Deep inside the 3-month-old Nobu Miami at Eden Roc, a German tourist sporting a salmon-hued pullover stands in front of the sushi bar. His back is stiff and his arms are crossed.
"How many years did you apprentice?" he asks an
"Eight," the cook replies.
The interrogator notes that in David Gelb's 2011 documentary, Jiro Dreams of Sushi, the revered Tokyo sushi chef says one must apprentice for at least a decade to have any hope of mastering the craft.
There's no response, so the inquisitor asks how long it took to perfect the art of making sushi rice. Does the chef think he could make the spongy, ethereal egg omelet tamagoyaki?
This isn't your average sushi bar. Nobu Matsuhisa's 32nd restaurant (and also his largest) replaces his much-loved outpost in the Shore Club, a boutique operation like Kevin Cory's
On weeknights, locals, tourists, and business types eager to drop serious coin fill Matsuhisa's 356 seats for the tried-and-true formula that was born when actor Robert De Niro and former film producer Meir Teper persuaded the now-66-year-old chef to open the first Nobu in New York City more than two decades ago.
The sprawling space inside the Eden Roc is filled with chocolate-toned wood tables. Lamps dangle from the ceiling, and columns wrapped in twisting bamboo frame the room. Countless sets of hungry eyes follow the never-ending parade of plates. One Nobu classic pairs spicy tuna paste with Lego-size blocks of crisp sushi rice. Another combines delicate slices of the Japanese sea bream called
It's a better option than the yellowtail-jalapeño sashimi, which Matsuhisa conjured and myriad others copied. There's also "new style sashimi," which boasts a seemingly simple platter of fatty salmon sprinkled with garlic, ginger, and chives and then quickly
Hot dishes also show off the kitchen's precision and poise under the eye of executive chef Nicolas Mazier, who recently arrived from the Las Vegas location to take the reins. A trio of sea scallops arrives with a pleasant brown-butter crisp encasing creamy interiors. They come perched atop a velvety Japanese pumpkin purée. Chili threads and a smattering of wilted Brussels sprout leaves add a pleasing, kimchee-like astringency that perfectly complements the bivalves' brine.
Still, it's the sushi produced under the watchful eye of Tetsuya Isogami that makes Nobu's exorbitant pricing bearable. The kitchen imports polished Kinuhikari rice from the island's western Niigata Prefecture. After a steam, it's tossed with the red vinegar
This is the ideal stage for a bounty of seafood that's either shipped in or occasionally culled from fishermen at North Beach's Haulover Marine Center. The aged Japanese amberjack called
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Thick slices of vinegar-cured mackerel called saba spend just enough time in an acidic bath to gain a meaty texture and lose some of their aggressive, oily
Such precise bites show off the sushi bar at Nobu's world of possibilities. The deep-pocketed audience here yearns to try something new. In the meantime, Nobu's miso black cod will just have to do.
Nobu Miami at Eden Roc
4525 Collins Ave., Miami Beach; 305-695-3232; noburestaurants.com/miami. Lunch Thursday through Sunday noon to 3 p.m.; dinner Sunday through Thursday 7 p.m. to midnight, Friday and Saturday 7 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Crispy rice with spicy tuna $30
Tai with dry miso $32
New style sashimi $24
Pan-seared scallops $29
Assorted nigiri $7 to $11