The Den, a private omakase inside South Beach’s Azabu, is a member of a rapidly expanding community of Miami restaurants, the $200-plus sushi omakase. And these dinners all must do one thing in order to justify their membership in this very expensive club: knock your metaphorical socks off with ultra-fresh, masterfully prepared seafood and/or an experience that makes you feel like the most important person on earth for one night.
The Den mostly meets these expectations, occasionally flickers above them, and—for a few moments—sinks below them.
The Den’s biggest strength is its food. With the exception of a dessert that feels like an afterthought, there is no flat-out disappointing dish in the 20-course dinner. Instead, The Den’s brief moments of weakness happen at the beginning of the meal, before anything has been served.
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At first glance, the private wooden box that houses The Den does feel like the kind of unique space perfect for an intimate omakase. It is completely secluded from the regular dining room, covered in neat rows of sleek wood from floor to ceiling. But when you sit down, the layout of the room begins to feel awkward. It’s too big to strike up a conversation with your roughly 15 fellow diners, yet small enough to overhear every word they say. Service feels rushed at the start—there really isn’t any sort of formal explanation about the dinner that’s about to take place. All of a sudden you look down and there are a couple slices of Japanese seabass with a delicious roasted sake reduction in front of you. The meal just sort of starts.
But after 15 or 20 minutes, once you’ve had enough time to relax, have a little sake, and try a few dishes, The Den hits its groove. Not every plate is an emotional firework, but there are enough of the necessary flavor lightning bolts one expects from an expensive omakase. Impossibly tender otoro, dabs of fresh wasabi placed neatly underneath thin strips of flounder, a pine straw smoked salmon nigiri that has a perfect whisper of campfire flavor—all constructed with some of the best sushi rice we’ve ever encountered. These food moments do happen at The Den. Multiple times.
And if you are on a mission to tick your way through the best of Miami’s omakase community, The Den is a reservation to make along the way. It earns its spot in that club.
Like most of Miami’s most expensive sushi omakase restaurants, The Den’s menu is constantly changing. Our visit saw a 20-course menu that lasted about two hours. If nigiri is always your favorite part of an omakase, you’ll enjoy this menu. Nigiri made up 10 of our 20 courses, the highlight being a tuna tasting of three nigiri ranging from lean to unbelievably fatty otoro. Dessert, a very forgettable yuzu lime tart, was the only “whatever” course. Dinner here did leave us just a little shy of full, though. Guests do have the option to order additional bites of whatever they loved the most at the end of the meal, but at an additional charge per piece.