Bits of bok choy hit a tub of sizzling soybean oil. Their ivory stems become tender; their edges turn a sudden golden hue. The jade leaves of the Chinese cabbage quickly begin to crisp. Pulled out of the deep fryer, the greens still glisten with remnants of luscious fat. The texture is brittle and the flavor is fresh.
The platter is served at Yakko-San, the Japanese eatery that started as a modest 65-seater on West Dixie Highway in North Miami Beach more than 11 years ago. It always had an extensive menu with more than 100 dishes: soups, grilled meats, tempura, noodles, and sashimi. The unassuming restaurant ran a dinner service from 6 p.m. to 3 a.m. and was a favorite hangout among chefs, industry insiders, and locals alike.
But when a booming nightclub called Dixie Lounge opened nearby, owner Hiroshi Shigetomi decided it was time to find a new location. He desired more parking spaces for his guests. His guests, in turn, longed for more available seats.
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In March 2011, the izakaya (drinks and small bites) joint moved into its current space on 163rd Street. What was once a small, inconspicuous eatery became a sleek 140-seater. It continues to operate seven days a week, but hours have been expanded into the daytime. Now service includes a lunch that begins at noon. In the evening, cooks don't put away their knives, pots, and pans until past 3 a.m. With a new sushi component, the menu is even longer than before.