Palette Magazine

Asian gems in South Florida

By Carina Mask

Sozo Sushi;
Sozo Sushi;

In Asia, food is nourishment for the soul; it’s a way of life. It’s how you show respect and gratitude to your elders and to your ancestors. Every action that surrounds food — from cultivation and harvesting to preparation and enjoyment — is treated with nearly ritualistic respect.


Traditional Fare

Located in the heart of Wilton Manors, Sozo Sushi is a small, family-owned and operated Japanese sushi restaurant that is reminiscent of an izakaya dining experience in Tokyo — with limited seating but an abundance of hospitality.

They serve an array of appetizers from a delightful crab shumai to outstanding ceviche; the pièce de resistance, however, is their sashimi omakase. The Japanese translation for omakase is “I trust the chef.” If you’re up for an adventure, ask about their monkfish liver and sea urchin.

For the Japanese sake connoisseurs, Sozo also offers a wide variety of sake from different regions of Japan. Dewazakura, for example, is made from Dewa san san sake rice in Yamagata prefecture in North Eastern Japan. It’s considered karakuchi, which translates to “Dry taste” and has subtle hints of green apple. It pairs perfectly with their omakase and seared tuna salad.

2362 Wilton Dr.

Wilton Manors



The People’s Food

Sang’s Chinese in North Miami Beach is truly a hidden gem. Though located in a rather unimpressive strip mall on the north side of 163rd street, the dishes are exceptional. Purwan and Irene Cheung have owned and operated this establishment for 20 years. Like many authentic Chinese restaurants, there are two menus: one with Americanized Chinese standards and another with Cantonese dim sum. This style of Chinese cuisine is characterized by bite-size portions usually served in small steamer baskets or small plates. The dishes are paired with Chinese tea — either robust oolong or fragrant jasmine. It is a tradition that can be traced back to when travelers on the Silk Road.

At Sang’s, there are over 60 types of dim sum available. Familiar dishes, such as steamed dumplings and roast pork share the menu with more daring offerings like tripe and ginger or braised chicken feet.

1925 NE 163rd St.,

North Miami Beach



Saigon Kicks

Huey Nguyen hails from a line of successful restaurant owners in Miami. Striking out on his own, he opened What the Pho? in Wilton Manors in 2015.

Subtle hints of lemon grass, basil and nuoc mam are part of the ambience as you enter the restaurant, which Nguyen opened to pay homage to his 90-something-year-old mother, Gai Nguyen, who still cooks at Miss Saigon’s Bistro in Pinecrest. It was she who taught him how to make everything from pho to spring rolls.

The extensive menu features a long list of pho options — a popular noodle dish made with either chicken or beef broth — but there is a lot more to Vietnamese cuisine. Nguyen has also created original dishes, known as the Huey Specials. Served in huge ceramic bowls, they often include hearty servings of rice vermicelli, grilled shrimp, fried spring rolls, chicken sautéed in garlic, green onion, chives, lemongrass and subtle hints of curry. The spring rolls are perfectly wrapped in translucent rice paper and loaded with a combination of thinly sliced shrimp, pork, carrots, rice noodles, chili and mushrooms.

2033 Wilton Dr.,

Wilton Manors



Thai Street

Chef Piyarat Arreeratn, also known as Chef Bee, opened NaiYaRa with his mother in Miami Beach’s Sunset Harbour neighborhood in 2016.

Born to farmers in Northern Thailand, his mother taught him different approaches to growing, preparing, and preserving food, and his grandparents introduced him to the street food scene. The result is a mouthwatering menu of reimagined Thai street staples alongside Japanese specialties and delightfully refreshing cocktails.

Some of the restaurant favorites — like the Organic Crispy Bok Choy with garlic chips topped with sweet sesame soy or Thai Street Dumplings with spicy garlic soy vinaigrette — even feature the same recipes Chef Bee’s grandmother sold at their local village market in Northern Thailand.

1854 Bay Rd.,

Miami Beach


Super Kawaii

While not officially Asian — in any way really — Cupcake Sushi is a uniquely presented dessert that does take its inspiration from the Far East. Yet another inventive Key West creation, it came into existence when owner/chef Lori Shubert combined a bite-size piece of cake with her award-wining butter cream frosting. Putting together the tasty little morsel to resemble sushi was the stroke of genius. The process, which is awaiting patent, has bakers delicately roll butter cream frosting around super moist cakes and then cut and serve the dessert much like a sushi chef would prepare rolls. Shubert has come up with more than 20 delicious flavors that include red velvet, double chocolate, key lime and sea salt caramel. Yum!

431 Front St.,

Key West