Prism Tastes: Kiki on the River
May 23, 2017Pola Bunster
As Miami continues to grow, great culture is finding itself in areas otherwise untouched by the aesthetics of many of its more trafficked neighborhoods. As a born-and-raised Miami local, the Miami River always seemed to be an elusive area, somewhat blurred out between a sprawling Brickell and Downtown, and the edges of Little Havana. I might have stopped there for fresh fish or a motorcycle repair, but never did I think to find something as luxurious as Kiki on the River.
A colossal blue and white mural greets you as you walk up, its entrance almost unnoticeable under a canopy of sprawling bougainvillea vines. The first thing you notice is a pattern of contrast. The white linens and pockets of tropical greenery, the the aged wooden pillars and touches of bright copper, a towering DJ booth hidden behind foliage, tall bamboo chairs and low wooden benches, the vintage-themed interior and hot-pink neon signs–it’s an entirely “Miami” atmosphere that could also fit very well along the coasts of the Mediterranean.
The exterior along the water seems to be taken directly from a Greek island, all wood, white, and rope with an airy view of the sky and river. Once you think you’ve understood the riverside eatery, you take a step inside and find yourself transported to a different world. Brooklyn or Los Angeles, maybe? Vibrant wallpaper patterns and a light-filled speakeasy vibe greet you here, where plants are encased in glass and books line the shelves–it’s charm is breathtaking. Everything here is entirely functional yet still feels specifically placed for your own exploratory character. They want you to get lost here.
Back outside and drowning in the beautiful afternoon light, you’ll take your drinks along the water, please. The exterior may read wholeheartedly coastal but it’s the 90s hits on the loud speakers that remind you you’ve never actually left Miami–(Have you ever had tuna tartare while listening to Blackstreet’s “No Diggity”?) Reggae and smooth jazz also make an appearance. Some patrons arrive by boat and others by car, but everyone sort of keeps to themselves in an ambiance that invites intimacy and happy conversation. Or maybe it’s the furry swing inside that made you giggle.
Pro tip: Come on an early weekday evening for intimate riverside vibes, come on a weekend for an upbeat bar hang.
The menu is classic Mediterranean with a twist, where tropical flavors play a supporting and subtle role to a more simple and comforting main character in every dish or drink. We started off with a trio of cocktails: the Kikirita, their spicy take on a Moscow Mule (one of the best I’ve had in a long time), and the “Let’s Have a Lychee,” a refreshingly sweet drink perfect for the hotter season. Maybe there was something in the air but our service was on point here, both our bartender and server armed ready with suggestions for our meal.
We started with the Tomato Salad which, albeit a basic name, comes with some of the best feta cheese I’ve ever had. I’m serious, I’d go back just for that cheese. The Tuna Tartare came up next (“I like the way you work it…”) and after our first bite we knew the raw bar was the way to go here. Then onto the Pikilia Spreads because one choice of dip just isn’t enough. Make sure to top with a fresh squeezing of lemon to really bring out the flavor.
Then came the next course. We went slightly conservative here (because there really was too much to choose from) and started with the Octopus–a straightforward dish with no frills and minimal seasoning, all to bring out the quality of protein. Same attack with the Grilled Veggies. The Lobster Pasta was next and its presentation, lobster head an all, was enough to make you excited. But it really is all about the Kiki Fries though, golden slices of the root topped with crumbles of that feta cheese and sprinkled with oregano. And for dessert, the night’s moment of awe: S’mores at the f-ing table, mini bonfire and all.
Now that’s “modern Greek cuisine”.
Photos by: FujiFilm Girl