Review: NAOE

29 June 2015

I headed out of Memphis to go to South Florida, as I had some unpleasant personal event to attend. Little did I know when I woke up that early morning, with a raging hangover, that the hangover would be one of the more pleasurable things that day…

I got to Memphis Airport just before 8am for my flight to Fort Lauderdale. Then that wonderfully crappy unsafe airline called Allegiant Air delays the 9.50am flight to 10:25 then 11.25am. Then 1.25pm. By now I was fuming (alongside many others), as there were no staff at the gate. Then 1.45pm. Then 3pm. Then 3.30pm. I ended up spending the entire damn day in Memphis Airport thanks to this incompetent airline.


Delay reasons include “late arriving aircraft” thanks to one breaking down in Orlando. Then the captain was utterly speechless when he found out people couldn’t board the flight because the ground staff had GONE HOME already. He said “in 15 years of flying I have never seen anything like this…” No apologies from the Allegiant twitter “feed” nor any compensation for a 6+ hour delay. We wouldn’t have gotten off the ground without help of the local Fox television news crew!

I somehow survived and got to Fort Lauderdale and drove quickly down to Miami, and it was already nearly 8pm. Luckily I made my reservation 2 weeks ago for NAOE at 9pm for some reason, but that means I need to get going. BTW, walking to a restaurant in middle of summer in Miami is not a great idea. I walked from the Metro Mover across the bridge onto Brickell Key very quickly as I was nearly late…

I got into NAOE and they offered me anything from cold towels to ice water, and immediately I relaxed. Wow, this place reminds me a lot of a cross between a top Japanese kaiseki place with a dash of Miami chic. I was led to the back to the 6-seat counter and thought, damn, finally something is going right on this crazy day…

I took the recommendation over the sake and relaxed… It’s late, but I don’t care, it’s finally good. The small room is dominated by the open kitchen and counter, with a small team back of the house supporting Chef Kevin Cory at work. The sake is from Nakamura Brewery, which is the sake producer of his family back in Japan, doing some excellent organic stuff. I chilled chatting with the very able FoH staff, especially the manager Wendy (who was also speaking to other diners in Portuguese), when the opener arrived. Wow…

01a-bento box

This is a bento box of treats that Chef Cory is known for, and this was a pretty special set. There is a lot of variety here, and I broke it down into sections.


The top left quadrant focuses on the fukko, a younger sea bass, steamed and presented with lotus roots, gingko nuts and a thickened dashi. Very nice, the dashi really brings out the flavour of the fish. A lot of flavour in this small quadrant.


The top right quadrant is the busiest by far, with so much in the little square. First of all, the one that stands out the most is the cup of shuto in the back. Shuto is the pickled innards of bonito, a very awesome delicacy that goes super well with sake. Then there’s some fried konnyaku, or devil’s tongue, a type of yam I’ve not had since Japan, on top of a fried kisu — a lovely little fish. Also a serving of the yamaimo mountain yam with miso, and of course the small bit of corn. Wow, that’s a lot in this square, fabulous stuff.


The bottom goes from the sashimi selection, of fukko (the same bass as earlier) as well as mirugai (giant clam), then a nice bamboo rice, as well as a miso soup focusing on the butternut squash. A fabulous start, almost a little overwhelming!

I enjoyed a bit more sake and relaxed before the next dish showed up, and it was beautiful — made me feel like in Japan again.


This is a broiled iwashi, a Japanese sardine that I really love in this style. Although bony, it’s a fine eat, from end to end. Lots of very delicious meat on this fish, though I had forgotten how hard it was to eat this with chopsticks! Excellent!

What a great start, from the food to the excellent service. The sake was very enjoyable, as was chatting with various members of the staff. Enjoyed more of that excellent sake as we shift into the sushi portion of the meal. It began with some Scottish salmon…


Then a Kumamoto oyster from California…


Then a little twist…


This is a serving of some excellent Maine lobster, alongside iidako (octopus) and a nice slice of ankimo (monkfish liver). Fabulous dish, loved the flavours on all three components. Let the natural flavours shine, and this is why I like this chef. If it don’t need a lot of messin’ with, don’t mess with it too much! Then back to sushi with some yari ika (squid spear)…


Then hotate (scallop) from Boston…


Then a rarer piece, the akamutsu — a red bluefish also called the black throat sea perch. Very nice!


Then finally, a wonderful piece of saba (mackerel) from Japan, deep and full of flavour. I love mackerel!


I was enjoying more sake when the next item came out, and I immediately thanked chef as it is one of my favourite snacks…


A few pieces of karasumi grilled. I love these things, whether in this format or as bottarga over my pasta. I can eat this stuff all day, and drink all the sake after each tasting. Mmm! Lovely! Then another special treat came next.


The uni from Hokkaido was excellent, but I was focused on the other item — which I saw the sushi chef work on earlier. This is a rare treat indeed, the konoko — or preserved sea cucumber roe. Oh my, this is fantastic, even in Japan I don’t see this often. What a great combination!

I finished my bottle of sake and floated for the end of the meal, knowing there’s a little more left from the savoury side. And it was an eel fest.


The first of the two eel tasting was unagi done in the shiroyaki fashing, broiled with simple sea salt, served as a piece of sushi.


The next was in the kabayaki format, with sauce. I like this way of showcasing eel, brought back memories of that smoky but amazing night at Kabuto in Tokyo back in January…

We were done with the savouries, and I had switched to an “ice” sake that was served as ice pieces…odd, very strong taste. I should have taken a pix of it! But we were presented with a series of dessert courses…


The first was a locally-grown red dragon fruit, which is excellent, more tart (and flavourful) than the usual white ones. Lovely to see it grown locally! Then the middle was some matcha green tea with a piece of yokan made from jackfruit. Honestly I’m not a big fan of yokan, so… And finally, the excellent kasutera cakes (delicious! Gotta thank Portugal for this influence!) and the fabulous ice cream. Chef wanted me to guess, and I missed, but it was shoyu (soy sauce) ice cream. Excellent. I remember having it in Japan a few times (like at Taku), and it was excellent!

This was such a nice dining experience — I emphasise experience — that I almost forgot about the hell Allegiant Air put me through earlier. I’d take that torture to eat here. Fabulous food, excellent service, wonderful atmosphere. The friendliest folks too, from front to back of the house. Enjoyed chatting late into the night with the crew, including Chef, and I didn’t get out of there until after 2am.

I have to say this was a total surprise for me, and a wonderful one at that. I loved how they do this place, bringing so much of the true spirit of Japan to Miami of all places. Even in LA or NYC this place would be a spectacular hit, but Chef chose to challenge this city instead. I wish him and his team a lot of luck, and it’s definitely a place worth a detour to enjoy a wonderful night!

Very, very highly recommended!

661 Brickell Key Drive
Brickell Key
Miami, Florida


3 thoughts on “Review: NAOE

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