First Bites

Shokudo Serves Asian Street Food In Design District

When Shokudo owner and general manager Yoko Takarada decided to lease the old bodega on Northeast Second Avenue in Miami's Design District, she first had to clear out the guy living in the back. That defines Miami's Design District -- fine-dining restaurants and stores with $20,000 couches sitting just a couple blocks from some of the poorest conditions in the city.

"It's an interesting contrast" said Takarada. "But since we opened (July 27), we've really felt a sense of community."

Any day of the week at Shokudo, which means "path to food" when written in Japanese characters, you'll find a steady, loyal crowd journeying down the path with a combination of dishes from all over the Far East. The blend of Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Chinese dishes may have you thinking Shokudo is just another of those trendy fusion restaurants. Takarada, who treated Short Order to a full selection of her restaurant's most representative dishes, prefers for you to think of it of as a varying selection of street foods from a plethora of Asian cities.

There's the restaurant's most popular dish, homemade dumplings ($6 to $7) from the streets of Beijing with everything from curry potato to beef and chicken inside. All of the ingredients are prepared on premises and served in there respective sauces. The curry potato dumplings ($6) -- the most popular of the bunch -- come in a tomato base sauce that compliments the steamed texture nicely.

The pulled pork (above) is served in buns ($8) that are quickly becoming China's most popular street food and are also made fresh in house. The texture is light and airy, though they don't fall apart as you eat them. The pulled pork is topped with battered and fried onion rings and kimchi cabbage, a Korean staple with a mildly sour taste that provides a startling contrast of flavors. "Kimchi gets less sour the longer you keep it in the fridge," said Takarada. "In Korea, they actually put it in a pot and bury it underground. We vacuum seal it and throw it in the fridge."

The rock shrimp tempura salad (above, $9) is made with arugula, red onion, green apple, edamame and yuzu. The rock shrimp is fried and tossed in a spicy mayo, made spicy by the Vietnamese Sriracha, a hot sauce named after a coastal city in Thailand. Popular in the United States is the Huy Fong Turont Ot Sriracha, recognizable with a rooster on its front label prepared from red jalapenos. The other ingredients are tossed in a light vinaigrette that keeps them crisp and fresh.

Many diners compliment the salad with one of a number of banchan (small plate) dishes ($3 each, 3 for $8). The spicy anchovies (top, middle) stare right back at you behind a deep fry glaze and have been a surprise favorite among diners. That was the only dish we here at Short Order didn't finish, however, probably due to its tough, chewy texture. The kimchi cabbage (bottom, right) plays universal compliment to any bite, just like what you'd see on the streets of Seoul. Many use the kimchi as sort of a palate cleaner, suckling down a bit as a chaser to every bite. The sauteed mushrooms (bottom, left) are prepared on a stove top in butter with a dash of garlic.

No street food dinner at Shokudo is complete without Japanese sake, in this cases some of the finest money can buy. The sake sampler ($8) is three shots of cold sake, each from a different region in Japan. The first (from left to right) is Masumi "Okuden Kantsukuri," an unfiltered sake that is a tad richer and sweeter than its filtered counterparts. The second Dewazakura "Oka" had a cripser flavor, reminiscent of Chablis or chardonnay, and is described as "floral rather than fruity". The third Kamoizumi "Nigori Ginjo" is mildy sweet and probably the most robust of the three.

That impressive succession of dishes not enough for you? Shokudo also features a thorough list of sushi dishes. The contemporary but welcoming look of the restaurant was provided by designer Andre Swindelle, a protege of acclaimed  Miami Beach designer Regina Nuessle. Takarada closed her first store World Resource Cafe on Lincoln Road and spent a year working on opening this new location. Shokudo's sister restaurant Toni's Sushi Bar still sits on 12th Street and Washington Avenue and has been serving loyal patrons since 1987.

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Kareem Shaker
Contact: Kareem Shaker