Owner of Sawa Restaurant & C'Est Bon Cafe | www.sawarestaurant.com



Ramzi Zahr – A Staple Restaurateur in Merrick Park with an International Entrepreneurial Flavor

The Village of Merrick Park in Coral Gables will be celebrating 10 years soon and so will Ramzi Zahr,owner of SAWA restaurant and C’Est Bon cafe!

With the undeniable success of SAWA restaurant located in the heart of the luxury mall over the last 2 years, Ramzi’s ties date back to before the opening of The Village. In 2002, as an accomplished stockbroker for a decade, Ramzi began to feel he was not fulfilling his true calling when he heard about the opening of a unique shopping mall being built in Coral Gables. He came, he saw and he conquered.

While he had a creprerie in Aventura, making the crepes himself and running the day-to-day operations hands on, his natural restaurateur skills translated into an almost immediate cash out offer, which he accepted and moved on the next endeavor: C’Est Bon café. Ramzi’s strategy was basic yet incredibly on point: he stayed as approachable as possible, right behind the counter. This way, he was able to evolve the café’s concept according to the customers’ wants and needs, tweaking the menu, the prices and the service. Shortly after his first C’Est Bon in Merrick Park he opened two more. He also opened and operated 4 car wash businesses including the exclusive one currently inside The Collection.

Originally from Lebanon, Ramzi attended college in Boston and paid his bills by working in the restaurant industry. His family, who also immigrated to Boston, eventually owned 18 restaurants. When he graduated, with a degree in International Business, his family expected he would take over the family business, but he didn’t. The restaurants were soon sold and Ramzi went on to build his career on Wall Street. The comfortable lifestyle allowed him to travel the world and at, every new restaurant he visited, he noted on napkins, or whatever he had at hand, concepts and details he liked. By 2000, the “idea box” was too heavy to carry and he realized he couldn’t deny his true calling any longer.

SAWA restaurant, which means “together” in Arabic and “tree” in Japanese, incorporates many of his favorite ideas including serving rice in a pyramid shape, the doggie menu, but most importantly the progressive concept of westernized Middle Eastern and Japanese cuisines together under one menu. “When we developed the menu, I did not want to pretend it was authentic, it is a fusion meant for everyone to enjoy it,” states Ramzi. “Authentic dishes do not allow for creativity and tend to become boring. SAWA’s menu gives us room to grow, change things up and keep it interesting. ”

With Chef Steven Acosta at the helm since January 1st, a new menu has been launched, creating quite a buzz around town. Specials are added daily to the choices including the Jabarrito - Puerto Rican slang for “farmer” - a slow-cooked ribs slider on tostones topped with coleslaw: a deliciously imaginative mix of Asian and Caribbean flavors.

“Steven is not only an incredibly talented chef but he also connects with his staff who are his eyes and ears in the dining room – an easier-said-than-done task for a busy chef!” explains Ramzi. “But his personable character and talents have already translated into positive results and I am looking forward to getting the word out about our changes in the kitchen and on the menu!”

SAWA also offers fun events weekly such as the belly dancers every Friday, Saturday and Sunday at 9pm and the one-man band Sunday during “Middle Eastern Night” at 8pm.

When asked what the future holds, Ramzi stayed tight-lip but led on that not only much more was coming his way in the form of new concepts but also exciting news regarding his home-away-from-home:  The Village of Merrick Park. We can hardly wait!

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