The who: After recently shuttering The Fed, owners Aniece Meinhold and chef Cesar Zapata have opened a permanent location for their popular pop-up Phuc Yea (pronounced FOOK), which debuted in a temporary downtown space five years ago.
The space: The restaurant is divided into three parts — a main indoor dining room, a hotel lobby-styled lounge and an outdoor patio. Décor in its new permanent space is certainly more grown up than its pop-up beginnings. It features a mash-up of mid-century modern decor, street art and traditional Asian accents.
The lounge is a raw bar with midcentury modern seating. Past a door and up a few steps is the main dining room, a mix of Saigon-mansion decor and street art funkiness. The owners handpicked every piece in the restaurant, some dating back more than 250 years. An outdoor patio is still in the works and features colorful lanterns and the smoker from the Fed.
The dishes: Vietnamese-Cajun. Zapata incorporates hits from the duo’s successful pop-up while also introducing new spins on Asian cooking. Prices are neighborhood-friendly with starters $9-$12 and mains $14-$29.
A trio of rolls starts things off: the Mama Roll filled with Chinese sausage, jícama, cucumber, dried shrimp, and peanuts; the Crispy Imperial Roll filled with shrimp, pork, crab, wood ear mushrooms, carrots, and jícama and comes with a box of lettuce and herbs and a veggie roll.
Then it’s on to the green papaya salad, dressed with fish sauce, and noodles tossed with garlic butter, oyster sauce and spicy chicken wings in a fish sauce caramel. Vegetarians will dig the eggplant curry, crispy tofu and baby bok choy. Larger mains include a whole fish, breaded and fried, and the Caja China Cola Duck with lettuce served on the side in a Chinese take-out box. A Cajun Wok dish allows you to choose your seafood protein (crawfish, a daily crab, Gulf shrimp or Florida clams); then select your “sauss” (Cajun, green curry, garlic butter or chili garlic).
Bottom line: Another successful Miami pop-up goes permanent with exciting Asian food in sophisticated digs.