June 2019: Japanese restaurants in Miami are aplenty, though few take a classic approach to the wide-ranging cuisine. New additions, such as Makoto and Katsuya Brickell, elevate the genre with modern approaches to traditional dishes. In the food for something wholesome and authentic? Try Wabi Sabi by Shuji, a Time Out Market selection featuring nothing but Japan’s greatest—and freshest—chirashi hits.
What can one expect at one of the best Japanese restaurants in Miami? Don’t think for a second it’s all raw fish (not that we don’t also know where to find the best sushi in Miami). No, Japanese cuisine is as eclectic and thoughtful as the country that made it. Hiding in quiet corners across this city (many adjacent to many of the best things to do in Miami) you’ll find tender meat sizzling on robata grills, ramen being slurped mercilessly and chirashi bowls that will blow your mind. We know you love to chow down at the best Cuban restaurants in Miami and the best Italian restaurants in Miami—but do not forget to go visit Japan every once in a while. Your stomach will thank you.
Japanese restaurants in Miami
What is it? Luckily, your money (quite a bit of it) will be well-spent at Zuma. Dinner here is nothing short of luxurious. The hip restaurant puts as much emphasis on the kitchen as it does on its chic appearance and the result is a meal you won’t forget. Pick from modern Japanese bites such as sea bass sashimi with yuzu, salmon roe and truffle oil or tiger prawn tempura.
Why go? Dig into a humongous Japanese brunch here on the weekend. It’s a baikingu (buffet) set up, so…yeah.
What is it? The true definition of a hidden gem. Chef Shuji Hiyakawa has been quietly serving some of the city’s best Japanese food in a nondescript building in Miami’s chill Upper Eastside and—now—inside Time Out Market Miami. The go-to order here is one of the fresh-as-can-be chirashizushi bowls.
Why go? To dig into the titular Wabi Sabi bowl. The generous portion of tuna, salmon, lump crab, tobiko, cucumber avocado, seaweed and shiitake mushroom is pure magic.
What is it? The original Azabu earned itself one of those fancy Michelin stars for its stunning service and delicious food. The Miami location, tucked away on Ocean Drive, inherited many of its sister restaurant’s best qualities. The three-page menu guides you from starters on through cold seafood dishes, robata protein, sushi and more. It is a fine dining experience insanely rare on Ocean Drive.
Why go? The dining room is nice and all but you’ve got to wiggle your way into Azabu’s hidden omakase room, the Den, for a stunning tasting.
What is it? Stephen Starr’s crown jewel inside Bal Harbour Shops draws a spectrum of diners, from lunching ladies and celebrities (Makoto is a regular Kardashian hang) to local folk with a taste—and budget—for upscale Japanese fare.
Why go? We’ll cooly shell out a stack of cash for Makoto’s famous crispy rice (spicy tuna neatly assembled over flash-fried rice), and we’re positive we’re not the only ones who often do. Besides the delectable starter, Makoto is known for its unctuous ramen and high-quality cuts of toro.
What is it? Less of a scene than its sister restaurants, Katsuya Brickell is a dark and sophisticated lair for discerning izakaya enthusiasts.
Why go? Satisfy your cravings for Katsuya signatures, such as spicy tuna crispy rice and the wagyu gyozas served over garlic ponzu sauce, without ever leaving the mainland.
What is it? Believe it or not, some of the best sushi in town comes from a Gainesville import. But the airy Dragonfly has a menu miles above your average college student’s palate. Beyond the very good sushi, you can order meat from the robata grill, sashimi and Japanese blue crab fried rice.
Why go? Happy hour doesn’t end on Friday. From 5 to 7pm on weekends, grab $1 oysters, rolls for under $8 and cocktail specials.
What is it? When two beloved Japanese concepts closed down in 2017, Miami cried. When the owner’s daughter opened up her own place in the summer of 2018, Miami cheered. Now the charming Sushi Erika is packing those smiling faces into a simple sushi counter in a strip mall. Reservations aren’t accepted so be prepared to wait.
Why go? The official rule of Sushi Erika: no cell phones at the sushi bar! How refreshing it that?
What is it? The answer to your frequent, spontaneous ramen cravings. Ichimi cranks out its own fresh noodles daily on an impressive looking machine visible from the dining room. The result is flavorful ramen piled high with seafood, pork belly and beef brisket.
Why go? The ramen, obviously, but do not skip a side order of crab cake. It’s more like a crab pancake and it’s your new best friend.
What is it? A casual izakaya spot in Coral Gables perfect for a quick lunch during the week. Dinner service ain’t bad here either. Order sushi by the piece or bring a friend to help you eat your way through the steamy hot pot.
Why go? The $10.50 lunch special will leave you nice and full with a selection of protein that comes with shrimp and vegetable tempura, a California roll, salad and miso soup.
What is it? A city can never have too many ramen options, especially ones as tasty as Lan Ramnen-Ya. Things are simple here; no rules to memorize. Pick from five ramen options and feel free to add extra toppings as you and your stomach see fit.
Why go? Kimchi lovers will want to dive right into the kimchi ramen and live there forever like a little ramen tadpole.
What is it? A neighborhood spot with a menu that will take days to read in its entirety. What do you want? Sushi? Stir fry? Katsu? Tempura? Teriyaki? You’ll find it all in the cozy, dim dining room—and you will not leave hungry.
Why go? For the ridiculously named only-in-Miami rolls like the salmon-filled Sex on a Beach roll (which thankfully tastes good)
What is it? This Wynwood favorite, which hails from Hollywood, peddles steamed buns, classic ramen and other classic Japanese eats from morning to very late at night.
Why go? GoBistro scores in the gluttonous department with crave-worthy drunk food you’ll want to eat 24/7—think a gooey doughnut tour dripping with glaze, matcha French toast and crispy avocado fries.
What is it? Knives will whirl! Onions will fly! Fried rice will be arranged adorably in a little heart shape! At Samurai, it’s good ol’ fashion tableside showmanship like you remember from the Benihana birthday parties of your youth. Samurai is a local concept, though, and has earned plenty of happy fans.
Why go? The $3 happy hour sake is here to make things better (Monday through Thursday from 3 to 6pm).