This Japanese restaurant
in Brickell has the best sushi in Florida,
BY CONNIE OGLE
UPDATED MARCH 15, 2022 6:21 PM
Chef Kevin Cory, a Miami native, has long had a mission: to showcase just what Japanese cuisine can be outside of Japan.
He must be doing something right. His tiny restaurant Naoe serves the best sushi in Florida, according to the popular food website Eat This, Not That.
Of course, honors are nothing new to Naoe: In 2021, it was the only restaurant in Miami to earn the coveted Forbes Five-Star rating.
“We’re very thankful for the compliments and honors,” Cory said in an email.
Food has long played a part in his history. His family has been making Naogen shoyu (soy sauce) in Oono, Japan, since 1825. Cory learned the intricacies of Japanese cuisine from his uncle Yasushi Naoe, executive chef of Kawai Ryokan, a traditional Japanese inn. In 2001, he took over the sushi bar at Miami’s Siam River, opening Naoe in Sunny Isles Beach in 2009 and relocating to Brickell Key in 2012.
Though omakase-style dining is popular in Miami now, Naoe was Miami’s first omakase-only spot. Before COVID, the restaurant served six to eight people per seating. Now, Cory says, he serves only four to five, a change he had been wanting to make.
“It was something I always wanted to do for a better-quality experience but didn’t think it was possible until COVID restrictions forced us to try it,” he said, adding that he expects to keep the smaller seatings.
There are two seatings each night, one at 5 p.m., the other at 9 p.m. Dinner takes between two and three hours, and kids under 12 are not permitted. The dress code is casual. The sushi is not. The menu is prepared fresh each day, so don’t ask for substitutions and be ready for anything from seaweed and shellfish to salt and gluten. “Omakase” means the chef gets to choose. You’re just there to eat.
The pandemic has affected Naoe’s operations, including shipping and product availability as well as costs. Cory still uses his family’s soy sauce, but no longer exclusively serves Nakamura Shuzou sake. COVID limited the supply, so he supplements the drink menu with sakes from other breweries in Japan.
Naoe has long had a reputation as a hard place to get a reservation, but that’s because the people who want to go there plan ahead.
“Usually, half of our guests are from out of town and have planned for dining at Naoe weeks in advance,” he said. “The other half are often special occasions for locals who have also planned well in advance.”
The restaurant has added a wait list option on the website in case of cancellations. His advice? Reserve at least a week in advance.
Where: 661 Brickell Key Drive, Miami
Price: $280 per person plus 20 percent gratuity and sales tax
Reservations: Online only at www.naoemiami.com