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Makoto, the new Japanese restaurant in the Bal Harbour Shops, is sure to bring comparisons to Nobu and Zuma. Like those two swank, local pillars of contemporary Asian cuisine, Makoto is orchestrated by a notable chef with a yen for producing pristine sushi and exquisite interpretations of his native foods. The 200-seat indoor/outdoor venue is located on the south end of the genteel mall, parallel with but distanced from Carpaccio and La Goulue. Makoto's lovely earth-toned, distressed-oak-wood-dominant décor is organic-looking and Zen some. Makoto Okuwa is a serious practitioner of his craft, yet a sense of whimsy weaves its way through many dishes. Signature among his starters is "frosty kobe fried rice," a combo of warm foie gras and chilled beef. Even the standard Caprese salad gets a face-lift: momotaro tomatoes (a rich, sweet/tangy hybrid that's popular in Japan) layered with silken tofu. Exceptional sushi/sashimi selections cover a wide swath of ocean - hotate (live scallop), aoyagi (orange clam), and shime saba (cured Japanese mackerel) to name a few. And your jaw will drop at the lusciousness of four skewered cubes of truffle/miso-glazed short ribs from the robata. Main courses encompass five seafood ($14 to $23.50), three composed meat dishes ($13.50 to $19.50), and a trio of Wagyu steaks - including juicy red strips of marinated skirt steak piled atop one another on a grated binchotan grill. Seafood hotpot is another winning entrée, featuring a few each of shrimp, jumbo scallops, plump mussels, and squares of grouper cuddled in a mildly spicy lemongrass-based broth. Makoto in Bal Harbour serves Japanese cuisine that is on the same elevated plane as its elite competition.