By Lisa Petrillo

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Art is everywhere at Leku and the elegant restaurant at the new Rubell Museum in Allapattah features warm colors in an open-air feel, with dining inside and out, while offering the pleasures of eating in Spain’s Basque region.

The main dining room is centered around a whimsical art piece by local artist Allison Zuckerman as part of The Rubell Collection.

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Art piece by local artist Allison Zuckerman as part of The Rubell Collection at Leku. (CBS4)

There’s also a separate garden lounge area.

Terry Zarikian is one of the owners.

“The Rubell’s are world travelers, so they know exactly what they want. People come to the restaurant to eat and then they go to the museum,” Zarikian said.

“Leku is a whimsical name. It comes from the Basque country. It means ‘the place’ in Euskara. It’s an ancient language that only Basque people speak,” said Zarikian.

The restaurant opened in December of 2020 and has grown ever since.

“We didn’t know if people were going to come, but as they said, ‘If you build it they will come.’ It happened and we were busy from day one,” said Zarikian.

Back in the kitchen, award-winning executive chef Mikel Goikolea prepares the tasting dishes beautifully plated.

Gambas al Ajillo or Key West pink shrimp in garlic sauce from Leku. (CBS4)

CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo and Terry Zarikian begin with Gambas al Ajillo or Key West pink shrimp in garlic sauce.

“Terry, this is a melt in your mouth shrimp. It has the perfect amount of salt and the freshness of that Key West shrimp is a great bite,” said Petrillo.

Leku’s Wild Calasparra Mushroom Rice (CBS4)

Next, Zarikian’s favorite; Wild Calasparra Mushroom Rice from Spain.

“Am I right?,” asked Zarikian.

“You’re right. I mean there’s a specialness about that rice. It’s not just rice. There is so much going on and it has a good bite to it too,” said Petrillo.

Next, is a dish that features ham where the pigs have been raised eating acorns.

Cinco Jotas Jambon from Leku. (CBS4)

“It’s called Cinco Jotas Jambon,” said Zarikian. “This is a puff air bread that we crack and then you eat it with your hands.”

“It’s party time,” said Petrillo cracking the bread.

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They tasted a delicious heirloom tomato cracker with tender sprouts and an artfully presented red beet tartare with a basil emulsion 

“You don’t miss the beef. This is a vegetarian’s dream,” said Petrillo.

Dessert is a creamy delicacy. Basque-style burnt cheesecake that simply oozes with decadence.

Tarta de Queso Vasca or Basque cheese tart from Leku (CBS4)

“Here’s a tip on this taste of the town, don’t miss dessert. Wow,” said Petrillo

Leku is open Wednesday through Sundays for lunch and dinner. For more information, click here.

Leku’s Beet Tartare Recipe:

Leku’s Beet Tartare (CBS4)

Ingredients for Chive Emulsion:

  • 12 Oz Chive Oil
  • ½ Teaspoon Lemon
  • 1 Egg
  • Salt To Taste

Instructions for Chive Emulsion:

Mix vigorously; Can keep refrigerated in a sealed container in the refrigerator for future use.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 3 Oz. Cooked Red Beets (Instructions for cooking the beets: Boil beets in water with dry white wine and apple cider vinegar; chopped brunoise.)
  • 1 Teaspoon Chive Emulsion
  • ½ Teaspoon Dijon Mustard
  • ½ Teaspoon Chopped Capers
  • ½ Teaspoon Red Beet Juice

Instructions: Mix all the above.

Garnish Ingredients:

  • 4 Fried Capers
  • 2 Leaves Pickled Onion
  • Soufflé Potato Filled with Chive Emulsion (simply fry thinly sliced potatoes until they puff and season)
  • 2 Alder Flowers (may substitute with other edible flowers)
  • Olive Oil Pearls Caviar

Plating Directions:

Using a round mold ring, center into a plate and fill with the tartare. Remove the ring and decorate by piping Chive Emulsion dots and top them with the caper.

Pipe one larger middle dot of the emulsion in the center topped with the olive oil pearl.

Place the two flowers between the center dot and the edge of the Tartare.

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Place one mini soufflé potato filled with the emulsion on the side of the plate. Optional-You may either add the pickled onion to the top of the Tartare or nearby the potato. 

Lisa Petrillo