Since its opening, Sakaya Kitchen has been treated as a legit restaurant despite the little storefront location. Perhaps because of the Korean-inspired Asian cuisine, reviewers believed chef/owner Richard Hales knew exactly what he was doing. Suddenly the whole concept of candles, wine lists, and waiters in little jackets seems less important than fresh, innovative, flavorful food.
In 2010, when the Miami food truck craze was in its infancy, Hales jumped on the bandwagon. Dim Ssäm à Gogo brought the restaurant's food to the people, and that seemed like an incredibly good idea.
In this economy, we're not sure if Hales has a crystal ball or his finger on the pulse of the restaurant industry, because after announcing two new food trucks, he's adding another brick-and-mortar eatery, in downtown Miami, at 125 SE Third Ave.
We spoke with Hales to find out about the new space and to see if he's a madman or a mastermind. Or both.
New Times: When are you opening Sakaya Kitchen downtown?
Richard Hales: We're shooting for the beginning of October. We'd like to open sooner, but we're taking the time to make sure everything is right. This is a big step for my small operation.
Will the menu change or remain the same as the original Sakaya Kitchen?
The menu is going to be the same as midtown. My goal is to have multiple units, and having a uniform menu is just easier. We're also featuring items from the Baketress food truck.
For the first month we're open downtown, we'll do only lunch. Then, once we get the operation going, after about a month, we're going to be open for breakfast and lunch at the downtown location.
We'll offer menu items from the Dim Ssäm Sunday brunch. We'll also offer Southern American-type baked goods from the Baketress. We'll have kimchi scrambled eggs and a more extensive variety of kimchis.
You're also planning two food trucks -- the Baketress and Burger Cheese Bun. Will this new restaurant expansion affect their launch dates?
I'm hoping to launch the Baketress the same time as the opening of the second Sakaya Kitchen. As for Burger Cheese Bun, I was hoping to have it out by November, but it's on the back burner for now. We're not really sure when we're coming out with that truck.
Were you planning an expansion of your Sakaya Kitchen concept, or did this just happen?
I've been looking for locations from the Beach to Broward to Kendall on an ongoing basis. I have people that are looking for me, as well. I look for a location that I can fit Sayaya Kitchen into. I don't have any partners. I run the operation and I finance it myself, so I have to look for ways to be economical. I found the spot about four months ago. Someone was trying to get out of their lease, and it just fit.
With the debut of a new food truck and another restaurant (with another truck in the future), do you feel like you might be spreading yourself thin? What's your game plan?
The downtown space has a huge kitchen. I work hard to make a consistent brand, so all the production -- the marinades, the sauces -- will come from the new downtown kitchen since it's larger.
Our midtown kitchen is about 100 square feet, and I'm moving into a kitchen that's about 1,600 square feet. Right now we prep Dim Ssäm à Gogo out of Sakaya Kitchen, and it's been quite an experience to do that. We also have six ovens at the new location.
So is that why you went with a baked-goods truck? Because of all the oven space?
The Baketress was already being developed, but then I saw this new space and it fit. Vanessa [Paz] is really excited to get out of the cramped corner that she's in right now.
A chef/owner still can't be in two places at the same time. Where do you plan to spend your time?
I'm going to be in downtown for the launch, and I have a management team in place. We have a limited menu, so it's easier for us to produce. We're not doing 100 things; we're doing 30 things. That's how we're able to do it. Production is just moving, but the concept remains the same.
It sounds like you're planning to grow the brand more. What's the big picture?
I had a lot of people approach me that want to do Sakaya Kitchen. They eat the food or see the concept and want to open, like, 100 Sakayas out of state.
I'm in the process of testing it myself to see if it's a strong brand. Then, once I have this nailed down, I'll see about the next step. It's turned out to be more than even I ever thought, but I want more of a natural growth. I don't want to push it too far.
Food trucks at Tropical Park tonight from 5:30 to 10. No pets or glass bottles are allowed in the park. Trucks serving include:
Chamo's on Wheels,
The Cheese Steak Gourmet,
Chef on Wheels,
Dim Ssäm à Gogo,
The Fish Box,
Grill Master Cafe,
Latin House Grill,
Miami Angels Roasted Corn,
Mr. Good Stuff,
Overload Street Food,
The Pit Stop,
The Pork Shop,
The Real Chill,
El Rey De La Paella,
El Rey De Las Fritas,
El Rincon del Coqui,
Sir Pizza Mobile,
Sugar Rush, and
Yo Mama's Paella & Seafood.
BTTR tonight from 5:30 to 10. Free parking and grass for picnicking at this dog- and kid-friendly event. Trucks serving include:
Dog Eat Dog,
Eat Where You Are,
The Fish Box,
Guiseppe's Italian Sausage,
Jefe's Original Fish Taco,
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Latin House Grill,
The MexZican Gourmet,
Purple People Eatery,
The Red Koi,
The Red Truck,
El Rincon del Coqui,
The Rolling Stove,
Slow Food Truck,
Snow Caps, and
Sugar Yummy Mama.