Zitz Sum’s Wonderland Cuisine

Zitz Sum Expands the Asian Palate in Unexpected, Delightful Ways

There is no sign outside the majestic 396 Alhambra building announcing the presence of Zitz Sum. There are only two huge, ornate Oz-like doors that lead to a marble-floored atrium, where a night guard will ask if you are here for the restaurant. She will direct you to a far corner of the huge entrance space.

Apparently, no signage is needed. Open the door and you enter what feels like a secret room somewhere on the outskirts of Shanghai or Singapore, or maybe Tokyo, all tables taken. The lighting is dim; a string of red Chinese lanterns frames a bar in the back, the side walls are blanketed by dark, underlit curtains, and the final wall has a mural of deep red abstractions and a Chinese crane.

Chef Pablo Zitzmann from Zitz Sum
Chef Pablo Zitzmann, a James Beard nominee

This cozy venue is home to one of the Gables’ stellar chefs, Pablo Zitzmann, who recently added to his accolades (James Beard nominee, Michelin Guide awardee) recognition by The New York Times as one of the top 50 restaurants in the U.S. “We have noticed that our clientele is changing a bit, with the expectations [from the awards],” says Zitzmann. “But we haven’t lost who we are. It just gave us a push to be better.”

Our server Gabriel recommended the wonton in brodo, the dumpling, he said, “which got us on the New York Times list.” And for good reason. These are dumplings at their finest: soft fleshy dough enveloping a chewy core comprised of chicken, foie gras, ginger, and scallops. The broth, which one dining companion admired as “almost medieval,” is a Japanese miso stock with a strong parmesan-meets-seaweed flavor. “We are Asian-inspired, and the inspired part is very important,” says Zitzmann.

“We take cuisines that excite us and see them through an Asian perspective. If we go to a French restaurant and taste something delicious, or we are craving Italian food and want that emphasis, we take an Asian lens to it without going into ‘fusion’ cuisine.” 

  • Zitz Sum's Asian Wonderland Cuisine

The result are dishes like their cold cucumber salad with avocado, Chinese Lao Gan Ma chili sauce, and Italian Stracciatella cheese; a gustatory playground of crunchy cucumber and chewy cheese lacquered in chili sauce and Thai basil oil. Or their bao bun, a Shanghai-style wrap of dough enclosing shredded, smoked lamb shank with Greek cardamom and cumin and Japanese shawarma spices, and paired with an herbal chutney green sauce and lemony labneh Greek yogurt sauce for dipping. Both add a cool contrast to the dark, richer flavor of the lamb. 

Chef Zitzmann, former proprietor of the No Name Chinese restaurant in South Miami, opened Zitz Sum in 2021. As a pop-up, it originally specialized in dumplings, the art of which he mastered during the pandemic shutdown, offering them first as take-out. (“Dumplings travel well,” he noted.) Now, nearly two years after his quiet launch, Zitzmann has gone well beyond the dumpling. On the current menu — and it does change — dumplings make up just four of the 17 selections (two of which are desserts). Instead, you have a half dozen inventive items in the Raw & Small section, with heavier entrees in the Konro Grill section.

Florida Clams Poached in Sake

It’s hard to go wrong with any choice. We tried the Florida clams poached in sake, what Zitzmann calls a “Spanish-inspired” dish with Asian ingredients. Each clam sits on a half shell in a broth made from sake, butter, cream, and vinegar, adorned with smoked trout row (ikura) and dried shavings of Ibérico ham. The creamy broth is sweetly succulent, the clams sea-salty, and the ham (fed on acorns) nicely nutty. It was so toothsome we wouldn’t let the waiter remove the broth, saving it to be soaked up by one of the house favorites: the Bing.

“Bing” is Cantonese for bread, and it’s a soft, deliciously warm loaf made daily from Zitzmann’s sourdough starter, then grilled with butter and salt and served with a dip of whipped butter, orange mangrove honey, and miso seaweed paste for the umami flavor. We would have been happy eating just that, but of course Zitzmann had more up his sleeve, like a crudo of Hokkaido scallops from Japan (with white soy sauce, fried capers, peeled tomatoes, and cucumber slices) and an impressive Nimen Ranch ribeye steak cooked with shitake mushrooms and a reduced black pepper bordelaise.

‘Bing’ — A Sourdough Pancake

The wait staff, young and dressed in black, is efficient and knowledgeable, and the music a dreamy flow of Asian house and jazz that is unpretentious and soothing. Like Zitz Sum, it embraces a subtle, comfortable backdrop to taste sensations that are unexpected and delightful.

Zitz Sum

396 Alhambra Circle, Suite 155