It is not often a restaurant excites me, but the new opening of Wabi Sabi by Chef Shuji Hiyukawa will become one of my go-to places. You may remember this chef’s name as I wrote about him last year. Here is a brief refresher: the chef learned his love of cooking at his father’s noodle house in Japan. After moving from Japan, the chef became a protégée of Morimoto in Philadelphia and ended up becoming an executive sushi chef there and even cooked at the James Beard House. From there he came to Florida and was head chef of Kuro at the Hard Rock Hotel, and then at Dashi at the River Yacht Club, which unfortunately closed due to Hurricane Irma.
This is Chef Shuji’s first solo adventure. Here, he is going back to basics, creating simple, straightforward, masterfully creating and executing, Japanese food of the highest quality, but with reasonable pricing.
Wabi Sabi is the Japanese term for accepting the beauty of imperfection. The menu is small, consisting of 4 sushi bowls and a chefs Omakase bowl, plus fresh pressed juices.
The small, cool, ethereal space was largely designed and built by the chef. One wall is full of butterfly origami and tree branches, the opposite wall has photography. There is limited seating in the middle, with a large table set with beautiful Japanese plates, cups and bowls. There is greenery in the form of lovely Japanese plants. It is very zen.
They also do a large takeout business. There are only two people running the place, Chef Shuji and his assistant Chef Maggie Hyams, a protégée of the chef who has followed him in Miami.
There are just four generous bowls offered from $11 for the vegetarian option up to $18 for the wabi sabi bowl, which I tried, chock full of salmon, tuna, lump crab, tobiko, cucumber, avocado, seaweed and shiitake mushrooms. My husband had a $39 Omakase bowl, a chef selection of things like shrimp, scallops, mini squid, white fish, etc. You can add Alaskan uni for $8. The fish is SO fresh, and the rice is perfection.
There are four base options for your bowl, perfectly prepared, traditional sushi rice, multigrain, with things like quinoa, barley, wild rice, or cha soba, a noodle base or a green mix. There are sauce options too, such as wasabi soy, sesame ginger, spicy miso, or spicy sesame soy. Or you can just do a plate of sashimi, starting at $7 for 2 pieces up to $14.
To compliment the meal they offer 1/2 or full bottles of sake, brewed tea or fresh cold pressed juices. There is the samurai, which is strong and sharp, the geisha which is floral and fruity or the Ninja which is spicy and stealth.
For dessert, there are 6 excellent flavours of mochi ice cream. The chef tasted and tested many brands and found the best in New York, where he ships them from. They were all fabulous, from the salted caramel to the double chocolate or the black sesame.
This intimate upscale eatery has elevated their take on sushi and poke bowls. They had us dancing in our seats, and that doesn’t happen too often.
Congratulations Chef Shuji, you will be seeing me often.