Our New Times Best of Miami edition will once again name more than 350 of the
finest restaurants, hottest clubs, most delightful diversions, and top places to
shop till you drop dead as a zombie."The Rising" is almost upon us, so if you have not voted for your favorites in our "Readers' Poll," the time is now. The ballot closes this Friday for our annual best of the best, which debuts with all appropriate fanfare on June 16.
Sadly, there can only be one winner per category, and we know you want to be teased. Careful deduction will obviously lead you to realize that the winners are NOT on this listing, rather an edited selection of the runners up who are just a tad shy of supreme status. In two weeks time, we will do the big reveal, but in the interim, here's our picks for those who came close in the "Best Japanese" category.
What you may not know is that Chef Michio is making rolls and extremely
good nigiri behind the tiny sushi bar. We love it because the fish is
always fresh and it's unbelievably cheap. Both uni and sweet shrimp are
priced at $2.50 per piece. Plus, they fry up the shrimp head in a
mysterious back room - it's worth the wait. For Japanese without
pretense, this is the place to go.
may not be the ultra-hip hot spot it used to be, but for nigiri
flown in fresh from Japan, we can ignore the dated decor and low-hanging
ceilings. The bottom line is that the original inventor of spicy rock
shrimp ($26) and miso cod ($34) still
sets the bar for other restaurant's imitations. The tartare, though
ludicrously priced ($30-$40), is a tiny little mash up of caviar
topped tastiness.They tempura batter everything from enoki mushrooms to
sea urchin, bravo!
4. From barbequed eel to spicy clams, Hiro's Yakko-San
continues to offer a wide variety of Japanese tapas. We dig the new
location, which means never having to wait in that tiny vestibule that
used to be called "the bar" ever again. The crispy bok choy ($6.50) is an Asian version of potato chips, and with strange offerings
ranging from "trigger fish jerky" ($4.50) to "chicken gizzards"($7.00)
with chive, they certainly win our vote for most authentic menu. It's open late and it's always full.
3. Toni's Sushi Bar
is always packed with a local crowd of South Beach residents. In
addition to the generously sliced sushi and sashimi, the kitchen turns
out wonderful Japanese small plates. Menu items like grilled hamachi
kama (yellow tail collar) and age nasu (fried Japanese eggplant) are
always well done and well priced ($9 and $6.50). The "specials" are also
a treat -- if they have the rock shrimp-stuffed soft shell crab lightly
fried in tempura batter, order it.
2. Newcomer Zuma
has upped the ante on Japanese for those seeking a bit more ambiance
with their meal. The diverse menu takes traditional plates and infuses a
high-end sense of style, pairing a variety of flavors and a visually
stunning presentation. The shumai here are re-interpreted with prawns as
well as black cod for the filler. "Signature" dishes sound deceptively
simple; "spicy beef tenderloin with sesame, chili and sweet soy" is
actually a prime filet, cut in half and then carefully seared to a
delicate crispy level on the outside, soft as can be on the inside. No
serrated-edge knife required.
1. Last year's pick, Naoe,
continues to astound with beautifully constructed bento boxes courtesy
of Chef Kevin Cory. Although it is impossible to know in advance exactly
what you'll get, the food fun is inherent in the surprise. Your miso
soup may have kingfish in it, your rice may be wrapped with pickled
seaweed, your ice cream for dessert may be "soy sauce" flavored.
Invention and dedication combine at Naoe.
There are only 17 seats in the restaurant, and credit cards are
required in advance for reservations -- this is a hard working man who
only makes what his patrons plan on eating. An added bonus is that his
family makes sake for a living, so ask questions and be rewarded with a