If you are anything like me and truly appreciate fresh ingredients then your next stop will have to be at Kokopo Fresh Kitchen during your weekend promenade in South Beach. This brand new Mediterranean eatery completely took me by surprise since it had all the symptoms of “fast food” done right! Clean inviting cooking surface, delicious toppings vibrant in colors, amazing staff that set the tone for a great ambiance and not a single item priced over 10 bucks. It is everything you’d wish your dream gourmet quick meal would be.
I was greeted by Chef/Owner Neal who not only made this gourmet-fast food dream happen but catered to my every whim much like his amazing kitchen mates. In a deep conversation over my infatuation for topping sauces, he quickly contributed with an impromptu Sauce Tasting! Because naturally, he even makes his own sauces that go along specifically with every salad, roll and pizza! This was the start of my long stay. Garlic Aioli, Mustard Aioli, Chili Aioli, a Tahini sauce, Tzatziki sauce, even a Spicy Ketchup all sat wonderful in my palate although my absolute favorite was the Smokey Chipotle Aioli sauce. As Neal walked me through every flavor composing these blends I couldn’t help but picture all of the wonderful robust destinations for my new favorite semi spicy and smokey goodness; somewhere warm and meaty. We got to talking about his Israeli background and vision for the place and that’s when I noticed his great connection to food. You can taste the passion behind it, because of the importance of everything he wants the costumer to be able to enjoy in every visit. He crafted the art of “tortilla wrap-making” after several years of trial and error, which to me is the soul of his restaurant.
Soon as you set eyes inside the kitchen part, you can appreciate two weird machines that are constantly put to use, these are his secret weapons for those incredibly delicious tortillas. Set to a temperature of 270° F his DoughPro Wrap Pressers are being fed the great dough made fresh every day.
Based on how great of a start we were already making I let him suggest a pizza choice for me from the menu. He knew I’d be the perfect type for his craziest creation… Fig Pizza. You may not have seen this coming but yes the dough for this is that amazing tortilla dough I was just talking about, I asked for whole wheat this time around. (Keep an open mind for this 12” thin crust delight foodies!) I watched the (house made) tomato sauce ladled in to the rim, fresh mozz, baby arugula, roasted sweet potato chunks, fresh fig slices, and blue cheese crumbles hit this pizza and I thought this is either genius or a terrible mistake!
The pizza went in the wood oven and some minutes later came out looking great. Soon as it came out Neal took out a cup he keeps with fresh basil by the bunch sitting in water and topped my pizza with green specs of it… this aroma was the first thing to hit my nose, the fresh basil heated by the bubbly cheese. What an amazing amalgamation that could be easily split between two by the way, although I could’ve eaten the whole thing by myself since it was so innovative. This sweet and savory pizza will rock a thin-crust lover’s world! It was so crunchy even as I made my way into a new slice I could snap the crust and hear it every time! That was impressive, not to mention the perfect bite of crispy sweet potato, with soft fig, melted tangy blue cheese and hint of basil.
We then visited the slimmer part of the menu, I ordered the Rib Eye salad honestly because of the inviting smell of the sesame, soy, ginger vinaigrette. I was summoned out back to the refrigerators to see the quality of meat I was about to consume- rich red and perfectly thinly sliced, all produce carefully packaged, very tidy for the back of a kitchen. The gorgeous expensive grills set to great heats ready for my protein. I was slightly put off by the thought of it coming straight from the grill to a hand toss in the salad bowl but by the time all ingredients went in and it was served to me, the meat had cooled and my lettuce wasn’t warm-THANK GOD. This Asian styled salad had the crispest sweet bean sprouts, corn, cherry tomatoes, carrots, roasted peanuts, green onions, cilantro, and the most rewarding toppings of previously marinated roasted portabellas and mint! Quite a lot going on but very complimenting from one flavor to the next. I truly appreciated that even as I picked up my bowl (clear container) to do “the water check”-you know that tilt of the bowl that reveals all that unattractive water collection achieved by too much dressing at the bottom of your salad… I was impressed at how accurate it was dressed not too much, not too little.
The end of my stay approached, as I ordered the most popular item on the menu The Rib Eye Roll. Just as I imagined my new smoky/spicy chipotle topping would be just the thing to compliment this hardy wrap. With the lightly salted and peppered beef, warm fresh wrap, baby arugula, lettuce, tomatoes, aioli garlic, pickles and sautéed onions this was just the perfect taste to walk away with. I was so very satisfied by it I’d definitely come back for another taste; although I am super intrigued by what the other wraps have to offer especially the Eggplant Roll since…its fried yall! In my next visit I plan to conquer the Sweets/Dessert option as well. How does a fried edible sweet tortilla shell filled with fruit salad, mascarpone cheese and a light delicate vanilla sabayon cream to finish it off sound? This menu although ambitious for a fast food restaurant sounds very promising and unique. Come by sooner than later because just like they say here you can “taste the difference!”
1541 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach, FL 33139 (South Beach)
By Contributor Writer: Gigi Laverde