Award-winning chef and restaurateur Tom Aviv is bringing his bold style and out-of-the box recipes to the U.S. with the highly anticipated concept, Branja. Officially debuting on February 7, the restaurant, located in Miami’s Upper Buena Vista, offers elevated dishes reflective of Aviv’s Israeli background. Known internationally for his flavorful and imaginative dishes, Aviv’s Branja offers options for every palate. A cultural expedition, guests entering Branja step back in time to Tel Aviv in the ‘70s. With a distinct retro design and warm pastel colors, every detail is carefully curated. Branja’s interior and exterior design is a cross between Tel Aviv’s iconic indoor-outdoor train station structure and a cathedral structure, and ancient Synagogue seating, while a towering outdoor mural depicts retro art vignettes by Tel Aviv-based artist Paul Curran, representing the city’s neighborhoods and bustling markets.
Born and raised in Tel Aviv, the chef became a household name after winning MasterChef Israel in 2016. Although Aviv had no formal culinary training, he quickly gained notoriety for his sensational persona and use of imaginative flavors. Over the past six years, he has launched multiple unique restaurant concepts in Israel and Morocco — all of which quickly became dining hotspots. Starting with the energetic Coco Bambino, located in Tel Aviv’s popular Carmel Market, which was an immediate success thanks to its Israeli dishes with an Italian twist. Following the accolades of his initial concept, Aviv debuted Fat Cow, which earned TimeOut’s “Best Hamburger in Tel Aviv” for three consecutive years. Most recently, thanks to the historic peace agreement between Israel and Morocco, Aviv became the first Israeli chef to open a restaurant in Casablanca with his concept Milk + Honey. Offering modern Halal fare, the casual eatery has become wildly popular. Now, Aviv is making his state-side debut with Branja—an immersive, high-vibe culinary voyage.
“Miami’s melting pot of cultures and cuisines is much like my own culinary inspirations, which combine the vibrant flavors of my upbringing in Israel with my travels across the globe. With Branja being my first restaurant in the United States, I am excited to introduce this unique taste and create a memorable dining experience,” says Aviv. “The name Branja is Hebrew slang, originating from the word for tree branch, that translates to ‘a circle of friends.’ Branja’s small outdoor terrace and 12-seat Chef’s Table experience offer an exclusive setting to share plates and explore new flavors.”
Located in the idyllic Upper Buena Vista retail sanctuary, Branja’s retro, 3,000-square foot space, is as captivating as its menu. The 12-seat Chef’s Table offers two intimate omakase-style seatings for guests each night, and the open-concept kitchen allows guests to watch Aviv and his team construct culinary art. Replete with copper accents throughout, the indoor portion of space also offers a flashback to retro Miami: The iconic bar from the Delano Hotel’s Florida Room, designed by Lenny Kravitz, is repurposed as the Chef’s Table.
The idyllic, covered outdoor terrace, seat 150s, and blends the sights and smells of Tel Aviv with the bustling Buena Vista neighborhood. Curran’s 45-foot tall mural, greets guests with retro patterns and colorful vignettes inspired by Tel Aviv. Looking up, a kaleidoscope of yellows, blues and greens created by the restaurant’s colorful stained-glass ceiling sets the vibe for the unique dining experience, with fixtures like hand-crafted terrazzo-top tables and reclaimed synagogue benches, while guests dine with upcycled 1970’s original cutlery and pastel ceramic plates.
Branja’s menu pulls inspiration from around the globe, while incorporating the signature spices and flavors of generational Israeli recipes. Dishes will change seasonally, as Branja sources ingredients locally. Intentionally light and designed for sharing, signature dishes include Fish & Bread, a flavorful ceviche style appetizer, and fresh takes on classics like Falafish, a Falafel and juice fish hybrid and Fishwarma, made with a spiced fish mix that includes fatty salmon and grouper to emulate classic shawarma. Other creative dishes include Krouv – “Cabbage” in Hebrew – which, through a four stage preparation, mimics a slow cooked short rib. Guests can also opt for the Mama Ligua, a fresh corn polenta with caramelized leeks and truffles. Branja is a Kosher-style restaurant, and Kosher meat dishes include Tuktuk Kebab – a Branja favorite that uses Thai-inspired ingredients – tamarind glaze and a herbaceous seasoning – for a perfectly sweet and sour ground meat; Beef Tarpaccio, which elegantly melds classic beef tartare and carpaccio; and Orthodox steak, a premium quality Glatt Kosher ribeye. To end on a sweet note, Branja showcases a selection of addictive desserts, including Layali Beirout, a modern take on a Lebanese classic, and Halva Crack Pie, which plays on familiar forms and nostalgic flavors distinctive of Israel.
Guests can pair their meal with a libation from Branja’s selection of high end and premium signature cocktails, such as the colorful Purple Rain, made with za’atar infused tequila and butterfly pea, and rimmed with salt and dry za’atar as an ode to a classic Margarita; and the Paloma & Yaya, a raisin infused Arak paired ginger and grapefruit to give nostalgic hints of a casual Tel Avivian evening.