Sumi Yakitori: The Best New Japanese Restaurant in Town
You might not want to tell friends about Sumi Yakitori, an unlikely Japanese restaurant in Brickell. It's a peculiar place, furnished with an open kitchen and festooned with bottles of booze. Sometimes, a young crowd wanders through the glass doors, stares at the quiet chefs in black T-shirts, and lingers at the entrance. A waiter hands them a menu, and they peruse it with the intensity of a literary critic. Sautéed tofu skin, whole deep-fried quail, and skewered chicken hearts fill the single laminated page, half of which is
billwisserphoto.com Interior of Jeffrey Chen's Sumi Yakitori.
written in Japanese.
Occasionally, they stay. But more often, they leave.
So as you tear into your sausage-stuffed chicken wings, you can watch these fussy folks arrive and depart. Perhaps they head for the Peruvian-style sushi joint next door or the Italian trattoria down the street. You consider telling them to stay, that these wings are the best you've ever had. But you eat in silence. You don't want this restaurant disrupted by rowdy mobs.
Because in a neighborhood rife with middling chains and highfalutin bars, Sumi Yakitori is a bastion of honesty -- a shrine to the Japanese tradition of grilled meat on a stick.
Sumi Yakitori belongs to Jeffrey Chen, the prescient man who launched Miami's first ramen house last year. His place, Momi Ramen, boasts a cadre of fervent noodle worshippers who slurp strips of dough from perfectly intense tonkotsu broths.
So when Sumi debuted next door to Momi in June, its opening spurred a flutter of excitement. But today the attention has waned. Often, the restaurant is noiseless. A sole waiter waits for instructions in the kitchen. He stands beside a curtain printed with Hokusai's The Great Wave and escapes these confines only to hand the menu to a passerby or deliver a bottle of sake to a couple on a date. The petite dining room is immaculate, yet it is rarely full. Some nights, the place lacks dishes listed on the menu. "No tofu tonight," the handsome server says unapologetically. Every night, his service is consistently succinct.
Indeed, Sumi has its foibles. But if you visit the restaurant twice, you might spot its regulars: the woman in a blazer who orders angel hair noodles in a soy-based broth and toys with her phone; the guy in shorts and loafers who comes for the hamachi sashimi, which is shipped daily from Tokyo's Tsukiji fish market; the pair that clinks sake cups in celebration of good company and great food.