It's been more than a year since Shuji Hiyakawa announced the opening of his first solo venture, Wabi Sabi. The restaurant, which offers upscale fast-casual sushi bowls and a juice bar, has finally opened on NE 79th Street in Miami.
"I'm very happy to finally be open," Hiyakawa says. "It's taken a long time."
The space, which Hiyakawa largely designed and built himself, serves basic, ingredient-based Japanese bowls. Right now, the menu is small. Four bowls ($11 to $18) are available, including the Wabi Sabi, packed with tuna, salmon, crab, tobiko, cucumber, avocado, seaweed, and shiitake mushroom. There are three cold-pressed juices ($7), from a fruity blend called Geisha to a strong and sharp mix called Samurai. Hiyakawa also offers daily specials, cooked fish, and six flavors of mochi ice cream, including matcha green tea and salted caramel.
The 1,300-square-foot space offers a limited number of tables to maintain intimacy. At the same time, it blends fast-casual with fine dining by forgoing wait service and additional charges. The restaurant also includes a garden, which Hiyakawa and assistant chef Maggie Hyams are slowly growing. Right now there's cilantro, celery, and small herbs.
"Think of it as a Chipotle-style restaurant but for Japanese bowls," Hyams says. "You order what you want and get it right there. You can take it to go or stay and hang out."
Through Wabi Sabi, Hiyakawa offers high-end catering too. It's called shidashi, a Japanese word for "luxury sushi trunk," where he fills three-level boxes with an assortment of nigiri and rolls for $175. It feeds about four diners. The restaurant is also available for private events, for which Hiyakawa creates and curates individualized Japanese dining experiences based on theme and budget.
Customers who bring their own bottle, bowl, or box receive $1 off their purchase. And if customers bring back their shidashi sushi box, they'll save $50 off their next order. It's a part of the restaurant's goal to be low-waste and low-impact on the environment, according to Hyams.
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"We're trying to educate ourselves and our customers," she says. "We're starting a compost bin, we don't offer plastic bags, and we want customers to bring their own bowls. It's a little way to show that we can make a large impact."
In the midst of Wabi Sabi's delays, Hiyakawa, the former executive sushi chef of Kuro at the Seminole Hard Rock Hollywood, worked with the River Yacht Club to open and lead Dashi, a Japanese fine-dining restaurant overlooking the Miami River. The restaurant, which sustained major damage during Hurricane Irma, has since closed, which allowed Hiyakawa to concentrate on Wabi Sabi.
Besides offering bowls and juices, Hiyakawa plans to serve various Japanese dishes through evening pop-ups. The first one, he says, will be ramen. He will announce dates via social media.
Wabi Sabi. 851 NE 79th St., Miami; 305-707-4360; wabisabibyshuji.com. 11:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.