Shuji Hiyakawa, former executive sushi chef of Kuro inside the Hard Rock, is bringing Japan to Miami. His first restaurant, Wabi Sabi by Shuji, is weeks away from opening in the MiMo District, where it will offer intimate and traditional Japanese dining in a quiet space located at 851 NE 79th St.
"I'm going back to basics," he says. "Everything will be simple. It's going to be straightforward Japanese food."
To Hiyakawa, many established Japanese restaurants in Miami stray from offering Japan's typical food, culture, and dining experience.
"To me, a lot of restaurants here are trying to create something new and different," he says. "But when I go back to Japan, I notice that the food is extremely different. I want to bring my hometown to Miami."
The name — Wabi Sabi — is a Japanese concept of accepting the beauty of imperfection, which inspired Hiyakawa's latest venture. "I just want people to see me and see where my food came from," he says. "We are embracing the imperfections and the intimacy of the restaurant. We're not trying to make it something that it is not."
At Wabi Sabi by Shuji, Hiyakawa will focus on basic, ingredient-based, and authentic Japanese dishes with a hint of American flair. The menu will be tasting-style and priced fairly, he says.
"Sushi is expensive," he says. "If you don't want to pay, then it's crap. That's why with this menu, I will be able to offer decent prices without a service charge."
The restaurant will blend fast-casual with fine dining by forgoing wait service and additional charges.
"We make and we serve," he says. "I want people to focus on the restaurant and the food. There won't be a lot of service with it. When you come, you'll know what you're getting because the menu will be the same."
Hiyakawa's tasting menus will be seasonal and feature plates he enjoys eating. The restaurant will have its own garden, which Hiyakawa plans to use to source fresh vegetables and seasonings.
"I'm going to make what I like to eat," he says. "I could make what other Japanese restaurants around here offer, like crispy rice. Everyone would order it, but that's not Japanese food. I want to bring something new here."
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Hiyakawa dreams of opening an outpost in his hometown of Kama, located in Fukuoka Prefecture. He wants to establish an exchange program between both locations, giving his American and Japanese chefs a taste of something different.
Until then, Hiyakawa's goal is to open Wabi Sabi sometime before the end of 2016.