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Monday, February 6, 2012

Miso hungry just thinking about Makoto...

Oh Wow! I never thought one of the best Japanese restaurants I've ever had would be within a shopping mall.  Ok, in all fairness Bal Harbour is a huge step above your typical malls, but I was still hugely skeptical that they wouldn't produce "meh" quality at a super high price tag.
   Verdict?  Well, turns out there is nothing remotely mediocre about the cuisine.   I had no idea how delightful a simple salad, notwithstanding every other aspect of their menu could be.  Everything from drinks to the food is masterfully prepared.  While the prices aren't cheap,  you get what you pay for. 
    The interior is elegant and the epitome of Zen chic.  Pathetically, the first time I went, I wasn't particularly hungry so I just tried the hotate (scallop sourced live) and a spicy tuna roll.  As simple as both sounded I was blown away with the fresh seafood.  The scallops were tender and almost silky in a way that it melted in my mouth.  The spicy tuna roll was packed with fresh meat and had just enough kick to add flavor but wasn't unbearable for a heat wimp like myself.  Really fantastic!
     The next time I visited, was for lunch with a friend.  In spite of its gorgeous, sleek interior, we opted to sit outside by the courtyard bar since it was a beautiful South Florida day.  We immediately selected two cocktails to share, a passionfruit margarita and a lemongrass cooler.  Both were divine!  Since we were seated at a table not too far from the bar we got to watch the whole process unfold, from the layering of ingredients to the careful cocktail shaking and decanting.  What we got was two completely different drinks that were each incredibly light and refreshing.  Both were easy on the palate and while I know they both had a decent quantity of alcohol, neither tasted like that was the case.
    Next we opted to share the shoftshell crab tempura roll (with tobiko, cucumber, avocado, scallion and asparagus) and a shrimp tempura bento box.  The sushi roll came out first, served atop a simple wooden plank. Immediately you could tell it was a far cry from a frozen, miniscule crab you find in lesser quality sushi restaurants.  Each slice of sushi was massive (a bit tricky to eat all together), but rightfully so since a huge component of each one was large pieces of tender and juicy crab.  The crab meat itself was incredibly succulent and fresh, and as a fantastic bonus, each piece received a very generous portion of it!  We devoured it almost as soon as it hit the table!
The shrimp bento box came next, boasting a nice clean presentation.  Inside the main compartment was a rectangle filled with tempura-ed veggies as well as two long sticks of shrimp.  It was also served with a salad and wasabi fried rice.  The tempura was light and not too heavy or greasy.  However, for me the real star of the whole meal was a salad.  It may have been the best  salad of my life, so flavorful and yet so light!  Fresh watercress, slices of chikuwa and a delicate wasabi dressing, I could become a vegetarian so long as I could eat this as a major staple of my diet.  It was really a sincere love and compassion for my dining partner that enabled me to allow him even the most miniscule forkful.  Typically I'm not too bad with sharing but I could have eaten a mini sushiboat-load of the stuff by myself.  The fried rice too was a nice surprise.  I didn't get much of the wasabi flavor, however, it was some of the least greasy and yet still flavorful, fried rice I've encountered.  This managed to fill us up pretty quickly too!  I also appreciated the bits of cooked egg in it, that were a lovely golden color and not even slightly burnt.
     Our service was quick but not rushed, and the staff were very friendly, knowledgeable, and helpful.  Furthermore, the plating and execution were superb.  While sushi restaurants might be a dime a dozen, it is far more rare to find one that can really provide dishes that will satisfy both traditional sushi purists and those looking for a bit of innovation.  In terms of quality it is certainly some of the best I've had in Miami with some uni-que offerings (sorry but I couldn't resist a little sushi punning).  Well worth checking out if you're looking for some really great Japanese!  I definitely can't wait to return prawn-to (had to get just on more in there) and to make my way through more of their menu since I have no doubt they know how to handle their seafood.
  If you would like to check it out, you can find Makoto inside the Bal Harbour shops at:
                 9700 Collins Avenue #107  Bal Harbour, FL 33154
                (305) 864-8600
Makoto on Urbanspoon

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