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Sushi | Bar Miami Beach

  • Restaurants
  • South Beach
  1. Sushi Bar | Miami
    Photograph: Josh VillatoroSushi Bar | Miami
  2. Sushi | Bar Miami
    Photograph: Liam BrownSushi | Bar Miami
  3. Sushi | Bar Miami
    Photograph: Josh VillatoroSushi | Bar Miami
  4. Sushi | Bar Miami
    Photograph: Liam BrownSushi | Bar Miami
  5. Sushi | Bar Miami
    Photograph: Liam BrownSushi | Bar Miami

Time Out says

The omakase experience arrived in Miami not that long ago, thanks to quite excellent restaurants like Hiden, Hiyakawa and The Den at Azabu. They were, and still are, serious affairs, where table talk is largely whispered as the often stone-cold silent chefs wield very sharp knives close by. You’ll eat some great sushi at traditional omakase, but it’s also sort of like auditing an upper-level college class on Japanese sushi-making.

Now we’re in the second wave of Miami omakase led by Mr. Omakase, a far simpler, in-and-out affair that’s really just about good bites of sushi. Austin’s Sushi by Scratch came next, upending any pre-existing idea of what could be placed atop a bit of rice and called sushi. And now it’s another Austin export, Sushi | Bar Miami, drowning all the droll pomp and ancient rules around omakase in a vat of very good sake.

Sushi | Bar set up shop in a tourist-trod area of South Beach, hidden inside the boutique Esmé Hotel at the Washington Avenue end of Española Way. Dodge the menu-wielding staff luring tourists with fishbowl cocktails on your way into a lobby that feels like a member of the Rat Pack could have slept one off in the corner back in the day. You’ll know you’ve arrived once you step inside a pink-and-white-tiled, tassel-draped lounge that looks designed by Willy Wonka. Here, a fruity pre-dinner yuzu and sake cocktail preps the palate for what’s ahead.

A host leads the way down an open-air cavern not unlike the shadowy alleys of Barcelona into a room where a lineup of sushi chefs stands behind a 12-seat counter. In Austin, the similarly clandestine Sushi | Bar sells out months in advance, and the knowledge of that fact can make the first moments sitting down here feel like something big is about to happen. Names scribbled on placards indicate where everyone’s seated, and soon there are introductions: chefs, customers and bartender, because we’re all going to be friends by the end of this, it seems.

The head chef, standing dead center of his staff, is Francis Arguilla, imported from Austin. The menu he debuted at the Miami location during the fall 2022 opening read like the greatest hits of the original restaurant. But Arguilla explained that he’s already at work on a new menu that will incorporate the local fish and flavors of Miami.

How might a chef work mojo or mamey sapote into sushi? Based on what Arguilla presented from Austin, it wouldn’t be a stretch. The lineup consists nearly entirely of nigiri or, generally, fish on a bed of sushi rice served in ways you probably wouldn’t think possible. Perhaps what’s most striking about the menu here is the addition of sugary toppings: There’s a strawberry gochujang on the aji, a caramelized pineapple hat on the hiramasa, Calabrian chili honey atop the scallop, candied finger lime with the albacore and a bruleéd skin above the cold-smoked sawara.

It’s not all sweet, though. The king salmon comes with whipped goat cheese reminiscent of brunch, and the barbecued freshwater eel gets a brushing of bone marrow (from Texas, of course). A stick of butter sexily melted with a blowtorch creates the sauce for a prawn spiced with dehydrated Frank’s RedHot powder, like a beautiful little Buffalo shrimp. And just to reiterate: Yeah, they blow-torch the butter.

Along the way, there are options for drink pairings, but definitely spring for the sake option. It’s a mix of bottles not found at the Big Daddy’s down the street, including one brewed to taste like whiskey, served in a wooden box meant for catching any spillage from the shot glass, a deliberate nod to excess.

Of course, the ending arrives all too quickly, even if it has lasted two hours. That’s a testament to how much fun it is at Sushi | Bar, and also to the fact that nobody has figured out how to avoid omakase’s awkward endings. Seventeen courses and a fruity dessert that feels a tad rushed, and then everyone’s ushered back into the alley to settle up. It’s $222.55 per person after tax and tip, before any add-ons of shaved truffle, sake or caviar, all of which might just double the bill.

If any of this has convinced you to rethink omakase and check this place out, the good news (as of this writing) is that Miami’s Sushi | Bar is far less booked up than the one in Austin. Once you make it in, will it be an evening of all the nigiri explained here, or something else entirely? Our best guess is that it’ll be nothing like what you expected.

Eric Barton
Written by
Eric Barton


1438 Washington Avenue
Miami Beach
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Opening hours:
Tue–Sat 5–11pm
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