Beyond the spicy tuna rolls and regionally caught fish that populate the menus of many South Florida sushi restaurants, several local chefs are committed to serving exotic selections from all over the world. Specifically: Japan.
Most every day, chef Yuki Ieto of Pubbelly Sushi in Miami Beach receives an ice-packed Styrofoam container flown in fresh from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji fish market. On Thursdays or Fridays, his trusted vendor includes surprises like Aka-Yagara, red cornet fish, which Ieto turns into sushi, sashimi and other lucky delights for customers.
“I’d rather have people be more aware of the different types of fish and be a bit more educated about sushi, because it’s more fun for them, and I won’t get bored just selling tuna, salmon and hamachi,” Ieto said.
At Naoe, the high-end sushi den in Brickell Key, chef-owner Kevin Cory meticulously prepares omakase-style tasting menus with fish straight from Japan, both North American coasts and other waters. He’s been known to show guests dated customs stamps of a particular shipment, verifying their dinners’ as-fresh-as-it-gets-ness.
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While many sushi restaurants get their Ikura, salmon roe, premade, Cory prepares his in-house using fresh roe still in its sac, called Sujiko.
“I press the sujiko through a metal net to separate the salmon eggs into hot, salted water to cook it, and then marinate in sake and soy sauce,” Cory said.
“Purchasing fresh, specialty ingredients not only costs more than a prepared package, it also requires more skill and labor time,” he added. “Fortunately, our guests can appreciate the difference.”
It takes about 24 hours for a shipment of Otoro, or super/supreme tuna belly, to reach Katsuya chef Jose Icardi in Miami Beach from the Tsukiji market. (All species of bluefin tuna, the kind used for Otoro, are threatened by overfishing to varying degrees; the fish is rated “Avoid” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program.)
The delivery from Tsukiji — like “a beach cooler on Memorial Day,” Icardi said — comes two or three times a week, along with other delicacies, like Madai, red seabream.
Despite the allures of sourcing fish from Japan — Pubbelly’s Ieto noted the single-rod fishing done by villagers in waters with fluctuating temperatures that make for ideal conditions — the chefs noted that their priority is to serve the best products they can get their hands on, no matter where they’re from.
Added Ieto: “It’s all about quality and season.”
Galena Mosovich is visual arts and nightlife editor of Miami.com. Follow her on Twitter: @galenawrites.
Find the fish
Katsuya: 1701 Collins Ave. (SLS Hotel), Miami Beach; 305-455-2995; katsuyarestaurant.com/southbeach. Price per piece: $3-$12; omakase: About $50 a person.
Naoe: 661 Brickell Key Dr., Miami; 305-947-6263; naoemiami.com. Price per person: $200 (omakase only).
Pubbelly Sushi: 1424 20th St., Miami Beach; 305-531-9282; pubbellysushi.com. Price per piece: $2-$10; omakase: $20-$100 per person.