Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Casual Dining/Fine Dining in Miami Florida!

Wait a minute!  How can casual dining equal fine dining?  The answer: when plenty of thought and imagination are combined in order to provide top notch food with plenty of flavor and texture!

Fine casual dining is what we experienced this past month on our first night in Miami…

Dawn Marie took us to one of her favorite local restaurants, one that offers an eclectic and imaginative menu.  This is Sakaya Kitchen!

The setting is very casual with both indoor and outside seating.  The cuisine is described as Asian Fusion…or as owner and chef Richard Hales describes it…Asian Funk Fusion.

After studying the menu, you walk up to the window in this photo and you place your order.  Dawn Marie told us that the ‘look’ of the ordering area has been upgraded and remodeled from the initial appearance.
Given the laid back look of the place, at first glance one begins scratching their head…and then you take a look at the fun and imaginative menu! 

Laurie and Dawn started out with sharing the “Bao Steamed Buns…8-hour roast pork with house-made sweet chili sauce and quick pickle”. ($8.00) Can you spell ‘excellent’?!

According to the on-line literature, Chef Richard Hales spent years in Southeast Asia and NYC honing his skills to create Sakaya Kitchen.  He was influenced by his travels throughout Asia where he would backpack and live for many years.  When he found something delicious, Hales would work there for free learning new techniques and meeting great people who both would one day influence his cooking at Sakaya Kitchen.

In 2009 Richard and his wife Jenny opened Sakaya Kitchen Midtown, in 2010 Dim Ssam, a gogo food truck, in 2011 Sakaya Kitchen Downtown and in 2012 Sakaya Kitchen Catering Blackbrick Chinese.  The latter restaurant is located right across the park from Sakaya Kitchen Midtown.

I ordered the ”Chunk’d Spicy Kalbi Beef Tater Tots” to share. ($8.00) I was a little disappointed in the tater tots but I don’t know what I expected.  After all, they are tater tots!  The quality Kalbi beef and the spicy sauce ‘made’ this dish work though and I did enjoy it.

The menu actually starts with 10 offerings to serve as appetizers…or just to share.  In hindsight, I could have ordered something like the Calamari “Ika gesso age”, Japanese style, with ssamjang sweet chili ($8.00) or the ½ rack of Honey-orange Baby Back Ribs. ($15.00) Next time for sure!

Dawn ordered one of her favorites from the selection on the menu under the title “Big Bowls”.  This is the Salad with Grilled Hangar Asian Steak, roasted sesame, bean sprouts and ginger dressing. ($14.00) This is a top notch entrée!

Other Big Bowl entrees include “Bulgogi” Angus beef ($14.00); the 8-hour roast pork with grilled shrimp ($14.00); “Dai ji” spicy pork tenderloin ($14.00), and; “KFC” Korean Fried Chicken Wings with Kimchi and Thai Jasmine Rice. ($11.00)

Sorry for the blurry photo… This is my entrée.  It’s the “Sae Woo” Spicy Korean Fried Shrimp, buttered broccoli and Thai coconut rice with peanuts. ($15.00)  It was very good indeed!
The only dessert offerings are “Wife Hales’ Fresh Baked Cookies”. ($2.00 each) Jenny Hales makes all the cookies.  They include 10 different varieties.  Among the more unusual offerings are the peanut butter filled pretzels and the blueberry and cream cookies.

FYI… Sakaya Kitchen’s Midtown location was also reportedly featured on the Food Network’s Diners Drive-in's and Dives with Guy Fieri.  Guy sampled the Cracklin' herb duck sandwich, Ginger Brussels sprouts, Chunk'd tots and the 8 hour roast pork bao bun.  However I wasn’t able to locate the episode on Guy’s Food Network website… If anyone could provide me with a link it would be much appreciated!

Laurie ordered the Grilled Chicken Breast, Sakaya Salad with house-made honey lemon dressing. ($12.00)  She opted for the Thai Coconut Rice instead of the brown rice that normally comes with this dish.  Her meal was excellent and she pointed out that with such intense flavors, one comes away satisfied without eating a truly heavy meal. (The exception being my light beef and tater tots appetizer!)

So…what do others think about Sakaya Kitchen?  Bon appetit Magazine stated that it is one of the top 6 places in the country to taste new Asian cuisine.  Anthony Bourdain had a “Craklin’ sous vide duck herb Sandwich” ($10.00), and he said that it was ‘one of the best things he’d ever eaten in Miami’.  Details Magazine rated “Dim Ssam”, the Hales’ food truck as one of the Top 5 Asian food truck in the USA!

We will definitely return to Sakaya Kitchen…and we’ll have to give Hales’ new restaurant, Blackbrick Chinese a try too! The original Sakaya Kitchen in Midtown Miami is located at 3401 North Miami Avenue.  Phone: 305-575-8096.  Website:

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for some really good food!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. I really like Dawn's salad and Laurie's chicken presentation is nice too. When I think of Miami, I think of things a tad funky & unusual (but I like funky), If Bourdain likes the place, it has to be good because he certainly doesn't mince words. Great write up David. Glad you guys had fun.

  2. Looks like Dawn hooked you up with some good eats.

  3. Dear Dave, I am glad that you enjoyed your dining. It looks like a real nice and fun place.
    Blessings, Catherine

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