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AIJÓ, Sushi Bar & Lounge

a Nuevo-Japanese contemporary restaurant, downtown Miami

1331 Brickell Bay Drive Miami


 
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By simone Zarmati Diament

AIJÓ, a stylish 70-seat indoor/outdoor restaurant with a Japanese-style VIP room for 8 and a terrace off the lobby of the luxurious JADE building, one of the newest towers in the Brickell area, is the brainchild of owner René Buroz.

A lawyer in his native Caracas, Venezuela, René is also a restaurateur whose passion for Japanese food led him to create AIJÓ’s sophisticated contemporary Japanese fusion menu in his three Aijó restaurants, in Caracas, now in Miami, and a project in Palm Beach.   AIJÓ in Japanese means love. And this is, he says, what fueled his several trips to Japan to study from the masters, and has led him to serve as a culinary judge in his native Venezuela’s fine dining and cooking competitions.

The all-white minimalistic yet chic interior is the setting for a burst of flavors and an unbridled culinary creativity which pushes the boundaries of traditional, high-end Japanese gastronomy into the realm of Nuevo-Latino and Middle Eastern ingredients.

At the bar, Venezuelan mixologist Narayana Dervasi — a champion in bartending 2 champagnecompetitions in Venezuela and also the bartender at Aijó Caracas — creates innovative cocktails that pair with many of the foods, such as the vodka-based Apple martini with apple liqueur and a splash of yuzu, the tropical Special Tamarind Aijo, or the Shiso Mojito, and manages an extensive list of champagnes, sakes and an international wine list.

In the hands of capable chefs Cristian Bonilla — until recently sous chef at Zuma — and  his staff (all formerly from Zuma’s kitchen) and Jorge Olmos — Aijó’s sous-chef in Caracas who says he finds Miami a paradise for ingredients — the menu offers new tastes with an element of surprise in each; from the umami depth and mystery of Japanese ingredients and sauces to the fireworks of crunchy textures and the fire of Latin chiles.

Starting with the cold appetizers — ceviches, tatakis and oysters ($15 - $22) — all the dishes can be shared, like the Reneboy ($12), one of the signature rolls, with crispy  rice, smoked salmon, crunchy sweet walnut eel topping, which delivered an amazing depth of taste with cleanliness in the palate and an addictive crunch. So does the Crocante Aijo ($14), a rice crisp roll stuffed with crab, salmon, masago and topped with “dynamite topping.” Pork belly Aijo, slowly cooked for 32 hours is served with a sweet and sour sauce and fresh citrus, but Aijo Kani (MP) takes the kudos with King crab legs over a bed of shaved almonds, truffled almond butter and citrus foam.

Hot appetizers include Fried chicken lollipops ($12) covered in sesame seeds that pop in the mouth and spiked with in a sweet spicy soy and hot mustard sauce; and gyoza pork dumplings with a surprising wasabi goat cheese filling ($14). Then comes a long list of rolls ($14 - $18) — to share or as entrée, all named after members of the family of the creator of the roll— and the entrees.

The list goes on from wakame-based unusual salads ($10-$12) and tiraditos ($12) to sushi, rolls, temaki and sashimi served on slabs of stone; followed by  robatas (grilled meat or fish) such as a delicious 8 oz tenderloin on spicy sauce with micro-greens salad ($34), a 24 oz Masako bone-in rib eye with a side of truffle explosion and a buttery ponzu (MP) as well as other cuts of beef.

Desserts follow, if one still wants to indulge after this feast of tastes. What we had was pedestrian fare but we are told that the list is a work in progress.

It would take many visits to Aijó to get a taste of each item on the menu. So the restaurant offers tasting menus: a 6-course ($75) or an 8-course plus two desserts ($145); and a VIP 12-course meal in the VIP room with your own server and butler ($225)

AIJÓ or love — like parental love, strict but all-encompassing — is the philosophy behind each dish, including the highest quality ingredients and the exceptional service.

While there is plenty of parking spots in the street, valet parking is available. The restaurant hosts a daily happy hour Monday-Friday 3:00-6:00pm with 2 for 1 cocktail specials as well as a Thursdays Ladies night.

Aijo is open daily for lunch: Monday-Friday 12:00-3:00pm and Dinner: Sunday-Wednesday 6:00-12:00am & Thursday-Saturday 6:00-2:00am.  1331 Brickell Bay Drive Miami, FL 33131


 

 

1 interior AIJO, suhi bar and lounge
1331 Brickell Bay Drive Miami, FL 33131
in the JADE Building.

open daily for lunch: Monday-Friday 12:00-3:00pm and Dinner: Sunday-Wednesday 6:00-12:00am & Thursday-Saturday 6:00-2:00am.  

Menu is also available for delivery