Itamae, as far as we’re concerned, is the center of Miami’s raw fish universe, and the city’s best example of the tongue-melting powers of Nikkei food, a cuisine that blends Peruvian and Japanese influences into dishes like ceviche, tiradito, sushi, and much more.
And here is a small list of things we’ve eaten at the Design District restaurant that made us want to buy the entire kitchen Tempur-Pedic mattresses and a fancy white noise machine so they wake up every morning refreshed and ready to cook more of this stuff:
A roasted kanpachi collar with paper-thin skin that cracks like glass, revealing meat so soft and tender it tastes like a Dolly Parton ballad.
Striped bass ceviche swimming in a punchy ají limo that makes the inside of your mouth feel like the beat from "Get Ur Freak On."
Conchitas a la parmesana with a hat of blistered cheese so supple and plump it looks a little like Toad from Super Mario.
A passion fruit, lemon verbena, and yuza cremolada that is a three-act play of salty, sour, and sweet flavors that no amount of food adjectives can prepare your tongue for.
Unfortunately, we can’t promise that you’ll encounter these same dishes, because Itamae is one of those places where the menu changes almost daily, based on seasonality, available ingredients, and the da Vinci-esque imaginations of the people in the kitchen. But we can make one guarantee as to what you’re in for on any given visit: one of the best seafood experiences in Miami. That, first and foremost, is why you should make a reservation before you even get to the next paragraph.
But other delightful bonuses of Itamae include some lovely outdoor seating in a sunny courtyard surrounded by pretty architecture. And because it's in the heart of the Design District, there's also hilariously over-the-top influencer watching, and generously-spaced tables (so the influencers hopefully won't hear you making fun of them).
The restaurant is remarkably customizable for lots of situations too—casual enough for a quick lunch in gym shorts, but also highly appropriate for any sort of special occasion that calls for a bottle of wine, a supernatural tiradito, and the hands-down best dessert menu in Miami (there are usually two options—order them both). The terrazzo sushi counter inside is a great place to dine solo or with a friend while listening to hip-hop, drinking sake, and fighting over the last bite of that tiradito (but head's up: they sometimes close indoor dining when Covid cases are surging).
There are lots of ways to do Itamae, but the greater point we're trying to make is: just go. Like, now. Or tomorrow at the very latest. And when it’s all said and done, you too will leave with your own personal list titled: Things I Ate At Itamae That Changed My Life.
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The menu at Itamae changes frequently, but here are a few examples of the kind of dishes you might find here.
This is truly the platonic ideal of ceviche. Every element works—from the crunchy cancha to the perfect fish to the ají that should absolutely be slurped off the plate.
Conchitas A La Parmesana
We are a bit jealous of this Hokkaido scallop. Not only does it get wrapped snugly in seaweed, but it also gets a beautiful little hat of bubbly, melted parmesan. That parmesan overflows onto the plate, so give these a quick swirl to ensure maximum parmesan, which also happens to be a great band name.
Baby Dutch Potatoes
These soft little potatoes come swimming in a green sauce made from shishito, egg, and preserved lemon. It’s tough to branch out from seafood here, but these are a worthy carb to have on the table.
Aori Ika Tiradito
This is the most visually stunning dish we've ever had at Itamae—and one of the most delicious. So, if it wasn't already clear, order this if it's on the menu. The fermented ají limo is just spicy enough to make your forehead tingle, and it also seeps into the slits that are carved into each delicate piece of squid with surgical precision.
photo credit: Photo Courtesy Itamae
The collar tends to be where all the best meat is hiding on the fish, and Itamae proves it with this dish. The skin gets torched so it’s nice and crispy when it hits the table, and it comes with rice served cold and a large dollop of a garlic/citrus green sauce that should be involved in every bite.
You'll feel slightly guilty disassembling this tower of thinly-sliced octopus, avocado, botija olive, and sarza criolla. However, that guilt will quickly be replaced by a desire to sprint into the kitchen and hug the person who made this. (Don't do that, please.) The octopus is tender, the finely-diced sarza criolla provides a citrusy crunch, and you can really taste the botija olive in each bite.
photo credit: FujiFilmGirl
Dessert is non-negotiable at Itamae, especially the cremolada, which defies all dessert logic by being sour, sweet, and savory all at once. It’s truly a dessert made for Miami, because it's refreshing enough to eat on a 90 degree night.