Living la vida PIRIPI

WHET PAINTRFocused, ambitious, and driven, chef Najat Kaanache has arrived in South Florida. Her newest project sits pretty on the Coral Gables corner of San Lorenzo amongst the high-end shops at Merrick Park. Piripi debuts modern and whimsical Spanish cuisine. “My dishes are a reflection of my pride in my Basque Moroccan rearing and dedication to my profession” mentions Kaanache. “The Piripi team is a family of very passionate, dedicated professionals and we have our own interpretation of excellence. Every thought, every action is for the enjoyment and excitement of our guests. There are no shortcuts; we are open seven days a week and we push ourselves to give the best to our guests.”

IMG_9916Piripi means tipsy. The playful name caught my attention almost immediately and the chef’s extensive background in Michelin starred kitchens sealed the deal for me; Alinea, French Laundry, Noma, El Bulli, and Per Se (one of my personal favorites) all have Kaanache in common. I needed to try this new restaurant as soon as possible. And try I did.

It was a Saturday and the evening started on the right foot when my husband and I found street parking directly across the restaurant: a rare feat in the area! No need to worry if you don’t find a spot, the restaurant also offers valet parking. My good luck stalled for a brief second when my request for seating away from the open sliding doors (no Miami heat for me, thank you) initially confused the hostess. Alas, she pioneered through and found us a much coveted table near the wine cellar. Score!

Our waiter arrived immediately and took great care of us the rest of the night. We were very specific about our wishes to have all the courses paced slowly. Our dinner ended up being nicely timed, and only the arroz (rice) took a little longer than expected.

To start, I ordered a Frodo’s Garden from the cocktail list. This mix of Bombay dry gin, heirloom tomatoes, broken basil, Spanish olive oil, and cracked peppercorn refreshed as the ideal companion for dinner. Later on, I also enjoyed the nicely chilled red sangria with a pleasant, sweeter than usual finish.

IMG_9917IMG_9919IMG_9921The Seis Maneras charcuterie platter starter arrived first. Iberico ham, chorizo, and prosciutto paired with manchego slices and lightly grilled, olive oil topped bread all came beautifully displayed, so simple and enjoyable. Next, we received the Shishitos Fritos and Kaanache’s grandma’s Tortilla de Hadda. Prior to my dinner, I read several reviews where diners mentioned they expected a more traditional thick and solid tortilla instead of the much lighter version served. Chef Najat explains “At Piriri, Miamians will find my interpretation of traditional Spanish fare. I can’t speak for other chefs’ interpretations.” I will say this, I choose Pirirpi’s tortilla over any other. One bite and I knew it would rock. The potatoes and onion notably shined through while the garlic aioli provided the close-your-eyes-and-enjoy factor. Not to be left behind, the blistered shishitos with lightly melted cheese topping also tasted great.

IMG_9925IMG_9928We chose the Rodaballo Salvaje as one of our main courses. The snow-white wild Spanish turbot (rodaballo) with crispy skin, served with a colorful medley of local micro-greens and mini veggies, became the highlight of our dinner. Even nearby diners leaned over to comment on this delicate and delicious dish. Not that we had space for it, but we also ordered the Negre de Txpicón. All of the arroces are made from scratch and the menu cautions it takes 25-30 minutes before they can be served. There is a minimum of two per order and they are priced per person. After a little bit of a wait, the piping hot rice mixture of calamari with squid ink arrived. We were able to enjoy a small portion of this huge serving, but had to take the rest to go.

IMG_9929Lastly, gluttony prevailed and of course we ordered dessert. How can I say no to the Popcorn Ice Cream with salted caramel and the Mil Hojas? Don’t answer that. Just go with it. I did. As it turns out, both had the right amount of sweetness and neither dessert made us feel overly full.

Overall, Piripi impressed me. Kaanache’s use of high quality ingredients is obvious. Dishes are not overly sauced nor salted. It’s amazing what happens when you let the flavors of a dish come through without standing in its way. I can appreciate the attention to detail given to IMG_9932every single course we had and truly enjoyed them thoroughly. When asked to describe her food using only three words, chef Najat said “Simple, honest, and loving.” I couldn’t agree more!

Service was attentive, on point, and without any unneeded hovering. The handmade pottery tableware used throughout the restaurant is rustic, yet exquisite. I had to practice self restraint to not take the espresso cups as a “souvenir.” What? No judging. Have you seen them? The handle is thick and just perfect to hold my cafecito. The texture and color is unique to each one and I really wanted one or two.

The restaurant’s distinct interior design fits in perfectly with the nearby ritzy area. There are elevated booths near the bar area, white table clothed tables center stage, and also rustic wooden tables near the displayed wine area towards the back. Lola’s Room, a separate private dining area, boasts floor to ceiling glass walls looking directly into the kitchen and perhaps the perfect room to take Piripi to a different level. As per Kaanache, “Everyone can have a chef’s tasting menu, whether they’d like a selection from the printed menu or an improvisational adventure. No set number of courses, no set price point, always available and negotiable with advance notice and through proper dialogue.” I know I, for one, am eager to visit again and explore the large menu. On my to do list is the Spiced Melonada cocktail, the Boquerones en Vinagre, the Cordero y Pollo Arroz, the Bacalao a Pil Pil, the Cataplana Basquaise, and the Choco Planeta. Perhaps I will need more than one more visit. Que problema.

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Chef Najat feels her worldwide culinary journey, which started in Spain, serendipitously led her here to make Miami home. Fun fact: she speaks seven languages (Spanish, Basque, Arabic, English, Dutch, Berber, & Portuguese). Well, color me impressed! She marvels at the ubiquitous Spanish roots in our “magic city.” On a rare occasion when she happens to be off and gets out to “celebrate South Florida eats,” she prefers humble places. Kaanache counts Bon Picat (in Doral) as one of her favorites. I knew I liked her! That is a favorite of mine as well.

I inquired about the possibility of trying one of her famous Cronuts, maybe even as an added item to the menu. She disclosed she’s done a few Cronut pop-ups before and will be sure to let me know where they will “pop up” next. I’m all in.

For now, please join me in welcoming Piripi to Miami. I’ve visited many new restaurants these last couple of months and not many have the “it” factor. Piripi does.

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