When dining at the newly opened Soho Bay, ask for a table outside. The South Beach eatery is perched right next to the MacArthur Causeway and boasts magnificent views of Star Island, Biscayne Bay, and downtown Miami.
With 200 seats, the Brazilian import is quite large, but it doesn't feel that way. Inside, two yellow-onyx bars light up in blue hues to give the place a surreal glow, and the furniture is modern and sleek. Outside, the ambiance is more beach house.
This location is the first U.S outpost of the popular Brazilian eatery (which opened in 1998), and owner Karine Queiroz wanted to make sure her concept was in good hands. So she brought in former Nobu toque Ricardo Sauri as executive chef.
New Times was invited for a taste of Sauri's creations, which include lionfish, Wagyu picanha, and mac 'n' uni. Though the menu reads well, Soho Bay still has some work to do if it wants to compete with other Japanese players such as Makoto, Naoe, and of course Nobu.
Cocktails are all handcrafted and will incorporate molecular gastronomy down the road. For now, however, you can sip the Margaret ($14), which combines Avion añejo, Cointreau, house-made sour mix, passionfruit, and Thai chili syrup in a hollowed-out bell pepper with a cayenne pepper rim. It was nicely balanced and included just the right amount of kick versus tropical flavors, but my favorite libation of the evening was the lemongrass ginger mojito ($14).
Small plates include all the usual Japanese suspects, from shishito peppers ($10) and edamame ($8) to gyoza (smoked pork belly in this case, $15). My guest and I nibbled on the foie buns ($14 each) with kewpie mayo, tomato jam, black cherries in soy, and cilantro.
Duck harumaki ($16) are pretty much crisp duck rolls stuffed with duck confit and vegetables and served with a sweet-and-sour sauce for dipping.
The robata grill fires up proteins such as chicken, swordfish, octopus 'n' potato, and pork 'n' figs, as well as veggies galore. We was served a smorgasbord of them: enoki wrapped in bacon ($10), asparagus ($7), and corn ($10).
Salmon belly ($16) was fatty (as it should be), dressed in citrus soy, and garnished with crisp shredded sweet potato.
Wasabi octopus ($16) includes thin slices of the eight-legged sea creature with wasabi lime, EVOO, and fresno peppers. Perhaps more wasabi and less lime would take the dish to the next level and make its moniker a suitable one.
There's plenty of sashimi and nigiri, as well as some Soho Bay specialty rolls. Tuna lovers will be fond of the crunchy spicy tuna ($15), which rolls spicy bigeye tuna and tempura flakes and tops it with tobiko and serrano peppers.
Non-seafood eaters can relish the forest roll ($18). It includes warm mushrooms, garlic aioli, white asparagus, and truffle caviar.
Braised beef cheeks ($37), with Japanese curry, a fried egg, onion marmalade, baby carrots, and baby potato confit, was probably the best dish all night, but for the portion size, it's not worth the price.
Another expensive item, the pork miso ramen ($25), with egg, corn, scallions, cilantro, and seaweed, is about half the size of the fragrant bowls of springy noodles you can slurp at Momi Ramen and even more expensive, a feat we didn't think possible. If you're spending this much for ramen, do it at Momi.
Desserts were solid, specifically the matcha green tea and vanilla soufflé ($11), which is unlike anything else proffered in town (although Nobu in New York does a matcha tiramisu). Still, this iteration with lemongrass crème anglaise warrants the caloric intake.
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Chocolate cake ($12) was dense and cocoa-heavy with Asian pear, ginger filling and came with goat cheese walnut ice cream.