Novikov's Japanese-Chinese Fusion Hits the Edge of Downtown (2)
Photo by Libby Volgyes

Novikov's Japanese-Chinese Fusion Hits the Edge of Downtown

Russian restaurateur Arkady Novikov's arrival on Miami's dining scene almost seemed destined. Because of the city's sizable population of Russian immigrants — many of them wealthy enough to afford the kind of luxury dining Novikov is known for providing — the only surprising thing about Novikov's namesake arriving in Miami is that it didn't land in Sunny Isles Beach.

Instead, Novikov Miami is situated on the ground floor of the Met 1 building, overlooking Biscayne Boulevard and the area where the Miami River meets the bay. It's a small neighborhood that already boasts some of the city's most celebrated restaurants, including Zuma, Boulud Sud, Area 31, Zest, and an outpost of Wolfgang Zwiener's signature steakhouse.

And in case you didn't know, Novikov, the man behind the global restaurant group, counts Vladimir Putin as a personal friend and has even catered at the Kremlin.

Novikov Miami is the first U.S. outpost of the Japanese-Chinese fusion eatery, with locations in London, Moscow, and Dubai. The London restaurant regularly sees celebrity diners such as Rihanna, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Prince Harry. At a complimentary media dinner New Times attended last week, there wasn't a celeb in sight, but for such an upscale environment, the dining room is surprisingly warm and inviting. It helps that light floods in through the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the patio and Biscayne Bay, and warm woods and a soft color palette add to the relaxed vibe. The space is anchored by a central market, which waiters invite diners to stand and take a closer look at and includes seafood flown in every day from Portugal.

The Hinky Dink (left) and the apricot margarita ($16 each)
The Hinky Dink (left) and the apricot margarita ($16 each)
Photo by Libby Volgyes

Counter to the room's calm vibe is the overwhelming menu, which includes 17 sections. When the waiter presents the table with the sheet of paper, it's difficult to know where to begin. All items are meant to be shared tapas-style, making some of the prices seem outrageous. Though you could easily spend upward of $100 per person, if you chose wisely, you could probably dine here for about $60, not including tax or tip.

While you decide what to order, start with one of Novikov's signature cocktails ($16). The Kiri old-fashioned, made with Suntory Toki whiskey, house-spiced cola, applewood smoke, and bitters, is prepared tableside in a show that resembles a science experiment. However, the Hinky Dinky (aged rum, blood orange, pineapple, and biters) and the apricot margarita (Maestro Doble tequila, apricot liqueur, prosecco, cardamom, clove, and lime) show off the bar program's strength: the freshness of its ingredients. The juices don't taste cloyingly sweet and are well balanced when mixed, something even most of Miami's celebrated bars can't seem to achieve consistently.

A5 Wagyu and foie gras nigiri ($26)
A5 Wagyu and foie gras nigiri ($26)
Photo by Libby Volgyes

However, for patrons looking to go crazy on luxury upgrades such as caviar, black truffle, and foie gras, Novikov is the place to find them. Black truffle shavings are used generously in many dishes and, for instance, lend earthiness to remarkably fresh seafood in the scallop and black truffle sashimi ($20). But in other dishes, such as the chicken and morel siu mai ($11), which is served with a single black truffle shaving atop each piece, the fungi overpowers the dim sum's delicate flavors.

Other sashimi dishes, such as the yellowtail cilantro ($15) and yuzu salmon ($14), taste so incredibly fresh and citrusy that even the most raw-fish-averse would be tempted to try. And though not authentic, the premium sushi offerings, such as the A5 Wagyu foie gras ($26) and quail egg and truffle gunkan ($20), are memorable beyond the steep price.

Whiskey baba ($12)
Whiskey baba ($12)
Photo by Libby Volgyes

Robata items are perhaps some of the heartier fare on the menu. The Wagyu skirt steak ($32), asparagus and soy sauce ($9), and corn on the cob ($8) all arrive with a nice char. But the showstopper is the Peking duck. The crispy foie gras version ($56) is like a meaty duck potato chip, and for an extra $90, it comes topped with caviar, making it the most expensive item on the menu.

Desserts include a run-of-the-mill lava cake ($14), though Novikov's version is gussied up with a sesame crumble and ginger ice cream. Better options are the Suntory whiskey baba ($15), which is essentially an alcohol-soaked brioche doughnut topped with vanilla whipped cream and candied orange (you won't want to share), and the tropical ki-iro ($14), a fruity take on a baked Alaska, made with passionfruit white chocolate ice cream, mint basil chiffon, and mango.

Novikov Miami. 300 S. Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-489-1000; novikovmiami.com. Sunday through Wednesday 6 to 11 p.m., Thursday through Saturday 6 p.m. to midnight.

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