Everybody likes to be in on a secret. That’s part of the appeal of No Name Chinese, restaurant of mystery in South Miami.
To go with the cryptic name, there is no signage hanging outside the 5-month-old hideaway. Diners may circle the block a few times before realizing there are crowds and a kitchen fired up behind the dark windows on the ground floor of the two-story building.
Inside, high-end Asian food is purposely matched with a globe-trotting wine list that includes such surprises as rosé from Turkey and the Canary Islands. The fun, approachable craft beer and wine menu — one rich cab is described as “beast mode juice” — is the product of Uvaggio Wine Bar owners Heath Porter and Craig DeWald teaming up with their business partners to cross U.S. 1. Together they deliver No Name to Miami suburbanites hungry for the next new thing.
Their 75-seat space near The Shops at Sunset Place is a tasteful beauty, with midnight blue and copper accents, an exposed brick wall and wide-plank wood floors. Edison bulbs dangle over thick, wood tables with modern, bentwood chairs. A white-marble dim sum bar with high-back stools overlooks the open kitchen and a wall of gleaming white subway tiles. A smaller, second dining nook in the back offers a few tables and a traditional bar.
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Executive chef Pablo Zitzmann (Trust & Co., Sra. Martinez, Nobu, Matador Room) has worked in the kitchens of such talents as Michelle Bernstein and Jean-Georges Vongerichten during his 11 years in Miami. He’s Colombian, not Chinese. The outcome is a clean, modern, slightly adventuresome interpretation of Asian food that emulates the light complexity of Vietnamese fare at celebrity chef prices. Pinecrest Elementary Garden and other South Florida suppliers named on the menu combat sticker shock with local pride.
Designed for sharing, dishes are separated on a six-part menu that highlights dim sum, salads, simple sides and “nibbles,” as well as Old School classics such as beef with broccoli and specialties such as grilled tenderloin au poivre.
Tradition takes a creative turn with successful starters such as turnip cakes topped with Chinese sausage, shiitake mushrooms, bonito flakes, Japanese mayo, sweet Indonesian soy sauce and chives. But the prawn toast (two slices of fluffy Chinese bread topped with pulverized, lime-infused shrimp salad) got lost along the way.
Worthy dim sum include the restaurant’s specialty, Angry Dumpling, which is more miffed than fuming mad. The not-so-spicy dumpling is stuffed with ground chicken, ginger and chili. It is simultaneously puffy and crunchy, with delicate pastry skin topped by crispy garlic and shallots. Another notable from the Little Sum Sum side of the menu is Mr. Lee’s Jiaozi. It’s pan-crisped on the outside and filled with fragrant pork shoulder, shredded cabbage, ginger and garlic chives.
Smashed cucumber salad is dark and hearty. The creamy soy and sesame sauce base combines with a fresh herb combo of mint, cilantro and basil for a heady rush.
Lightly breaded salt-and-pepper shrimp sizzle and dance in a sticky ginger scallion sauce jazzed up by Szechuan pepper, jalapeño and lime. The entree, which oddly came out first, has no rice, so we ordered the heaping bowl of fried rice, packed with chopped, chunky veggies, and topped with a fried egg. Moist and steamy, it feeds four.
The classic takeout dish, kung pao chicken, goes high society, with large cubes of chicken, smoked cashews, sweet orange segments and cilantro, lightly perfumed by a tantalizing savory-spicy sauce. Duck breast with hoisin sauce gets the same My Fair Lady treatment. The roasted and sliced breast, with crunchy snap peas, pickled onions and cucumber, comes with small, thin pancakes and a housemade cherry hoisin sauce that throws a mighty salty-sweet punch.
Along with complimentary tea, endings are delightful and go beyond routine. Whipped honey, with a thin, crisp cookie, coffee meringues and grapefruit, is a light delight. The walnut tart proffers a petite taste of autumn, with diced pears, apples and nuts in an egg-custard tart encircled by meringue dots dusted with five-spice powder.
A brigade of service staff tends to every need. Tables are wiped between servings. Empty wine glasses are snatched and quickly replenished — almost too swiftly for last-drop sippers like me. On the way to the restroom, two to three guides will offer assistance.
Even with attentive service, No Name gets chaotic. We were mistakenly served the wrong dish on one occasion, and charged for a dumpling we never received on another. Dishes sell out quickly. There are no specials.
Like all good mysteries that get solved, No Name’s biggest challenge will be maintaining our fascination in the sequel.
Follow Jodi Mailander Farrell on Twitter: @JodiMailander.
Critics dine unannounced at Miami Herald expense. For the latest restaurant inspection reports, visit dine.miami.com.
If you go
Place: No Name Chinese
Rating: ☆ ☆ 1/2 stars (Good)
Address: 7400 SW 57th Ct., South Miami
Contact: 786-577-0734, www.nonamechinese.com
Cost: $9-$15 starters, $12-$29 entrees, $9-$12 desserts
Hours: 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday, Wednesday-Thursday (closed Tuesday), until 11 p.m. Friday-Saturday, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m.-10 p.m. Sunday
FYI: VS, MC, AmEx; beer and wine; street parking
What the Stars Mean: 1 (Poor) 1.5 (Fair) 2 (OK) 2.5 (Good) 3 (Very Good) 3.5 (Excellent) 4 (Exceptional)