With a name like Bento Sushi & Chinese, it's clear that this Biscayne Bay–adjacent eatery is going to offer both Japanese and Chinese dishes. But you might be surprised to find flavors from other cuisines have also made their way onto the menu. Sweet plantains and coconut flakes popular in Latin dishes top the Maduro sushi roll's salmon, avocado, and cream cheese, and the Caribe roll's coconut-shrimp tempura. And Bento's signature bento gives a nod to French cooking with its combination of fried rice, duck foie gras, and steak strips. Even vegan cuisine gets a shout-out with the Raw Love roll, which bursts with vegan cashew cheese.
Diners enjoy these dishes, sakes, and refreshing coconut or aloe-vera-pulp drinks inside the eatery or outside on the patio. Here, they can bask in the warm sun, stare at the Biscayne Bay's azure waters, and high-five any low flying parasailors.
Contemporary Japanese Food | Izakaya-Style Dining | Sushi Counter | Specially Brewed Sake | 350+ Wines
Where to Sit: Grab a spot at the counter to watch master chefs practice the complex arts of rolling sushi and searing meat over the open flame of the robata grill. Alternatively, diners who arrive via boat (the restaurant is one of the few in the area with boat access and a bayside entrance) can enjoy river views while keeping an eye on their vessel from Zuma's terrace.
Inside Tip: The Miami New Times urges diners not to overlook the spicy beef tenderloin, which it ranked as one of the best dishes of 2012. It calls the dish "so tender that you question the validity of beef tasting this sublime."
Izakaya: a Japanese style of dining where dishes are brought to the table in a consistent, casual fashion designed to encourage sharing.
Shōchū: an alcohol native to Japan; depending on the region where it's made, it can be distilled from everything from sweet potatoes to barley to brown sugar. This gives each variety a distinct flavor, much like scotch.
While You're in the Neighborhood
Before: Treat yourself to some last-minute primping at Exhale spa, which, like Zuma, is located in the Epic Hotel.
After: Enjoy an after-dinner cocktail at Avenue D Downtown (8 S. Miami Avenue), a 1920s-themed bar with live jazz music.
If You Can’t Make It, Try This Like Zuma, Naoe (661 Brickell Key Drive) has been named one of the best Japanese restaurants in Miami. It also has an impressive sake selection—the chef comes from a family of sake brewers in Japan, and he imports their blend directly to the restaurant.
Within the colorful walls of Hamachi Fusion Cuisine, chefs dice and slice a kaleidoscope of veggies and seafood both cooked and raw, creating an eclectic menu of sushi rolls. Their raw version of a california roll tucks tuna or salmon into seaweed wrappings, an alternative to their cooked version, which uses the more familiar crabstick. Jalapeños top the Hamachi Special roll’s spicy tuna filling, and the Celebration roll pairs crisp shrimp tempura with creamy avocado and cream cheese.
After meals, patrons can also sip drinks at a sleek U-shaped bar whose underside glows electric blue or lounge on sleek black banquettes as ancient Romans did during gladiatorial games' traditional sushi breaks.
At Ozzi Sushi Bar, innovative owners, helpful servers, and highly skilled sushi chefs turn lunches and dinners into a fully interactive experience, sending freshly-made Japanese delicacies on an kaiten-style merry-go-round. After preparing each meal, chefs load dishes onto a tiny boat, christen the vessel, and send it on a water-powered conveyor, resulting in a literally rotating menu of fresh sashimi, seafood pate, hand rolled maki, and delicate nigiri. While sipping glasses of sake, guests select their sushi, sashimi, or tartare of choice from the slowly moving conveyor, then pay for their meal based on a color-coded plate pricing system.
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.
At Wok Town, chili, ginger, and curry season pan-Asian dishes for fast food that's both flavorful and healthy. The menu features noodle dishes, rice boxes, and woks such as the Mongolian, which comes with a choice of meat or tofu drizzled with chili-spiced soy sauce and bell peppers. In addition to these hearty options, Wok Town throws together Positive Wok choices lauded by the Miami New Times for their "lightness and freshness not always inherent in Chinese food." The article goes on to note that each dish can be spiced with complimentary hot chili sauce or fiery chinese mustard. Dishes can be consumed along communal tables and benches, ordered online for take-out, or delivered by flying wok.