It's been two years that Katsuya has been serving up sashimi to the health-conscious crowd of South Beach. The brand, which opened in Los Angeles in 1997 and expanded outside of the Golden State just two years ago, is spreading rather quickly.
In just two years, chef Katsuya Uechi has opened outposts in Dubai, Las Vegas, and Kuwait, with the Bahamas, Qatar in the Persian Gulf, South Africa, and a downtown Miami location all planned for 2015. Uechi is a sushi master and a busy man. Somewhere in that schedule, though, he found time to drop by the Magic City to put his seal of approval on executive chef Jose Icardi's revamped menu, which Short Order got to sample.
Although Icardi's roots are Argentinian, the chef is no stranger to Japanese food and technique. His resume includes stints at Buddakan in Atlantic City, where he was executive sous chef, and Makoto, where he served as chef de cuisine for James Beard Award-winning chef Makoto Okuwa. But when Katusya Uechi came a knocking, Icardi answered.
"The whole thought process behind the new menu is to focus more on quality," says Icardi. "This is Miami and we always have to have new things and the best things." Because of that, Icardi is focusing on Japanese ingredients, sourcing fish directly from the Tsukiji fish market in Japan, as well as local catch for the sushi bar.
The menu, Icardi says, will change pretty often, with plans of adding more noodles, rice dishes, and a broader variety of sashimi and ceviches in the coming months. "We want to incorporate a raw bar section and add more oysters and seafood platters," he says. "Stuff for the American palate with a Katsuya's Japanese twist."
Yes, the crispy rice with spicy tuna is still on the menu and a Katsuya signature but perhaps you want to go with the seared tuna wit heirloom tomatoes that have been dressed in a ponzu vinaigrette ($18).
The Katsuya green salad tosses watercress in a yuzu-miso vinaigrette with masage arare rice pearls ($11).
Icardi's favorite new menu item, the agadashi tofu, stuffs tofu in filo dough and is flash fried. It's served with an enoki mushroom salad that's mixed with a ponzu vinaigrette and garnished with shaved bonito flakes. A doshi broth is poured over the dish ($10).
A favorite at the table, the vegetable kakiage ($11), takes shredded zucchini, sweet potato, sweet corn, enoki, and shiitake mushrooms and turns it into tempura sprouts. The tempura butter is mixed with shiso leaves, cilantro, and parsley, giving the dish a nice herby element. Dip into the shiso aioli on the bottom for a mouthful of flavors.
A big focus on the new menu was adding tons of steaks to the robata grill. "We wanted to appease and capture the South American crowd." Choose from lamp chops, skirt steak, bone-in rib eye or dry-aged New York, as well as wagyu filet with foie gras. The dry-aged New York strip was beautifully and flavorfully pink. Eight ounces will set you back $36.
Katsuya personally made nigiri for us, hand-delivering only so he could make sure nobody put a drop of soy sauce on his creation. Nigiri, he explain, should never be dipped in soy sauce in order to experience the full flavor of the fish and the dressed rice. In this case, we had yellowtail and salmon with caviar.
This premier sashimi platter packed a variety of fresh catch into one bowl. The Spanish mackerel and its fattyness was my personal favorite, but the straight-from-Japan, slightly seared scallop in yuzu mixed with Japanese pepper for some acidity was stupendous. Toro tuna from the Middle East and local wahoo also joined the fish party. Although this particular assortment isn't on the menu, the chef will be glad to make whatever he can for you that showcases the freshest catch of the day of your visit. For a platter like this, you're looking at $50 cost, which is a helluva a deal.
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For dessert, an almond sherry cake with black sesame cream, frozen sherry liquid nitrogen, and green tea semifreddo from pastry chef Nanichi Calero finished off an already sweet meal.
Follow Carla on Twitter @ohcarlucha