Realizing it was time to shake things up a bit at the quickie sushi place that doesn't take itself too seriously, 36-year-old local boy Abe Ng, the CEO/president/chief sushi officer of the South Miami-based chain Sushi Maki, led the charge to bring more small plates, fiery infusions, and funky cocktails and craft beers to his five restaurants' menus.
The new additions incorporate some of the same raw fish regulars you know and love. But they're presented in unexpected ways, along with players like Kobe beef sliders, which Ng admitted was "a bit of a reach in a sushi bar." (They didn't taste like that much of a reach, by the way, especially when dunked in the accompanying wasabi ketchup.) Little sushi tacos stuffed with salmon and chili-garlic, spicy tuna with lemon zest, and yellowtail with jalepeno tucked inside fried gyoza skins were hits, too ($2.50 each). Then there were various tiraditos with citrus sauces ($9-$10). Superbly sweet hunks of miso-glazed black cod were welcome new additions, as were pieces of rock shrimp tempura tossed with spicy mayo.
Drinkable highlights incorporated four new Typhoon sake cocktails, which ranged from the really piquant Wasaaaa B! starring--you guessed it--to the totally slurpable, citrus and minty She-so-maki, with Lillet Blanc, white grapes, and shiso, and new craft beers, like the adorably packaged Hitachino Nest Beer.
The now 10-year-old chain is run by the same family behind Canton Chinese Restaurants. Today Sushi Maki not only comprises five restaurants with another on the way in Kendall, but also locations at the University of Miami, Florida International University, Miami International Airport, and at stations in various Whole Foods locations throughout Miami. Yep folks can get a sushi fix just about anywhere they roam 'round these here parts.
Though no one should put Sushi Maki's eats up against Nobu's, locals seem to appreciate the local chain for delivering more than just ginger, soy sauce, and wasabi with its rolls; fans also get a dose of humor on the side. How so, you ask? On the website (for example, in the form of Sushi Horoscopes ["Be a dancing eel. Squiggle like no one's watching."], within the menu, and throughout the restaurant in various forms. Our favorite is the illustrated instructions regarding how to have fun with chopsticks, printed on all the wrappers [shockingly, we got Ng to demonstrate "My Favorite Martian" and "The Walrus" in the accompanying photos].
"We wanted to be the thinking person's restaurant," he explained, once he was able to yank the wooden skewers from his various orifices. "But we don't want to come across as being arrogant." Ng said inspiration came from those crazy Brits and a couple of hired guns formerly of Crispin Porter.