BEST JAPANESE RESTAURANT (2003)
You won't find SoBe-style "mango/jalapeño/flourless chocolate piña colada" sushi rolls here. And the restaurant's setting in a low-rent mall could not be less trendy. But when a Japanese restaurant is packed nightly with Asian diners and regulars -- and one of the regulars happens to be the chef at one of Manhattan's most critically acclaimed spots for kaiseki (elaborate ceremonial tasting dinners, the ultimate in Japanese culinary arts) -- you know you're on to something special. Instead of going in the direction of unorthodox cuisine, Matsuri offers numerous sophisticated traditional Japanese delicacies rarely found in the U.S. -- except on Matsuri's specials board in the front of the room: ankimo monkfish liver, often likened to foie gras; nama uni, sparkling-fresh sea urchin that tastes like the most delicate of custards; shisamo, succulent salt-broiled freshwater smelts stuffed with their own caviar; negitoro wasabi topped with a tiny quail egg, sort of a tuna take on traditional steak tartare. What's also always offered is toro, something often seen on other Miami menus but seldom actually available -- and the price here for buttery belly tuna sashimi or sushi is about one-third what you'd pay at more high-profile spots.
Readers Choice: Benihana
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