Experience excellent Asian cuisine at the top Japanese restaurants in Miami, where the best sushi in Miami is just the beginning. Tuck into dishes like yellowtail ceviche at the hip Miami outpost of SushiSamba, or indulge in a world-class Japanese meal at Nobu at the Shore Club, a restaurant as famous for its scene as its food. Either way, don’t forget the sake.
Sushi Garage’s restaurateur-partners Jonas and Alexandra Millán and chef-partner Sunny Oh honed their chops at sister property Juvia, so making raw fish look and taste amazing is where they really shine. The menu is more brazen than Juvia, however, with rolls like the tuna chicharron (think crispy tuna) and a delicate kampachi yuzu tiradito with cilantro salt, both of which are out of this world. Diners go nuts over the restaurant's selection of unique nigiris—from the truffle shitake to the spicy hamachi chili tosazu.
The Pubbelly boys put a fresh spin on sushi at their foray into Japanese cuisine. Chef/co-owner José Mendín and sushi chef Yuki Ieto introduce unexpected ingredients and Latin flavors to create inventive rolls you won’t find anywhere else: pork belly and clams, soft-shell crab and bacon—the list of interesting pairings goes on. Pubbelly’s gastropub pedigree means you’ll find heartier fare here too. Check the chalkboard wall for daily specials and a list of rotating brews from around the world.
This izakaya and fish market offshoot of Gainesville’s Dragonfly Sushi is significant to Doral’s growing community, as the first restaurant to officially open in the new downtown Doral neighborhood. The space is grand, with a commanding indoor/outdoor bar and very tall ceilings, giving the impression one is dining in a large, Japanese temple. And while not exactly a sacred space, Dragonfly does honor traditional Japanese cuisine with a menu of delicate sashimi, sushi and nigiri. The list of maki rolls is extensive and inspired, ranging from a typical tempura shrimp roll to a decadent (and pricey!) snow crab and lobster salad creation. Save room for dessert. The Latin-inspired cuatro leches with green tea matcha is just the right blend of Miami and Japan rolled into one perfectly (not-too-) sweet ending.
Scoring a reservation at Zuma is a small victory worth working for. The London transplant’s acclaimed Japanese izakaya, an increasingly popular style of informal dining, is anything but casual (see: no shorts or beachwear allowed). The riverfront restaurant is filled—day and night—with stunning people who know they’re as much a part of the show as the orchestrated action in the spacious open kitchen. Expect a massive selection of modern Japanese bites, from sea bass sashimi with yuzu, salmon roe and truffle oil to tiger prawn tempura. Zuma also has one of the best brunches in town. It’s a baikingu (buffet) set-up, meaning you have access to a generous spread of the menu’s most talked about items. Short on time during the workday? Opt for the set lunch that aims to serve guests in less than one hour.
Philippe Starck’s impossibly chic sushi restaurant challenges what you’d expect from similarly high-end eateries. There’s no chilly reception, rather an enthusiastic “Irashaimase!” greeting from sushi chefs when you walk in (it mean “welcome to our home” in Japanese), and the option of ordering ice water before a bottle of the artesian kind magically appears at your table. It’s details like these that make an upscale dining experience not just satisfying (two words: Crispy rice!) but also approachable—key when you consider Katsuya is inside a hotel, albeit the very elegant SLS South Beach. Its location also means the big dining rush happens closer to 10pm, when well-dressed crowds are noshing on sushi and sashimi—so fresh it’s served over ice alongside the head and fin of the fish it came from—before hitting the town.
Considerably less flashy than its previous incarnation inside the Shore Club, Nobu Miami Eden Rock remains the global raw fish superpower that Nobu Matsuhisa—regarded as the world’s greatest sushi chef—made famous years ago. Fewer celebs and infrequent visits from rowdy South Beach crowds means greater emphasis on food, like the famed miso black cod, yellowtail jalapeno and rock shrimp tempura that everyone associates with Nobu. The inventive Japanese menu, dubbed “Nobu-style” cuisine, is also peppered with a few Miami exclusives, including the salmon nashi (a mix of Asian pear with Spanish olive oil and truffle salt) and the red snapper butter lettuce dressed in a sweet, jalapeno vinaigrette.
There are only two seatings per day at Brickell Key’s exclusive sushi den, NAOE, where chef/owner Kevin Cory quietly and skillfully prepares each piece in the intimate restaurant’s open kitchen. His authentic approach and meticulous attention to detail are what set his meals apart from the myriad Japanese restaurants in town. If you can get a reservation, look forward to a true omakase-style experience (Cory even uses a family-made soy sauce and flies in fish from Japan and other hard-to-reach locales). Diners looking to ease into the raw tasting menu experience can opt for N by Naoe, serving Shabu Shabu: a lightly cooked communal meal consisting of vegetables and thin slices of real Japanese beef.
Make sure you’re sitting down when the bill comes—the total could make you a little woozy. So could the cocktails. Or the phenomenal view, which diners take in from the penthouse level of the famed Herzog & de Meuron-designed Lincoln Road parking garage. Just remember you’re paying for the views as well as the talent, which is prodigious. In the kitchen is Laurent Cantineaux, a protégé of Daniel Boulud; former Nobu chef Sunny Oh; and pastry chef Gregory Gourreau, who honed his sweet tooth under the tutelage of Alain Ducasse and François Payard. Together, the trio create a wonderfully eclectic menu of East-meets-West-meets-Paris dishes. For special occasions and/or absurdly wealthy diners only.
This hip Japanese/Brazilian/Peruvian sushi parlor combines the best from all three cuisines for a fish-forward menu that focuses on more than just maki rolls. Ceviches and tiraditos in an array of preparations and sauces offer a flavorful alternative to the traditional sashimi. Samba rolls take the fusion concept one step further with sushi creations that challenge the typical rice-and-protein combo—like the Samba Dromo with Maine lobster and mango and the Umami that’s rolled with wagyu beef, shrimp and truffle oil.
This unpretentious Japanese restaurant has chowhounds abuzz and is adored by the city’s chefs, who hang out here until the small hours. The food is authentic and exotic, though not exactly for the squeamish. The blackboard menu includes the likes of fried chicken livers, black pork belly, crispy-fried gizzard and beef-tongue steak. That said, there are some Japanese staples, including superb sashimi (tuna, salmon, hamachi), but even the tempura is unusual (it’s made with chrysanthemums). By contrast, the prices are down to earth. No reservations are taken, so get here early.