Where I am from up north, there are lots of all-you-can-eat buffets but not that many sushi restaurants. In Miami there are plenty of sushi restaurants but not so many buffets. Off the top of my head I can think of 5 sushi places within 1 block from my Miami Beach office but like so many other things in Miami they suffer from polarization. You either have disposable tray take out style fast food joints (a few of which are quite good) or you have the high end white tablecloth trendy spots engineered to impress your date (all of which are very expensive). While there are a few Asian restaurants in town offering both good sushi and good value – Kyojin, POC and LAN Pan-Asian come to mind, they are not sushi restaurants, rather restaurants that offer sushi. Where Oh! Sushi Fills the gap is in its offering of a full service quality sushi experience in a casual, friendly environment.
I was invited to a social-media pre-opening so admittedly the experience was not the same as a walk in diner but there is a lot I can say here. The restaurant is in a nondescript strip center typical of its Doral environs, located at 9036 NW 25th St. across from the Miami-Dade Police Operations Center. It is not that easy to see from the street so the police center makes a good landmark. The strip center has ample parking, which is always a plus. The restaurant was very well decorated with lots of attention paid to detail from the bamboo tables and flooring to the Japanese pop-art decor. Even the obligatory “must wash your hands” sign in the spotless restroom was not only customized for the Oh! Sushi brand but very detailed – Lest you forget how, it even takes you through the entire process step by step.
The Japanese are famous for applying technology to everyday living and Oh! Sushi brings this to us with their purpose built combination sake heater /dispenser, and a high tech robotic coffee machine from the future (or maybe from Japan). HDTV screens throughout the restaurant actually show sushi being prepared from the vantage point of a camera placed above the prep space. The thought put into the development of the Oh! Sushi brand by Restauranteurs Felipe Del Valle, Veronica Silva and Eloy Contreras and their culinary consultancy Create-A-Restaurant is evident, and even though this restaurant is not part of a chain or franchise, the concept has been fully developed and will translate and duplicate well. I would be neither surprised nor disappointed to see Oh! Sushi locations sprouting up in multiple locations or even on the pages of the business section of The Wall Street Journal at some point in the not too distant future.
I was immediately seated and served a bowl of edamame ($3.59). Edamame is simply soybeans cooked while still in the pod. Tasty, healthy and fun to eat, I like to eat edamame as an alternative to popcorn while at home watching a movie or football game. Oh! Sushi’s preparation was steamed, salted just right with coarse grained kosher salt, and served with an extra bowl for the empty pods. I chose the warm house sake as my beverage, and it was quickly brought out to my table. I was pleased to see that the house sake is Sho Chiku Bai. Not an expensive or exclusive brand at all, but one of my favorites and the one I tend to keep on hand around the house.
I was served a seafood salad with mixed greens, sesame seeds and a touch of seafood. The two salads listed on the menu are salmon and wakame seaweed (both $7.99), but I think this was something specially prepared for the occasion. The next course was three assorted gyoza dumplings ($0.99 each), two steamed in the traditional way and one fried. They were plated on a colorful rectangular plate with mixed black and white sesame seeds and in a warm sesame sauce. They were pork and chicken, served at the right temperature, and not slimy as poorly prepared dumplings can be.
The sushi assortment brought out on a traditional wooden sushi geta included sake nigiri ($0.99 each) – the salmon was quite fresh, futomaki ($0.99 each, 4pc. minimum) and a surprise – their “Crunch” Maki roll ($1.29 each, 4 pc. minimum) made with tuna, kimchee, tempura, roe and scallions was rolled not in nori seaweed as is customary, but pink “mame nori” which is a soy-based wrapper. Mame nori was invented it turns out for those either allergic or averse to seaweed or simply in want of variety. Personally I like the taste of the ocean that seaweed gives, but mame nori offers an interesting and innovative presentation variety with a neutral taste. It is available in several colors and can also be used in the sushi cones known as temaki ($4.59). In addition to the daikon garnish, shaved beet root added to the color of the presentation. The shoyu, or soy sauce was authentically Japanese Yamasa instead of one of the more commonly available Chinese types. A side chicken tempura futomaki roll ($4.95 for 5 pieces or $9.90 for 10) was brought out and was hearty enough to serve as an entree by itself. It is a chicken futomaki roll battered in tempura, fried, sliced and then plated in an elongated glass dish. All the sushi was competently prepared, plated and presented. The rice held together well but was not overly starchy and the fish was impeccably fresh. Sashimi is also available, $5.99 for a three piece serving or $11.99 for 6 pieces.
If I pretend to be a critic, then I must be critical of something. The only negative was one common to most affordably priced Japanese themed restaurants, and that is the use of a powdered wasabi / horseradish blend instead of fresh grated, or at least frozen pure wasabe. I would venture to say that many people have never even had the pleasure (or pain) of experiencing pure wasabi on the palate. Once you have had the real thing you will know the difference. It is like the difference between British or Chinese hot mustard and ball-park mustard. Admittedly, true wasabi is much stronger and more pungent than the common restaurant mix, it must be freshly grated or kept frozen and thus is more expensive to obtain and to handle. Still, true wasabi is so much better than the blend that in my opinion the blend should only be found as a side to grocery store or fast food sushi. This is the only minor gripe I have from what was all around a superb dining experience.
A chocolate crusted cheesecake was served for dessert. It was tasty and very attractively plated with a strawberry topping, but I don’t think it was either Japanese or prepared on site. Desserts and ice creams are all offered at $3.99. No flavors were listed on the menu so I believe they are either still working this out or want to retain flexibility in their offerings.
Oh! Sushi also contains a mini market of Japanese specialty items including toys, candy, condiments, and common Japanese kitchen staples like seaweed, katsuobushi and dashi-no-moto. They don’t have everything needed to stock a Japanese kitchen, but they have enough supplies and novelties to warrant a visit by the home cook or Japanese design afficionado.
Overall I highly recommend Oh! Sushi www.ohsushi.com as an enjoyable, casual spot where sushi is served at an affordable price point yet is expertly prepared with the best quality seafood. The waitstaff was friendly and efficient, and very conscious of every table. The restaurant opens to the public Tuesday, September 27, 2011 and also offers delivery in the Doral area.