Miami Nikkei Restaurant Itamae to Close, Reopen as Itamae Ao | Miami New Times

Openings & Closings

Peruvian Restaurant Itamae to Close in Design District; New Itamae Ao on Tap

The Chang family will close its beloved Nikkei restaurant in the Design District and reopen as an omakase destination in Midtown.
Design District favorite Itamae will close August 27 and be reborn as Itamae Ao later this year.
Design District favorite Itamae will close August 27 and be reborn as Itamae Ao later this year. Photo by Michael Pissari
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Itamae, the family-owned Miami restaurant known for its distinctive take on Peruvian-Japanese (Nikkei) cuisine and a first-year recipient of the Michelin Guide Florida's Bib Gourmand designation, is closing.

The restaurant, which opened in 2020 in a standalone building at The Palm Court in Miami's Design District, will officially close for business with the last day of service slated for Sunday, August 27.

Itamae was the first Miami establishment from the Chang family, a team effort comprising patriarch Fernando and his two children, Nando and Valerie. The family has since opened B-Side at Wynwood's 1-800-Lucky and the Kaseya Center, as well Valerie's Peruvian restaurant Maty's in Midtown.

Itamae's menu, which focused on ceviches, tiraditos, and sushi, was an ode to the Changs' Peruvian heritage and Fernando's status as an itamae — translated as "front of the board," the term is an honorific applied to master sushi chefs. When the restaurant opened in the midst of the pandemic, it didn't take long for the family's take on Peruvian-Japanese fusion to win over the hearts and appetites of the city's Nikkei cuisine-loving populace.

Earlier this year, on the heels of its inclusion in the inaugural class of the Florida Michelin Guide, Bon Appétit featured Itamae on the cover of its April issue, showcasing Miami as the magazine's "Food City of the Year."

All of which raises the question: With so much local love and national recognition, why is Itamae closing?

According to the Chang family, don't think of it as a "farewell," but rather a "see you again soon." The family shares they plan to open the next evolution of Itamae this fall in a space next door to Maty's at 3255 NE First Ave.

Itamae Ao, as it has been dubbed, will be led by Nando alongside sous chef Estefania Andrade, and will offer three seatings per night at a 12-seat bar. The new venture will allow Nando and his team to offer a fine-tuned focus via a series of composed bites and nigiri.

Following Itamae's closure, the Chang family will continue to use the space at 140 NE 39th St. to open a third B-Side location, one that will offer an expanded menu that will draw on beloved Itamae dishes.

"This move will not only allow us to craft the experience we want for our diners on all levels, but to provide... a more elevated evening for our guests and friends," Nando explains in a press release. "In this new setting, we're excited to be able to better craft more of that experience very soon."

"We can't wait to bring B-Side "back" in Design District," adds Val. "We know a more casual dining experience will be a wonderful addition to the district's ever-evolving dining options... while Itamae will be a destination restaurant where we invite you in to discover new things and luxuriate in the experience and where we want the opportunity to curate every detail."

To be among the first to know when reservations for Itamae Ao are released, guests can sign up for notification by going to the Itamae website and scrolling to the bottom to subscribe to the newsletter.

Itamae. 140 NE 39th St., Miami;
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