Tell me a bit about yourself and your background.
I was born in Israel. I lived there for about nine years. I moved to Japan when I was just turning 10. I lived in Japan for about 18 years and then moved to the U.S. after that. My dad's Moroccan so his whole family is Moroccan. My mom's Japanese, so there was always this mixture of different foods growing up. Once moving to L.A. I worked with a couple of chefs including Josiah [Citrin] from Melisse and then I got together with chef Katsuya to help him with the expansion of the Katsuyas and then I got the opportunity to open up Cleo and here we are.
What's the inspiration behind Cleo?
It's still a fun, hip, SBE type environment, but offers this different type of experience with a much lower check average
Cleo was - at the time when we got the opportunity to do something at the space, at the Redbury, a lot of people were talking about perhaps doing a brasserie, everybody was looking at those types of concepts and we were like we want to do something that's a little bit more out there, a little bit different. With things that are familiar to us and some of the people I work with, we came up with an Eastern Mediterranean concept and we wanted to be able to do this in a more approachable setting where it's not too ethnic. It's still a fun, hip, SBE type environment, but offers this different type of experience with a much lower check average and that's kind of how it came about.
What made you choose Miami for this outpost?
we're excited to do the Miami version of Cleo
Well, we have a Redbury there [he laughs]. Our first Cleo was in a Redbury. We had another restaurant there and we got the opportunity to get it, convinced the ownership that Cleo was the right restaurant for the Redbury so we're finally in there. I think it's a great location for us also because we have our sister restaurants right there. We're five minutes walking distance from the SLS where we have Katsuya and The Bazaar and The Raleigh obviously. I think a lot of the people in Miami are very excited about what we're doing down there and they can't wait for another SBE restaurant to go down there. So, we're excited to do the Miami version of Cleo.
I know you're looking to add some Miami inspired items. What are some of them?
things that don't necessarily work as well in L.A., work in Miami
Miami, we're looking into a lot more seafood, we'd like a much more seafood-driven menu. We want to use some of the local products such as grouper, which is really big in Miami, so we're incorporating that into the menu. We're putting things like the Cleo version of a ceviche in there. Miami has a lot of European clientele and a lot of South American clientele, so in terms of things that don't necessarily work as well in L.A., work in Miami. For example, whole fish type presentations. We're doing things like whole roasted fish from the wood oven.
Will you be visiting Miami often?
I think during the opening I'm probably going to be there two or three weeks before the opening and probably three or four weeks after the opening and I'll probably be going back and forth. Now we have Vegas that just opened, so between L.A., Vegas and Miami.
What are you most excited about with the upcoming Miami opening?
We always wanted to be the kind of restaurant that you can hopefully visit once or twice a week
We just hired this new executive chef, his name is Arturo Paz, he's a great, great guy that's been in Miami for quite some time and knows the clientele, knows the crowd and there seems to be a good buzz about Cleo coming in. Especially with Cleo being more of a - from the get-go when we first opened in Hollywood - we were always that neighborhood restaurant. We always wanted to be the kind of restaurant that you can hopefully visit once or twice a week and our price point is low enough for people to be able to do that. Iv'e heard that there's a lot of buzz and there's a lot of people excited to have an SBE restaurant that they can actually come to once or twice a week. We're excited to be there because everyone's excited to have us there.
Is the opening still planned for November 7?
Tentatively the 7. It may be pushed back by two or three days or so. We're just trying to get all the equipment in place and we've had a few slight minor delays with some of the stuff but I think we're looking at a two or three day max delay.