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A tasty ride with Triciclo

Take two parts Turkish influence and one part Spanish influence, blend them together, and you get a Triciclo. That’s the hope of this trio, made up of a businesswoman, a restauranteur, and a chef. We sat down and spoke with Asuman Whiteman, one-third of the team that hopes to bring Spanish cuisine with Mediterranean influence to Miami’s A+E District. With a history of opening restaurants in New York City, Whiteman is confident that the team behind Triciclo can successfully launch Miami’s next great restaurant.

Why do you want to open a restaurant in the A+E District?

The Whiteman sisters at Zipi Zape (Courtesy of Ayse Whiteman)
The Whiteman sisters at Zipi Zape, a restaurant they opened in New York. (Courtesy of Ayse Whiteman)

My twin sister and I love cooking and we love food. I’m originally from Istanubul, Turkey, so in our culture, cooking is always an occasion. We experiment with a lot of ingredients. I started working in restaurants as both a server, a bartender, general manager, then eventually I  owned my own restaurant. I grew up with food and wine. We used to live in New York and have opened restaurants there. So when we moved to Miami, we were interested in finding a space and opening our own restaurant here. We think the A+E district is an area that is still developing and has a lot of place to grow. We want open a very community-centered restaurant.  

Tell me more about the restaurants you’ve opened in New York.

We opened City Eatery in 1998 on the Bowery, when it a very scary place to be. There were lots of homeless shelters and homeless people, but now there are a bunch of celebrity chefs opening restaurants there. It’s become sort of a destination spot. Our next restaurant was in Williamsburg, when it was still an area that needed to grow. We were very successful in turning those restaurants into destination places. Now Williamsburg is very developed. The first restaurant we opened was Alioli with Diego Gonzalez, who is my twin sister’s husband, and is also a partner on this new restaurant. Then we opened a tapas restaurant called Zipi Zape. The name came from from a famous Spanish cartoon show, about two brothers. We were serving hot and cold tapas.  Our last restaurant was Bar Berry, it was more Mediterranean, but we also introduced Spanish fruits.

What makes you qualified to open a restaurant?

We  take chances and have become pioneers in developing areas that are not well-developed. We have a history of being successful in that. Also, Diego’s cooking style is amazing. He always uses the freshest ingredients. He grew up around the sea, in Galicia, Spain. He works with simple ingredients to create an experience around the dish, and to bring different communities together.  

What challenges have you faced in the past in this industry?

Our biggest challenge was when we opened City Eatery around the time when the September 11th terrorist attacks happened. But we pushed through that hardship because we were a neighborhood friendly place. We opened our doors to the firemen, and police officers, and neighborhood workers, and had a space for community gathering where people would come and work. Beyond that, we’ve been working in the industry for so long. So, opening a restaurant is always very challenging. Ultimately, we trust our food.

How do you overcome some of those challenges?

My sister has degree in International Business and International Finance, so she handles finances.  We are very, very careful in terms of balancing our expenses and implement precautions when we need to. But our strongest point we have a really talented chef, so there’s always consistency. The food is always very creative, which creates excitement around the menu, and we do specials every day. We try to keep our customers happy by giving a few complimentary items to create a comfortable atmosphere. Whoever enters through our door, we treat with respect and love and create the best experience we can for our customers.

What is your favorite Miami restaurant?

Of all the restaurants, I would say Barceloneta. I also love Pubbelly for sushi. And for seafood, I love Mignonette.

What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?

It was at an event where a number of celebrity chefs were invited. It was a collaborative cooking effort when all of the chefs were pitching in. They made Spanish-influenced tapas and seafoods. There were sea urchins, octopus, a very interesting item called kokotxas al pil pil, which are cod fish gills. The desserts were also sooooo good, I mean that’s always what you remember after a really good meal.

Chef Diego with world famous Spanish chefs Juan Mari Arzak and Ferran Adria (Courtesy of Ayse Whiteman)
Chef Diego with world famous Spanish chefs Juan Mari Arzak and Ferran Adria (Courtesy of Ayse Whiteman)

And your worst meal ever?

I was in Chinatown in New York at a restaurant. I ate a 50-year-old egg. It was beyond description. I remember it to this day.

On that note, what should I eat for lunch?

Well, I’m very health conscious. I would say you should enjoy a nice salad. You can add a few nuts, cranberries, a very light balsamic, arugula mesclun, and a bit of gorgonzola and a grilled sliced chicken with a nice glass of wine. My suggestion would be an albariño.