Why Japanese-style Omakase tasting menus are taking Miami by storm


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A Japanese tradition is making waves in the magical city.

Mr. Omakase | Photo by Deyson Rodriguez

Mr. Omakase | Photo by Deyson Rodriguez

When The cave Opened in Miami Beach in late 2018, this was only the second omakase-style sushi to find its way into the neighborhood. “The lair has become a target,” said Mahmood Abousalem, regional director for the east coast of Plan to see America, Inc., the welcome mark behind the hidden sushi bar. “The restaurateurs came in and saw it and thought, ‘Miami needs more omakase counters. “”

It was then that the city – more often associated with famous chefs and well-known brands associated with luxury hotels – began to move towards fine sushi, served in a different, more traditional way and much more consciously. presented. And that only made sense: tasting menus in general were on the rise in Miami, so omakase seemed like a natural evolution.

The cave | Photo by Anthony Nader

Omakase can be translated as “I leave it to you” or “I trust you, chef”, so named because the chef tailors the experience to the customer and monitors the reactions and expressions of customers as they prepare every little dish on the table. the counter. in front of them. The multi-course experience unfolds as beautifully as a symphony, with each bite-sized dish perfectly polished and plated, spectacularly presented by the chef who stages the show behind the sushi counter. The pandemic has disrupted this type of eating, as eating is an intimate face-to-face encounter and requires a level of human interaction that has since been replaced by QR codes and roadside pickup. But over the past year, as restaurants slowly rolled out their reopening strategies, demand for omakase has been so great that it seems like new restaurants are popping up almost every month.

UchiUchi | Photo by Chase Daniels

Case in point: Austin Transplant and winner of the James Beard Award Uchi, which debuted in January, was one of the most high-profile restaurant openings of the year. For founder and chef Tyson Cole, Miami seemed like a perfect landing place for the brand and the best of the big metropolises (NYC, LA, etc.) to begin its expansion. He spent a year or two driving around town before closing a store in Wynwood because it’s close to downtown but not right in there. “The vibe at Wynwood is so creative and goes really well with what we’re doing,” he says, adding that the timing also made sense for the restaurant’s reveal. “Right now things are coming back quickly from the pandemic and people are trying new things. “

At the end of 2020, Wynwood also hosted Hiyakawawhich has (rightly) become an architectural favorite on Instagram. Restaurateur and art dealer Alvaro Perez Miranda spent 15 years in Japan, combining his Venezuelan roots with his travels in Asia to create a new breed of Latin American fusion, embraced by Japanese cuisine and accentuated by the Venezuelan aesthetic. “I wanted the ceiling to be a work of art and do something theatrical because you can see it from the outside,” says Miranda, referring to the 700-piece wave-shaped wooden installation that hovers over the dining area.

Miranda also wanted to pay homage to the exquisite precision of Japanese culinary culture. Ingredients like $ 80 mangoes and seasonal seafood are brought in daily, and instead of dipping the sushi in soy sauce, chefs use small paintbrushes to skillfully paint the sashimi and nigiri. “In Japanese it says omotenashi, The attention to detail you put into what you do makes all the difference, ”he says. “I wanted to open a restaurant where you can eat omakase as if you were in Ginza, but we save you the plane ticket and the hotel.

HideHide | Photo courtesy of Showa Hospitality

Whisper bar Hide helped introduce this concept to Wynwood when it opened three years ago. “We have been traveling for a long time in Japan and thought this type of omakase would be a nice addition to Miami,” said Julian Hakim, president of Hospitality showa, the group behind Hiden. “It was a bit risky as it was certainly the most expensive in Wynwood at the time.”

The high price tag is due to the sourcing of the ingredients and the caliber of the chefs, not the ambiance or decor that Miami is so often known for (that is, you won’t find bottle service). and golden sculptures here). “You don’t go to flashy restaurants in Japan,” Hakim says. “You want to keep the design as functional and simple as possible so that you can focus on the dishes. “

Hidden behind a back door of Taco Stand, Showa’s laid-back taco spot, the sushi counter seats only eight people, making it even more like a private dining experience. Rice is freshly prepared for each seat and served at different temperatures depending on the dish, while hot plates are prepared behind the counter in the compact kitchen. “Since we have so few clients, we can really focus on the attention to detail,” says Hakim. “We just want to achieve big things and let people be happy. It is not easy to repeat the experience – each plate, each dish has been selected by hand. “

Whether you have the cash to feast on a sumptuous meal or still dig into that quirky Japanese concept, it’s the Omakase OGs, spin-offs and speakeasies that are leading the movement and doing their part to make Miami. to transform a Tokyo on the beach.

HiyakawaHiyakawa | Photo by Michael Pissari

Wynwood
Hiyakawa is the Venezuelan-born restaurateur’s newest hotel behind popular Japanese restaurant Wabi Sabi, pointing to Tokyo’s stylish Ginza district. Seasonal produce and seafood are shipped fresh daily from Japan, and reservations are possible for only 12 people per day. Waxed concrete floors and a floor-to-ceiling wooden art installation frame the 14-seat counter, behind which Morimoto’s former Masayuki Komatsu serves grilled, steamed, and fried dishes on plates by a Japanese-based ceramist. At New York. Seasonal specialties like Japanese horse mackerel and wild amberjack really make this place shine, and the sake sommelier can guide you to the perfect pairing.
How to book: Make a reservation through Tock.

HideHide | Photo courtesy of Showa Hospitality

Wynwood
From the group behind Mexico City’s bustling Japanese food scene, Hiden holds court in one of the least expected places: Behind The taco stand. And in the real sweatshop, the only way to get into the 8-seat Omakase is through a password that was emailed earlier today. Walking through the chaos of the taqueria in the quiet 450-square-meter restaurant can be a bit overwhelming, but once the tasting begins and the chefs begin to carefully prepare and dress each of the eight to ten dishes, you feel immediately like in Tokyo (where the fish is of course transported fresh every day).
How to book: Make a reservation through Tock.

Mr. OmakaseMr. Omakase | Photo by Deyson Rodriguez

Downtown
Just before the pandemic breaks out, the duo behind it 1-800-Lucky Poke OG brought the concept of the quick-poke-casual bowl to a standalone downtown location – a part of town that has virtually no Asian cuisine. Now, they’ve expanded the space next door to create an affordable Omakase experience in collaboration with Sushi Chef Ryo Kato, formerly of Myumi (who also had a sushi counter in Asian Food Hall 1-800-Lucky) . The only traditional aspect of the space is the sushi counter, which seats only eight people, while the old-school hip-hop-dominated soundtrack and the curio cabinet filled with Japanese Monopoly and figurines. The action is more in tune with the colored bars that you would like to find in Wynwood. But that’s part of what makes this place more accessible to Omakase newbies – or those who want to be pampered without wasting half a month’s rent in the process. Choose from the simple 10-course menu or treat yourself to an 18-course Granny Cheese sprinkled with coveted dishes like Uni, Chu Toro, and A5 Wagyu.
How to book: Make a reservation through Tock.

UchiUchi | Photo by Chase Daniels

Wynwood
After nearly 18 years in the business, followers still make the pilgrimage to Austin to dine with the original Uchi in the converted bungalow. And at this Miami outpost, connoisseurs can experience some of the elements of the original, including the enthusiastic happy hour (a great way to sample the Uchi experience without diving headlong into an expensive tasting menu). And while the outdoor planted terrace is a Miami take on Chef Tyson Cole’s laid-back Omakase concept, the rightfully fashionable restaurant with its 14-seat walnut sushi counter in the center definitely exudes a chic vibe. Every dish has an unexpected twist, whether it’s crispy yuca or bigeye tuna with goat cheese, which is why tasting 10 dishes from the chef is the best way to keep the bill under control and try seasonal dishes and signature dishes.
How to book: Make reservations through OpenTable.

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Lane Nieset is a Thrillist contributor.

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