Monday, May 24, 2010

There is no Zima at Zuma

Zuma opened to the public today after a week of friends and family and media dinners.
We test-drove the menu on Saturday night and my first impressions are mixed. The mega-restaurant with high prices thing feels like a concept from another era. And hasn't Mr. Chow already cornered that market? Sure, Zuma's food is better but is that enough to draw people to the Epic hotel downtown?
The interior is striking but ultimately unexciting - soaring ceilings, blonde wood, a shiny demo kitchen. It lacks the noir elegance of Hakkasan or the meticulously scuffed post-colonial vibe of Sugarcane - two restaurants that immediately came to mind both for their similarities to Zuma and for their different approaches to Asian cooking. Like Sugarcane there are three kitchen here - a sushi bar, a robabta grill and a hidden "hot" kitchen ("where they do most of the tempura and fried stuff" explained our helpful server). Like Hakkasan it is a British import and you'll hear accents from Scotland, Ireland and all parts of the UK from many be-suited managers. But the focus here is on Japanese, not Chinese cuisine.
That said, I'll sum up my observations as follows:
Prices: high. Portions: small. Food: good.
They have 250 wines available in glass-enclosed wine towners. On the reccomendation of Trevor the sommelier we went with a $50 Chateau St. Michelle Eroica Riesling. It stood up to the spicy Asian sauces and our meager journalist wallets (yes, we paid for our alchy).
Cocktails are $12.
Best in show:
-tuna tataki with sauteed red onions and minced daikon radish
- edamame stir-fried with minced chilis - fiery, authentic-tasting
- prawn and cod dumplings - pan fried and greaseless, delicate sweet wrapper, flavorful filling
- miso black cod with yuzu butter - amazing buttery fish, amazing tangy buttery sauce (but $30 for just the piece of fish seems a bit luxe)
- spicy beef tenderloin - tender, falovrful, thoughtfully cut up into bit-size pieces (it's a chopsticks-only table setting) but again, $35.
- Japanese eggplant with miso - good
- wild mushroom salad - a celebration of fungi
- dessert: green tea banana cake and a futuristic-looking coconut ball. Both weirdly good.

Less impressive:
the sushi
sweet potatoes - 3 slices on a plate drizzled with teriyaki reduction.
corn on the cob. Even though they're slathered with miso butter, still don't want to be gnawing on an ear of corn unless I'm at a picnic.

270 Biscayne Boulevard Way, (305) 577-0277.


Miami Culinary Tours said...

I had my biggest hope for this place...

sara said...

I don't mean to dash your hopes - the place has its merits. Just be prepared to drop at least $80=$100/person on a night there.