There's a jewel-box quality to Little Lotus Miami. Dark wood shelves set into crimson walls hold carvings of sea creatures, and the small plates that come out the kitchen bear morsels that can be practically byzantine in presentation—two-tone paintings in sauce, tricolored arrangements of roe, delicate nests of avocado and mango. And then there's the location: a stall within the International Jewelry Center. Fittingly, the tiny restaurant earned the Miami New-Times' vote for Best Hidden Gem in 2012 for its "delicious, well-priced Asian fare," co-crafted by chefs Michael Asalie and Inyoman Atmaja.
An earlier New-Times profile outlined each chef's specialties: Atmaja masters the flame in the kitchen, grilling and frying everything from tempura oysters to chicken-skin yakitori, while Asalie, who studied under Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, helms the sushi bar. Elaborate sushi rolls continue the trend of complexity with offerings such as the Big Mac roll, a gargantuan combination of spicy tuna, snow crab, and tobiko, waved over a hamburger for extra savoriness before serving. Most plates are designed to be shared, so parties can sample the bounty of both sides of the kitchen as they trade bites at small white tables or the three stools overlooking the sushi bar.
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.
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.
At 2B Asian Bistro, it's actually possible to begin your dinner with a bag of gold. That's because the Bag of Gold appetizer uncannily resembles its namesake—its tiny fried pouches contain shrimp, mushrooms, and water chestnuts. The appetizer paves the way for the menu's larger dishes, which present diners with a choice: Japanese or Thai? The former category covers teriyaki entrees as well as sushi, sashimi, and maki rolls. Specialty rolls include the Golden Dragon—spicy tuna and mango topped with plantain slices—and the Pink Snow Roll, smoked salmon and avocado wrapped in soy paper. As for the Thai plates, they range from curry to Bangkok duck paired with cinnamon-plum sauce. You can even order your pad thai accompanied by an entire lobster, rather than just its tail and signature top hat.
Mr. Yum stands out in Little Havana, and not just because it's surrounded by Latin restaurants. The chefs at Mr. Yum embellish each plate with elegant drizzles of sauce and sprigs of herbs placed just so, elevating each meal to high art. Paper-thin salmon and beef tataki prime appetites for tempura-battered seafood and Thai dishes such as panang and massaman curries. In addition to slicing fresh sashimi, sushi chefs coil specialty rolls such as the sun-dried tomato roll and the alfalfa roll, whose tuna and salmon are topped with one stray sprout cowlick. Chandeliers cast a soft glow across the dining room, where an abstract red-heart motif decorates walls and upholstery, creating the vibe of a "mod NYC sushi parlor," according to Thrillist.