If you weren't looking for Naoe, you probably wouldn't notice the Japanese restaurant on the side of Brickell Key drive -- the manicured, handsome block on the isle of Brickell Key. There's no sign for the small spot, and it's setting seems rather mismatched among its neighbors: a market place, real estate office and vision center.
But, then again, if you weren't looking for Naoe, you probably don't know Kevin Cory -- the chef who developed quite the cult following during his tenure at the original restaurant location in Sunny Isles. The restaurant received many accolades, including a celebratory review by Miami New Times' Lee Klein in 2009 and Best Of award for Best Japanese Restaurant in 2010. For many, Cory's Naoe continues to be the best Japanese restaurant in town.
The restaurant quietly moved to its new location near downtown and Brickell on April 17, and arrived on the isle with the same endearing motto: "its not fresh, its alive" -- a tribute to the freshness of Cory's pristine seafood.
In November, while at the previous location, Cory upgraded the original omakase (chef's choice) bento box service to include a selection of sushi and desserts. At the current locale, the chef's choice dinner structure continues, with a starting price of $85. Currently, there are only eight seats available per dinner, Tuesday through Sunday, and seating times are either at 6 or 9:30 p.m.
Inside shot of Naoe's new space
While the restaurant was in Sunny Isles, most locals were driving in from downtown and even Palm Beach. "Previously, about 80 percent of our guests were New York, Chicago and Boston jet setters, taking taxis from the Setai Hotel, the Ritz Carlton and the Mandarin Oriental, with only less than one percent actually from Sunny Isles," Cory explains.
Now, Cory playfully admits, "Our guests staying at the Mandarin Oriental can throw a tennis ball at us, and locals from Brickell and Key Biscayne can swim here".
View of Naoe's new space in Brickell Key
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The perks of the new location do go above and beyond the coordinates. Cory noted that many guests enjoy strolling around Brickell Key's outer walking course and catching a glimpse of downtown Miami and Key Biscayne.
The move is still a work in progress, and half of the space isn't completely built out just yet. But, despite it's unfinished state, reservations are already hard to come by. In fact, rumor has it that many residents of Brickell Key ask to be placed on a call list, in case the restaurant ever has any last minute openings. And, as for those islander residents, all they have to do is walk across the boulevard -- no swimming needed.