Machiya Midtown captures a delicate balancing act of cultures

Machiya Midtown.

Definitely born out of the Nobu style era of Japanese restaurants in Miami, this show stopper walks a thin line. Listen to the music, a clear distinct loungy edgy South Beach vibe; read the menu, Japanese cuisine with a good dose of South America. Enter the restaurant and be transported to a chic urban space with bold statement wall art. Far from the calm tranquil, subdued culture of Japan, this restaurant has embraced it’s location in the Design District of Miami.

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Before Nobu Matsuhisa set foot on Miami manmade South Beach at the Shore Club Hotel, the Japanese dining scene was all traditional. Calm little restaurants graced South Beach, Aventura, and Kendall. Then followed the splashy “it” spots that featured sexy sushi infused with South American ingredients. Now follows Machiya.

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With its green outdoor seating and huge center stage liquor and sushi bar surrounded by several high tables booths and tables, this restaurant caters for any diner. The menu offers a huge selection of Ramen with various toppings and accompaniments. Small share plates, Tapas style, offers diners a chance to graze rather than fill up. Model cuisine, since Miami is known as home to many would-be and working models. The wine list is a good sample from global destinations, while the sake list is a little disappointing. I expected a little more weight and magnitude in sake selection for a restaurant of this caliber. But the full liquor bar makes up for any alcohol pit falls. Contrary to the proverbial “fried desserts” in Japanese restaurants, these creations may actually be worth eating.

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Grilled Octopus Cherry tomato / yuzu aioli / bonito flakes. Wow! Tender succulent morsels of octopus with slight charred flavors exploded with umami. A spectacular dish, bowl licking good.

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Fluke Tiradito Fluke sashimi / lava salt / cilantro / chili / yuzu lemon juice. A tiradito showcases the Peruvian preparation of raw fish that differs from ceviche by the way the fish is cut. These flavors combine into a marvelous profile of symphony. My only challenge was to get the chopstick under a wet cucumber disc to pick up these little mouth plops. Delicate fluke texture was infused to perfection. Sexy presentation.

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Tempura Rock Shrimp Bun Cole slaw / panko tomato / pickled cucumber / spicy aioli. This just goes to show the versatility of the Gua Bao, Chinese steamed buns, which can be a vessel for just about anything. With a squeeze of lime, grab these sponges, lean over and insert into mouth. Models be extremely careful, spillage could occur. A sinful treat.

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Fire Scallop Maki Scallop / Avocado / Fried Garlic / Masago / Wasabi Aioli. They had me at fire, but wait there is more, it is wrapped in rice paper. Fire? Yes, they take an actual blow torch and light the roll. It is wonderfully charred with delicious smokiness and creaminess from the masago, mayo, krab topping. Normally, I stay away from mayo toppings, but this looks very light. Knock out.

This was a light lunch. But I really want to try a ramen dish. Next time. The flavors were very pronounced and textures stood out individually. Combining these ingredients in such a clever way attest to the thought put into this menu. After all, it is Japanese cuisine in Miami. I like to think of Miami as not part of the US, but mostly global with a heavy South American and European influences. Machiya has managed to capture the palate representative of it’s local patrons. When will Orlando ever embrace these flavors?

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