* Click here for rating key
Zuma Restaurant Review: In Japan, an izakaya is similar to a Spanish tapas bar; it's an informal after-work hangout where one drops in for drinks, most often saké (the name derives from "sakaya," a saké shop) and small-ish plates --- larger than tapas, smaller than entrées --- of traditional, casual Japanese pub grub. As the soaring ceilings and sophisticated designer décor of Miami's Zuma make clear, this first American branch of chef Rainer Becker's popular London original is Becker's much-upscaled vision of the traditional version. Zuma's dishes --- which come from a robata grill, a sushi-sashimi bar, and a tempura station as well as a kitchen --- are elevated by art-on-a-plate presentation, top-quality ingredients and flavors that are sometimes intense, sometimes subtle, but virtually always impeccably balanced. On the extensive menu of signature staples plus seasonally-changing items, one would expect favorites like miso-marinated "black cod" (sablefish) or Kurobuta pork belly skewers to rock, and indeed, Zuma's versions are ultimates. But even normally yawn-inspiring items, like tofu, soar. As for the drinks that izakaya food is designed to accompany, cocktails are well-crafted and the western wine list features numerous tempting rare bottles. The best idea, though, is to explore the intricacies of Japan's wine and saké from Zuma's large and varied list.