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Little Lotus

Secreted within downtown Miami's International Jewelry Center is an izakaya (that's the term for the smallish, Japanese-style pubs littered throughout Tokyo) offering a surprisingly large menu of sushi and tapas-style plates that capture the essence of an authentic Asian kitchen. The small restaurant has only 30 seats, half of which line the outside hallway, plus four stools at the tiny sushi bar. Decorations are modest -- no giant Buddha statue or bamboo garden here. Owner Sari Maharai hails from Jakarta, so a few Indonesian specialties round out the mainly Japanese menu offerings. From yaki tori to yaki udon, everything is fresh and tasty. Chef Inyoman Atmaja deals mainly with the hot kitchen dishes, while chef Michael Asalie oversees the sushi bar. The menu might look familiar. Atmaja hails from North Miami's Yakko-San and brings knowledge from that experience. Crossovers include the crispy baby bok choy ($6.50), grilled eel ($10.95), and trigger fish jerky ($6.50). Asalie worked for Masaharu Morimoto in NYC, so his sushi skills were developed while working under one of the greats, and it shows. Sushi rolls have curious names such as "Angel Heart" (eel tempura with spicy tuna, $11.95) and "Big Mac" (crunchy spicy tuna with snow "krab," $11.95). Delivery is available in the Brickell area, and because most basic rolls (tuna, Cali, salmon skin, etc.) are priced from $3.95 to $5.95, they are an excellent everyday option. Well-priced lunch specials ($7.50 each) range from spicy braised beef with coconut and spices, fried Singapore rice noodles, and chicken simmering in coconut sauce, to the "Japanese Amazing Lunch" ($7.95 to $9.95), covering sushi and sashimi, as well as a teriyaki bento box. We see this little flower blooming big.