Hungry Posted: Restaurant Recommendation
Address:Zitz Sum, Alhambra Circle, Coral Gables, FL, USA
PHOTO CREDIT RUBEN CABRERA
In a world where work-life balance in the kitchen seems unattainable, Pablo Zitzmann, chef and owner of the Asian-inspired restaurant, Zitz Sum in Coral Gables opened up to us about working rigorously towards that goal.
2020, was a period of reflection for many, including Chef Pablo. He realized what his priorities were and where he wanted to invest his time. His experience in restaurants for more than fifteen years helped him set limits and standards for how he would carry on moving forward and how he would operate Zitz Sum. And that started with not making everything about himself. Something you don’t usually hear from chefs.
“The word chef, in general, is something that is so big for a lot of people.” Ego isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Chef Pablo explained, “There are lots of big chefs that have big egos and that care about their teams.”
However, his philosophy reflects leading with empathy and creating a space where his team can make their own decisions. What he describes as letting them fly. “If the restaurant doesn’t need me, that means I’m doing my job correctly.”
It’s productivity at its finest. By not making everything about himself, he has more time to be with his family, works smarter, and sets a foundation for his restaurant and other projects he plans on executing.
And even with his commitment to finding stability, Chef Pablo is still the first one in and the last one out, working eighteen hours days.
When he lost his job during the pandemic, he thought to himself, “what the fuck am I going to do?!” The idea of Zitz Sum was probably already brewing in his subconscious. For some reason, he decided to open up the Instagram of his former restaurant No Name Chinese (now closed). He had no idea what took over him and without a gameplan, he posted, “Did you miss us? We’re coming back.” After a conversation with his wife, Natalia and a trip to Brandsmart for a cooler, he started a frozen dumpling pop-up named Zitz Sum.
They were rolling 2000 dumplings the first week. Every day from the seventh floor of his apartment Chef Pablo and Natalia would transport the dumplings to his van. This went on from May 2020 until April 2021. While still running the dumpling pop-up from their home, they were already working on the buildout of Zitz Sum, the brick and mortar.
It was all about the dumplings during the day, and around 10 PM, sometimes 11 PM Natalia, Chef Pablo, and a couple of close friends would come to the restaurant in Coral Gables to work on the restaurant until 8 AM. Everything from the tables, chairs, and bar was built from scratch and every inch of the restaurant had a personal touch.
From its inception, Zitz Sum exemplified a restaurant that was built with so much love. It’s truly a special place that was able to come to fruition due to the patience of Chef Pablo’s family, specifically Natalia.
Family is also the team that Chef Pablo has brought together. If a babysitter cancels, every team member knows it’s perfectly fine to bring their kids to the restaurant. You can even say it’s become an informal family daycare. Chef Pablo realized that with having the restaurant he was not only responsible for his nuclear family but also his work family, which is comprised of several single parents.
He’s known most of them for four years from his time at previous restaurants. For instance his front-of-the-house manager Jessica Cohen and head of bar Diana Fernandez. They’ve added their personality to the restaurant. They’re all different of course but what brings them together is their work ethic, they feel comfortable and can strive in a healthy environment where all team members are being championed and can be their true selves.
Maybe it’s time we talk about the food before we start crying. Take, for instance, Marco Gonzales who works in the kitchen with Chef Pablo and has the “biggest heart on the planet”. They’ve been working together for five years, since the days of No Name Chinese. Along with other cooks, Marco has played a role in shaping the menu at Zitz Sum. The happy hour menu is where his team has the freedom to create dishes that have made their way on the permeant menu.
Zitz Sum is an Asian-inspired restaurant with Italian, Indian and Latin influence. It’s essentially an extension of Pablo’s home and all the recipes and flavors he’s curious to explore.
Guido Parodi, recently promoted to chef de cuisine, helped create the spicy Crab Noodle dish on the menu with crab curry, Calabrian chili, Thai basil, and Japanese shokupan breadcrumbs. A dish inspired by a Yakisoba that Chef Pablo once tried on the northern shore of Hawaii. The version at Zitz Sum is better than Chef Pablo remembers.
It’s his memory and his curiosity that helped him create the dishes at Zitz Sum. Pablo didn’t expect to have Latin influence on his menu. A week before opening day, Chef Pablo still hadn’t finalized the menu. He remembers the misery, “sitting in front of the computer with no ideas. Nothing was flowing for months and I just came up with 30 different versions of the menu. I was fucking stuck.”
He decided he wasn’t going to write the menu until he had to open up the restaurant. And that’s when procrastination worked in the most wonderful and unexpected ways. Digging into what he liked, by trial and error and learning as he went is how he came up with the dishes on the menu.
Focusing on doing less, simple flavors, herbs, acid, and relying on his work experience abroad in Hong Kong, Japan, and Hawaii is how this menu came to life. And after at least four visits to Zitz Sum, we’re officially subscribed.
WHAT TO ORDER
Shrimp Har Gow, a traditional Cantonese dumpling that Chef Pablo often changes. The last one we had was filled with Chistorra ragu (Spanish sausage), garnished with cilantro and finished with cabbage salt. Make sure you squeeze that lime. “Close your eyes and you’re eating a paella”, Chef explained. Unintentionally those were the flavors that came to life.
Korean Style Hand Roll a striploin tartare, Japanese egg salad, sticky rice mixed with sushisu (rice vinegar with sugar, salt, and kombu). The seasoning for the sushi rice gives the dish acidity. In the center, it’s usually chopped striploin or hanger steak depending on what they have, mixed in a Korean BBQ vinaigrette (made with gochujang, soy sauce, Asian pear puree) what you would find at a Korean bbq joint. Topped with a Japanese egg salad made with kewpie mayo, eggs, trout roe (adding the saltiness and creaminess of the dish), and a side of nori for crunch.
Grilled Striploin, wagyu meat aged with a black garlic rub cooked on a charcoal grill with a hollandaise sauce and infused butter with roasted porcini mushrooms. The dish is finished off with a Xo sauce on top. This sauce is originally from Hong Kong and it’s made with pork, Chinese sausage, pork belly trim, shrimp, scallions, garlic, and shallots. A super flavorful dish that Chef described as tasting like breakfast in Hong Kong.
Wonton in Brodo, Hong Kong-style wonton soup dumplings with an Italian accent, strong dashi, parmesan cheese rinds, and a broth with soy sauce.
The Wines. Chef Pablo works with biodynamic wines, small wine producers, and women-run wineries. Mainly from Chile and sourced from Vinos del Rey. Not only are these wines fantastic but they represent a piece of Natalia, Chef Pablo’s Chilean wife.
Honestly, you can’t go wrong with anything on the menu. Coral Gables and Miami are lucky to have Zitz Sum.