The chefs at Asia Bay Thai Cuisine & Sushi Bar wrap crab, avocado, and masago inside paper-thin slivers of cucumber to create Naruto maki, just one of many offerings from the eatery's sushi bar. Along with Japanese sushi and sashimi, the menu spans other parts of Asia with red curry lobster, pad thai noodles, and mango and kani salad, which is sure to inspire the level of health necessary to run a marathon in scuba flippers.
Determined to bring authentic Japanese food to South Florida, Chef Koji Ando of Osaka Japan opened Asaka Japanese Restaurant in Aventura in 1994. For 20 years, he’s delighted diners with both his delicious offerings and beautifully-arranged dishes. There are the expected soups, salads, sushi, tempura and sashimi that litter the menu, but a trip to Asaka Japanese Restaurant also means Nabemono Hot Pots, perfect for a party of two or more, where the food, be it beef, crab or fish, is cooked on the table. Sushi rolls range from pedestrian to outlandish, with an O.J. Roll that involves cooked salmon, avocado and spicy spinach; a Chicken Katsu Roll that marries breaded chicken with lettuce and mayo; and the Ogi Roll, which carries tuna, salmon, scallions, avocado and spicy mayo.
At the family-owned Sushi Room, skilled chefs from Manhattan, Miami, and Japan use fresh seafood and inventive recipes to spice up traditional Japanese dishes. The menu focuses heavily on sushi, with options ranging from standard soft shell crab and tuna rolls to the specialty mixed volcano roll, which mixes a traditional California roll with baked salmon, crab, conch, and octopus. If sushi and sashimi aren't your thing, you can choose from an extensive selection of cold and hot Japanese plates that include vegan-friendly tofu dishes. The flavorful escargot plate is simmered in sake and cabernet in a traditional toban-style ceramic skillet. Lounge in the candlelit dining room and savor sips of sake—the restaurant serves more than 20 varieties of the traditional rice wine.
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.