Japanese Cuisine on South Beach
By Steve Pike
The question, “What’s behind the curtain?’’ is easily answered at Azabu Miami Beach. Behind the curtain inside the Marriott Stanton Hotel is some of the best Japanese cuisine in South Florida. Heck, Azabu Miami Beach, an expanded version of Plan Do See Global’s Sushi Azabu New York, might even serve the best Japanese cuisine in South Florida. Plan Do See operates more than 15 properties around the world.
“To us, Miami was the next natural progression as we expand our brand in the United States,’’ said Plan Do See Managing Director, Miami, Mahmood Abousalem. “Where our New York location mainly features ‘omakase’ style sushi, along with some a la carte options, we decided to widen our offerings for the Miami audience.’’
Azabu Miami Beach, which opened earlier this year, houses multiple concepts, including an indoor and outdoor seating main dining room with a large robata grill, a Japanese charcoal grill with dishes ranging from vegetables, poultry, meats, and a wide selection of fishes and other seafood. The restaurant also has a Japanese style cocktail bar, which serves Japanese inspired cocktails, as well as more than 40 kinds of Japanese whiskies.
“Our robata grilled items are definitely becoming a hit,’’ Abousalem said. “Japanese charcoal heats to a higher temperature than typical charcoal, up to around 1,000 degrees, creating that perfect char, but still keeping all that umami juice inside for any ingredient.’’
Favorites? Definitely the Lobster Tempura with spicy mayo. Also, the Yakimeshi. It’s a dish similar to fried rice, but served on a sizzling hot ceramic plate called a ‘toban’ and finished tableside. The smell and the sizzling sound turns heads throughout the dining room.
Other “must have’’ dishes at Azabu Miami are the Japanese curry and strawberry kakigōri (shaved ice mountain).
“The Japanese curry is actually a comfort food to every Japanese person. Each household would have their own original recipes,’’ Abousalem said. “The kakigōri is a popular street food that is consumed each summer by the local children.’’
For guests who want an even more exclusive experience, Azabu Miami Beach has “The Den,’’ a secluded sushi bar adjacent to the dining room that has two omakase menus, one at $120 per person and another at $150 per person. The Den’s centerpiece is a 500-year-old Hinoki (Japanese cypress tree) counter made from one large tree.
“After having our restaurant in New York for 10 years and watching how the term ‘omakase’ become so well known to New Yorkers, we thought Miami was up next for the same potential and wanted to become the first to introduce the concept to Miami,’’ Abousalem said. “We wanted to make the experience more interesting and fun to our audience, so we decided to create it as a secret room in the back of the restaurant.’’
Make your plans to visit Azabu Miami Beach, our taste of Japan in South Florida.