long way.
5 Jotas Iberian Ham might never be the same after you’ve had it atop a cracker UFO that calls for some serious spooning. (Seriously, the way to proceed is to take your spoon to the cracker so it ruptures). Pro tip: spoon with care.
Entrees include a piquant Lubina (i.e. branzino) with Bilbaina emulsion and potato boulangere, slow roasted Lamb Chops au jus worthy of sucking the bone clean, and grilled Squid with creamy squid ink orzo. It was 90 degrees too hot for the Wild Mushroom Paella, but they’ve got that, too.
Maria Pottage is running the beverage program with a handful of selected cocktails. Gin and Tonics feature bevies of gin infusions and fun tonics. Think yuzu tonic with roasted pineapple and mint infused gin or grapefruit tonic with rosemary and Florida citrus infused gin. Though our favorite was strawberry and basil with East Imperial Burma. We also really enjoyed the Miami Spritz (Havana Club rum, mint, roasted pineapple, angostura bitters, bubbles), Gitana with a kick (pimenton de la Vera infused Milagro Blanco tequila, lime, agave, spiced salt), and aptly named Summer Collins (Sipsmith gin, Chinola passion fruit liqueur, lemon,club soda).
Desserts were palate pleasing and mind-bending, mainly the Smoked Oat Milk Ice Cream with cold pressed beet juice. Just as memorable is the chocolate souffle with raspberry sorbet.
Leku is open for lunch from 11am – 3:30pm, Wednesday – Sunday.