Sunny Isles in Miami is densely populated yet there are few respectable restaurants located in that vicinity. So it was with trepidation that we ventured to the Acqualina Resort and Spa at 17875 Collins Avenue to try out a brand new place called Ke-uh. It is a strange name for me, and one that I’m not even sure how to pronounce, but we are in Miami, the “Capital of Latin America” after all. Apparently, it’s a play of a Spanish expression, “que hubo”, which translates to “what’s up”.
It is the newest culinary experience at the upscale Aqualina. They are calling it an Asian fusion restaurant, but basically, they serve sushi, rolls, cold and hot izakayas (which are small Japanese snacks), robata, and a handful of larger protein plates.
It is the second location for the restaurant which first opened in Weston in 2017 by Venezuelan chef, Carlos Delfino, owner of Kazumi in Key Biscayne, and Oscar Noborikawa, executive master chef, formerly of NOBU where he worked for 14 years. To help run the kitchen with Chef Oscar is Chef Edwin Delgado, of Tanuki.
They opened their doors on December 26, 2020. They had a large space to fill, with 150 person capacity, of which 80 of those seats are outdoors with pool and ocean views.
To be honest, the indoor space looks like an upscale coffee shop – it’s a long odd-shaped room with marble flooring, wooden tables, over arched windows, rose gold accents, and teal chairs and drapes. The Aqualina was never known for its refined decor. Outside there are wicker chairs with red cushions and lots of greenery. We chose to dine al fresco. There has always been a strong breeze at this location (I should know, I used to live there), but using heat lamps really helps.
The menu is diverse and eclectic, with many shareable plates. Fish is flown in daily from Japan and the Mediterranean. The scallop nigiri was fresh and sweet. The hamachi jalapeño in yuzu soy, a favourite dish at NOBU, was done well. I was hoping to see creamy, spicy, rock shrimp tempura, an iconic NOBU dish, but it wasn’t on the menu. The salmon truffle pear is another popular item from the cold izakaya section. Something original and unique for me was the pork belly and watermelon dish with serrano and sweet ponzu sauce. It had a nicely balanced yin and yang to it. The grilled octopus with wasabi aioli and paprika oil is very tender and was presented beautifully. A standout dish is the crispy Brussels sprouts in an orange and balsamic reduction. From the large plates, we chose the baby back ribs in a Korean bbq sauce, that fell off the bone, served with excellent crispy Parmesan truffle fries.
Dessert had a few offerings. We went with the Mochi that is sold by the piece and was tempered perfectly. We also tried a Nutella and banana spring roll with a side of vanilla ice cream.
The beverage program has some great selections but with heavy markups. There is a nice selection of over a dozen sakes. We paired our dinner with a Fukucho Junmai Ginjo. It was a nice fit, a touch on the sweeter side, and not too dry.
I thought dinner was above par and was only surprised to see how many rolls contained cream cheese, which kind of makes me shudder. If you must, offer only one or two rolls this way. It is not really customary or necessary.
Our original server was not very professional and never refilled our sake or wiped our table when dirty, or did not change our tiny plates once during our dinner service. Things improved greatly when we had Alfonso take over. He was a veteran waiter who had worked in some of Miami’s top Japanese restaurants. He was knowledgeable and turned our evening into a much more positive one.
I’m sure this will become a hot spot in North Miami. Open daily from 5:30-10pm.
Arigatou Gozaimasu, recommend.