First Bites

Wabi Sabi Offers Omakase Ahead of Wynwood Opening

Horse mackerel
Horse mackerel Photo by Zachary Fagenson
click to enlarge Horse mackerel - PHOTO BY ZACHARY FAGENSON
Horse mackerel
Photo by Zachary Fagenson
Though the opening of Shuji Hiyakawa's eponymous Wynwood restaurant is still a few months away, the soft-spoken chef recently reopened his 79th Street eatery, Wabi Sabi by Shuji, and expanded it with a six-seat counter offering a 15-course omakase menu.

At $120 per person (plus $12 of taxes and fees), the progression, overseen by the former Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill chef Masayuki Komatsu, is among the most reasonable in the city, and New Times was recently invited for a preview. While high rollers have places such as Azabu, Hiden, Makoto, and Naoe, finding quality fish and the properly seasoned shari has long been a challenge for diners without hundreds of dollars to spend on a single meal.

Affordable omakase can be found at Sushi Erika and inside the Versace Mansion at Sushi by Bou. However, Hiyakawa and Komatsu's offering is far more traditional, and the two greet arriving guests while wearing spotless white coats and wooden sandals that peacefully clap against the floor throughout the night. The omakase menu will be available until the end of next month, at which time it will move into Hiyakawa's new spot.

Things begin unassumingly as Komatsu grates fresh wasabi against sharkskin before setting out a group of red bowls that are soon filled with delicate baby octopus tendrils, scallops, feathered cucumber slices, and seaweed draped in an orange dressing. Next, he presents the night's neta: cuts of tuna ranging from lean to fatty, sweet shrimp, and a variety of seasonal offerings. There is sea urchin, but the ocean's cake frosting isn't revealed until the end of the meal, and the night we visited, it was offered only as an add-on for a surcharge.
click to enlarge Masayuki Komatsu - PHOTO BY ZACHARY FAGENSON
Masayuki Komatsu
Photo by Zachary Fagenson
Among the best bites were horse mackerel dabbed with soy, and a thick slice of golden eye perch with barely crisp skin and a touch of the Japanese citrus sudachi. Next came summer fish, available, as the name suggests, only during the hotter months. The almost bewildering bite offered the delicate flavor of snapper but also the meaty richness of a fattier piece of hamachi or tuna.

Planks of squid were crosshatched with deadly precision, tempering the cephalopod's sometimes off-putting chewiness, before the meal was capped with an earthy red miso soup flecked with flat parsley and shimeji mushrooms.

Once all is said and done, Komatsu again presents the bamboo box of the night's fish to tempt diners with additional pieces. Leave quickly. Stay too long and things can might get out of hand before you know it.

Wabi Sabi by Shuji. 851 NE 79th St., Miami; 305-890-7228;
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Zachary Fagenson became the New Times Broward-Palm Beach restaurant critic in 2012 before taking up the post for Miami in 2014. He also works as a correspondent for Reuters.
Contact: Zachary Fagenson