Makoto Okuwa, Makoto

Carpaccio has been the longtime dominator of Bal Harbour Shops’ dining scene, so chef Makoto Okuwa and famed restaurateur Stephen Starr had their work cut out for them when they launched Makoto there last May. And the applause was immediate: The innovative, modern Japanese menu served amid a shadowy, Asian-minimalist atmosphere (chilled-out reggae often pumps through the sound system) has made it a real culinary contender.

With diners suitably relaxed, Okuwa, who trained with Masaharu Morimoto in Washington, DC, likes to show off the best of South Florida’s seafood bounty. “Whenever I come across the kind of top-quality, fresh seafood that’s found in this region, I get excited and so many thoughts come to mind,” he says. “Japanese chefs prefer to present fresh ingredients in their most simple form. When I came across the best abalone, I made it into thin noodles for a refreshing, cold dashi broth.”

Okuwa flexes his creative muscles beyond sushi and sashimi. His menu is peppered with rice and noodle dishes, hot robata-grilled meats and vegetables, and—this being carnivorous Miami—a few cuts of Wagyu steak. Okuwa even throws in a few bites for the ultra-adventurous— live scallops, anyone? You’ll find them on the sushi menu as “hotate,” alongside other luxe selections like oh-toro and chu-toro (fatty tuna cuts).

“We are noticing that when someone tries one item on our menu, they are then willing to try everything,” he says. “At first, I wasn’t sure how South Floridians would take to our live scallop dish, but it has been very popular. Some people even come back just to have it!” Bal Harbour Shops, 9700 Collins Ave., 305-864-8600

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