It’s only omakase (chef’s choice) at Kevin Cory’s two Japanese gems in downtown Miami, the eight-seat NAOE and 16-seat N by NAOE, where dining-time options are few and the reservations don’t come easy. The 41-year-old, Miami-born chef (above) personally helms the Aritsugu knives—which were passed down from his chef uncle—six days a week for all four reservation slots: “If I’m off, we close,” he says.
NAOE’s tagline—“It’s not fresh…it’s alive”—is meant to convey how just-off-the-boat his fish really is, whether it arrives overnight from Japan’s Tsukiji fish market or either U.S. coast, or is sourced from local Florida fishermen. Depending on the product availability and Cory’s whim, bento boxes might include a broiled blackbelly rosefish caught in 1,000-foot-deep waters off Miami, with organic trumpet mushrooms and fresh wasabi flowers, and homemade yuca tofu with jyunsai and sea urchin roe from Hokkaido; the nigiri sushi could be anything from local Spanish mackerel pickled in koji to the insides of a sea cucumber.
Desserts are often fruits, sponge cake and ice cream. Sake is from Nakamura Shuzou brewery, which Cory’s relatives founded in 1818. “We want our guests to leave believing we respectfully and joyfully represented Japan,” Cory says. “When NAOE first opened, a Japanese couple came in, and as I served the bento, the lady actually started crying with a big smile. Sincere happiness is the highest compliment.” At 661 Brickell Key Dr.; 305-947-6263; naoemiami.com.