First Bite of Zuma at Epic Hotel

Does Miami really need another sushi restaurant and robata grill? We couldn't help thinking the same thing when we heard Zuma opened its doors in the Epic overlooking the Miami River last month. So we didn't rush in. But soon we started to hear people raving about just how good the eats were and it became a mad race to see who could dine there first.

Luckily, one of us (namely, me) got to not only try a huge assortment of the menu, but also got the chance to meet with the three main men making it happen. I sipped on a non-alcoholic version of a ginger-spiked mojito with co-founder and chef Rainer Becker, sampled melt-in-your-mouth o toro and tongue-tingling sichuan button from the hands of executive chef Bjöern Weissgerber, and ended the experience with a boatload of desserts from pastry chef Julian Philippe too large to be shot with a common camera. Hate me. It's okay. I would, too.

Since there's a chance that perhaps our own Mr. Klein would consider a review someday in the future, we won't get into much detail about the place. But we can start by telling you the concept was built around izakaya (informal Japanese dining) and that this location is the brand's first in the United States.

Menu offerings run the gamut from grilled items to tempura, along with salads, snacks, soups, signature dishes, sashimi, and sushi and maki rolls. As far as bar offerings go, sake ​lovers will be blown away by the more than 40 selections, including Zuma's own Biwa no Choju, brewed exclusively for the restaurant from the waters of Japan's Lake Biwa. It's also worth a try to order a sake cocktail. The rhubarb and lemongrass sake martini was a hit at our table.

Zuma's décor, consisting of raw granite walls and floors, blonde wood tables, rice paper panels and wasabi-colored chairs, is about as non-threatening as it gets. But the same can't be said of the gluttonous display of desserts pastry chef Julian Philippe set down; between slices of dragon fruit, hairy rambutans, and ripe papaya was chawan mushi (like crème brûlée), molten chocolate cake with a caramel filling, banana cake, green tea ice cream, and tropical sorbets.

We overheard critics complain Zuma is too loud and expensive, but this gal found it comfortable and just a tad pricier than restaurants offering a comparable experience. Of course, having said that, nowhere else around is comparable if you seek a combination of fresh sashimi, inviting interiors, creative cocktails, beautiful desserts, and authentic flavors, not to mention an inspiring view of the bridge. Oh yeah, and you can also arrive by boat. Of course, if you ate all those desserts like I did, you may want to consider swimming home...

Zuma at the Epic Hotel & Residences
270 Biscayne Boulevard Way, Miami

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