USD 10,000 per month to eat sushi: Miami prepares for a members-only Japanese restaurant

Prawn cocktail for this Christmas (ShutterStock)

When top Japanese chefs and restaurateurs expand to the United States, they invariably head to NY. Just look at the crowded counters at Yoshino, Odo and Sushi Nakazawa.

However, when Samuel and José Tcherassi approached Hidefumi Namba, the revered shokunin or artisan behind Tokyo’s Sushi Namba, with just eight seats and access only by references, The brothers and debut restaurateurs did not offer him a luxurious residence in Manhattan. Instead, they made a bold proposal: open in Miami.

Namba counter-proposed his own idea to them. If he was going to expand to Florida, the space should have a bar. And not just any drinking establishment, but a members-only US branch of Bar Cocktailante Oboro, the place in Tokyo run by his friend Shunta Yamakawa that serves exceptional fruit-based elixirs, which support digestion.

Blue Ribbon Sushi Bar & Grill
Credit: @eatblueribbonmiami

The deal was closed and next summer, the Tcherassi brothers and Namba will open the multi-concept Ura, a 157-square-meter space that will include Namba Sushi and the Listening Room, a jazz lounge that will also host Cocktailante Oboro. Ura will be located in a building with restricted access in Allapattaha rising arts neighborhood northwest of downtown Miami.

To eat at Sushi Namba and drink in the Listening Room, Miami residents will first have to pay a membership fee of USD 10,000. That cost will give them access to monthly seating at the sushi counter, as well as the bar and jazz lounge. The price of the sushi omakase will be between USD 400 to USD 500 per person. The Tcherassi brothers say they will limit the number of members to around 300 and have already begun accepting reservations.

Sushi (Shutterstock)
Sushi (Shutterstock)

The surprising fee doesn’t make Sushi Namba Miami’s first members-only Japanese spot with a $10,000 fee. Major Food Group (MFG) already operates ZZ’s Club there, with a $10,000 initiation fee and $3,500 annual membership. (Namba will not require an annual membership.)

The trend of private restaurants and bars is taking off in the United States. In October, MFG announced the launch of ZZ’s Club in New York at a cost of $30,000 for new members; Earlier this year, NYC also became home to the reference-only whiskey distillery, Beatbox.

Members-only dining rooms and bars are well established in Japanas well as referral venues where a prospective diner needs to be accompanied by a member or have a referral from a regular attendee.

Image of a skilled chef skillfully preparing sushi in a restaurant, highlighting oriental culinary craftsmanship.  A visual representation of creativity and freshness in gastronomy.  (Illustrative image Infobae)
A chef meticulously preparing sushi (Illustrative image Infobae)

John Hirai, one of Tabelog’s top critics, says that by choosing customers, operators can better control dining experiences. For highly sought-after restaurants with only eight seats or so, “chefs want customers who visit repeatedly, who respect them, respect other customers, and several other factors depending on the chef,” he notes.

The Tcherassi brothers agree: They say opening an expensive members-only venue will result in a better guest experience. Once Namba knows its customers, it will be able to personalize the experience, a common practice in Japan. In fact, there’s a word for it there: omotenashi is the Japanese approach to hospitality for hosts whose work goes above and beyond.

food, root, root, Japanese origin - (Illustrative Image Infobae)
(Illustrative Image Infobae)

The Tcherassis chose Miami for the ambitious project because it is their hometown (it is the base for the family’s luxury dress label, Silvia Tcherassi) but Samuel believes the city is now ready for “a world-class talent like Namba.” saint”. He adds that he hopes Ura inspires more Japanese chefs and operators to open in Miami.

According to Tabelog, the respected Japan-based restaurant rating site, Sushi Namba in Ginza is the fifth best place for sushi in Tokyo and the seventh best in all of Japan. Namba has distinguished itself among Tokyo’s sushi elite thanks to its obsessive focus on temperature control of its sushi service.

The chef serves each piece of nigiri, both fish and rice, at the exact temperature that he believes optimally enhances each ingredient. He arranges 23°C otoro (fatty tuna belly) over 40°F rice; At these temperatures, Namba explains, the fat from the tuna melts into the rice, while the vinegar that seasons the rice balances the richness of the fish. On the other hand, bonito is best served at 22°F, placed over rice at 37°F.

Namba, who says he has dreamed of expanding to a “beautiful city [que] The weather is always good,” he plans for Miami’s menu to be the same as Tokyo’s. Her former main apprentice Yuma Takanashi will run the American counter and will be present for a month for the opening, and then a week each quarter thereafter. Back in Japan, the chef will choose the fish from the Toyosu Market that the team flies back to Miami three times a week (estimates that 90% of the ingredients used in Ura’s menu will be from Japan).

Although the chef calls his style Edomae (traditional sushi that relies on marinated and preserved fish), he doesn’t age his seafood. Diners can expect about seven small appetizers before moving on to about 15 nigiri. He promises to offer two of his signature starters: monkfish liver sashimi marinated in soy sauce and braised red bream accented with negi, similar to green onion.

The space is being designed by Colombia-based 5 Sólidos, using only a few high-quality materials such as stone, wood and concrete. (It’s “inspired by sushi itself,” José says.) Up front will be a ten-seat hinoki wood sushi counter, with an additional four-seat private nook, overlooking a small garden dotted with rocks and bonsai trees. Beyond will be the Listening Room, equipped with an Audio Note analog tube audio system designed by Soundlux Audio, with custom speakers by Devon Turnbull. The space will also serve as a cocktail lounge with baskets of seasonal Japanese and domestic fruits, as well as a wall of premium spirits. Pick your fruit, pick his spirit, and Kazuki Yonekawa, Yamakawa’s main apprentice, will get to work making your cocktail.

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