Situated in Miami’s Little Havana district, where you typically would find Latin restaurants, is the pleasant surprise of contemporary sushi bar Mr. Yum. With its stark white tables, concrete floor and vermilion-colored wall accent, this restaurant is hip, funky and a bit loud. Owner Bond Trisransri is going for a bit of the South Beach flair, and each plate that is presented to you furthers the notion of food as performance art piece. Its signature dish is the Havana roll, a concoction of tempura white fish, avocado, cucumbers, masago and spicy mayo, while the unique menu offers both Thai and Japanese specialties, including Y-shaped Thai doughnuts for dessert. Although parking is typically difficult on Calle Ocho, the adjacent parking lot makes it that much easier to enjoy Mr. Yum.
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.
At Acevichao, there's no need to decide between the bold flavors of Peruvian food and the delicate balance of Japanese cuisine. Here, diners can have both. That's because this fusion spot specializes in two foods that put a distinctive spin on raw fish—sushi and ceviche. Chefs grace neatly plated maki comprised of shrimp or tuna with tropical fruit, and marinate layered ceviches in fresh lime juice. They also whip up a selection of heartier options, including Peruvian fried rice, breaded fish filet, and shredded chicken with Peruvian yellow peppers and cheese. As the kitchen staff hop between Asian and South American culinary styles, guests can kick back with glasses of saki or wine while admiring the abstract art on the dining room walls.
Though the dining room of Sake Room Express fills with the spicy and citrusy aromas of Japanese soups and steaming hot appetizers, the main attraction—sushi—doesn't steam at all. A spread of 26 rolls, with or without rice, ranges from the more traditional lemon-tuna roll to eclectic creations such as the Black Hawk roll, which combines shrimp tempura, cream cheese, asparagus, and spicy honey-lemon mayo. Cooked entrees, such as skewers of teriyaki-marinated or katsu-style breaded steak and chicken fresh from the grill, bring a different kind of heat.
At Chinois Chinois, chefs prepare familiar Chinese and Japanese dishes but set the dishes apart by adding a touch of American flair. They mix veggies into pan-Asian noodle dishes including lo mein, pad thai, and curried singapore noodles, and they prepare nearly a dozen seafood dishes. At the sushi bar, chefs roll out more than two dozen classic delicacies, such as salmon and cream cheese or shrimp tempura drizzled with spicy mayo. They also plate temaki, long, conical rolls stuffed with raw fish, and they arrange sushi boats filled with more than a dozen pieces.
Guests can dine amid statues of Asian deities and shoji screens that pop against deep-red walls, or they can sit on the outdoor patio, which is sheltered from the street by a row of leafy palms.
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.