Nikkei cuisine has been having its moment in Miami for quite some time now, and admirers of the cuisine know that the Chang family’s acclaimed Design District restaurant Itamae has been at the forefront of the craze. However, all good things tend to come to an end, except in this case, that good thing is evolving into arguably an even better thing.
Translation: Itamae’s à la carte, standalone indoor-outdoor location in Palm Court is handing over the reins to the group’s third outpost of fast-casual sushi-counter concept B-Side, while Itamae is reborn as a 12-seat Nikkei omakase counter in Midtown that goes by the name of Itamae Ao.
The addition of “Ao” (the Japanese word for “blue”) symbolizes the Chang family’s ties to the ocean, particularly the small Peruvian seaport towns in which Chef Nando and Val’s grandparents resided. On the other hand, the Japanese word “Itamae” translates directly to “chef,” an indication that the restaurant’s future and calling was always rooted in the chef’s counter concept, led by a head sushi chef. Frequent guests of the current Itamae often prefer the six-person counter inside, a truer representation of the chefs’ original vision for the restaurant and dining experience.
“This move will not only allow us to craft the experience we want for our diners on all levels, but to provide our incredible family of hospitality professionals with a more sustainable working environment, and one that will make for a more elevated evening for our guests and friends,” Chef Nando said in a release. “We want to create one memorable experience for every guest who walks in the door.”
Peruvian-Japanese fusion has been the heart of the restaurant’s offerings, which features a selection of ceviches, tiraditos, signature sushi rolls and a famed octopus bañadito, a rendition of the Peruvian dish “pulpo al olivo.” The new B-Side arriving in just a few weeks will not only serve as a quick fix after a long day spent shopping and exploring the neighborhood, but it also plans to retain some of its predecessor’s biggest hits.
The newly-reimagined Itamae has journeyed an exhilarating path. What started as a small family-run counter in a Design District food hall has made several successful stops along the way before its current destination and rebranding in Midtown, next to sister restaurant Maty’s (named after the sibling duo’s grandmother). Itamae will operate until Aug. 27 before it opens as Itamae Ao in the fall. The Nikkei story in Miami continues.