From the moment you walk in, it's clear that Moonchine Asian Bistro is up to far more than pan-Asian eats. High-backed banquettes, jet-black walls, and soft red lighting all give rise to a clubby vibe; after 9 p.m., Moonchine turns into a full-on lounge with the help of dance DJs, bottle service, and even the occasional poetry performance or high-stakes geography bee. Miami New Times hailed Moonchine as "the gem of the Mimo District," advising guests to "arrive around 6 p.m., have a few rolls, and then head to the music lounge to warm up the dancing shoes."
Indoors and in the huge garden area, bartenders keep spirits high by mixing specialty cocktails and recommending bottles of sake from an extensive list. Which isn't to say that food's an afterthought?indeed, chefs have a lot on their plates, so to speak, juggling Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, and Korean culinary traditions. House-made kimchi mingles with creative sushi rolls, classic Thai and Indochinese dishes anchor one large corner of the menu, and there's even an almost-traditional bistro section: mussels, duck, and a "thai burger," each given light Asian accents of their own.
French entrepreneur Siben N’Ser founded the first Planet Sushi in Paris in 1998. Its combination of sculptural cuisine and sleek, modern interior design quickly caught on. Within a few years, he had built sister restaurants in Miami Beach; Ibiza, Spain; and in a handful of towns across France. At the Miami location, purple lights lend a nightclub vibe to the dining room, where guests can watch the chefs work via several flat-screen TVs. Creative maki such as the crab- and asparagus-filled crunch salmon roll radiate color from plates. Starters such as tuna-avocado tartare brim with French influences, and desserts such as lemon sorbet celebrate Florida’s famous citrus. Chefs also shape whimsical specialty dishes such as the Planet Sandwich, which stuffs spicy tuna, American cheese, and avocado between triangular slices of “bread” made from rice.
Guests seeking an extra-romantic atmosphere can toast glasses of sake in a private room or head to the patio to reshape tuna maki into hearts beneath the stars. Alternatively, a fleet of scooters delivers most of the menu to homes and offices.
Tony Chan's Water Club's menu bridges the gustatory gap between China and Japan with a menu that includes both Hong Kong–style Cantonese cuisine and fresh sushi. Earning their food a Zagat rating of "very good to excellent," the chefs accessorize stir-fried orders of chicken, seafood, and vegetables with many different sauces, lending spicy, savory, or tangy flavors to the entrees. At the counter, they carefully arrange orders of nigiri and specialty sushi rolls, which can include premium fillings of shrimp tempura, jalapeños, and parmesan cheese.
The spacious dining room tempts diners with two distinct views: floor-to-ceiling windows gaze directly out onto the waterfront, while a similar wall of windows enables diners to peer into the kitchen. Behind the glass, watched chefs stay calm as they wok-fry entrees and hand-write inspiring quotations on grains of rice.
Sushi Leno’s chefs merge Japanese and Chilean dishes to satisfy cravings for empanadas and sashimi in one stop. After visitors enter the 75-seat restaurant and take a peek behind the sushi bar, the diverse menu diverts their attention to pasta dishes and Chilean-inspired sandwiches such as the chacarero, with steak, steamed green beans, and an avocado spread. With dishes that cater to a wide range of tastes, Sushi Leno can whip up a memorable meal after a long day of disposing grass clippings down a neighbor’s chimney.
At Siam Oishi, Bangkok native Poompaka "Pio" Komolvasri plates sushi, japanese noodles, and traditional Thai cuisine using skills she honed at Le Cordon Bleu in Miami. Handmade dishes imported from Thailand enhance her already artful presentation of sushi, which range from hand rolls to larger 10-piece maki.
The rice rollers of Sushi Central Lounge combine a menu of classic sushi recipes with Latin-inspired flavors in a third-floor lounge. Dip into an umami bath of miso soup, or leaf through the refreshing flavors of tomato, pear, and scallions in the ginger salad, each accompanied by a glass of wine or sake. Dining duos then pick two rolls from the pantheon of raw and cooked sushi, such as the tropical bahamas roll, a disk of tuna and scallion with dragon fruit and a caviar spread, or the Volcano roll, a california roll that demands a sacrifice of baked crab to quell its fiery wrath.