Valentine's Dinner at Hiro's Yakko-San

Here is just one small reason why I love my wife. It's Valentine's Day, we have baby-sitting, and as we head out the door, the question is, "Where should we go?" After kicking around some options and even sidling into someplace that had a romantic Valentine's prix fixe menu, Mrs. F sets down her menu and says, "Let's go to Yakko-San." Let's indeed. Because a cozy spot at the bar and some Japanese tapas are all we need to have a wonderful night.

Hiro's Yakko-San is an izakaya-style restaurant in an unassuming strip-mall location in North Miami Beach. There's sushi-bar style seating with about a dozen seats, about 15-20 tables, and no real decoration to speak of unless you count a few TVs scattered around the place (usually showing whatever sporting event is in season). The menu lists something over 100 dishes, most various tapas-style small plates, plus there's always about a dozen or so daily specials and several fresh fish specials. There is sashimi (gloriously fresh) and onigiri but no nigiri, and no maki. If you want a deep-fried roll with four different kinds of fish and cream cheese, sorry, you'll have to go elsewhere (there's always Hiro's Sushi Express next door, take-out commodity sushi which is a different beast entirely).

Because most items are fairly modest portions and pretty reasonably priced, you can order several to assemble a meal. A snapshot from our "Valentine's Dinner" last night: tofu with kimchee, a great contrast between the cold, creamy tofu and the spicy, funky kimchee; negitoro tartare (a daily special), lush, rich toro diced with scallion, topped with a generous dollop of caviar, served over shiso leaves with strips of nori for wrapping up little DIY tartare tacos; grilled local shrimp (another special), served head-on, incredibly fresh, well-salted, needing nothing at all but a tiny squeeze of lemon (don't forget to suck on the heads); grilled half-dried squid, made even better with a dip in umami-rich Kewpie mayo spiced with togarashi (I love these things, the drying giving a concentrated flavor and a somewhat chewy, but not bouncy, texture); octopus nuta-ae, sliced thin in a way that somehow renders the octopus completely tender, served over chopped scallions and greens with a mustardy miso sauce; uni sashimi, a generous serving of at least a half-dozen sea urchin "tongues," with that wonderful briny essence-of-the-ocean-with-a-hint-of-sweet-apricot creaminess.

A perfect Valentines' night - they even gave Mrs. F a rose as we headed out.

Here's a longer list of some of the many things we've tried and enjoyed - this list was compiled over the course of a few years visiting, over that time some of these items have gone off the menu, and others that were specials have now found their way onto the regular menu - with stars on some of the favorites:

-spicy miso cod or sea bass*
-flash-fried bok choi*
-hamachi usuzukuri (very thin-sliced yellowtail sashimi, to which they'll add slivers of jalapeno and ponzu)
-kabocha tempura
-maitake mushroom tempura (sometimes on the specials)*
-hamachi kama (often a special - collar of a yellowtail broiled and served w/ ponzu; a little work, but worth it for the delicious meat)
-salmon kama & belly (occasional special - outrageously rich and fatty; you'll feel like a bear fattening up for winter)
- takoyaki! (octopus dumplings; and there's a waitress who always says it like this, with the exclamation point, whenever I order it)*
-nasu buto miso itame (sauteed pork w/ eggplant and miso)*
-spicy chile shrimp
-uni & ikura pasta
-fried chicken gizzards (not bad, but not sure what the point is)
-grilled pork belly (used to be a frequent special, now on the regular menu - little slivers, nice and crispy)
-sanma (like a big sardine, grilled whole including innards - sometimes a little dry but if you like strongly flavored silver-skinned fish like sardine or mackerel, etc. it's good)
-steak w/ garlic sauce
-tongue stew
- spicy manila clams (a semi-regular special)*
-grilled fiji shrimp (they haven't had these for a while, but when they are on the specials they are absolutely delicious)
-ikura onigiri (since they don't do regular sushi, this is as close as you can get - it's like a pyramid of sushi rice stuffed inside with salmon roe - or salmon or a couple other things - with a sheet of nori wrapped around it; almost as good are the little japanese pickles that come with it)
-salmon ocha zuke (over rice w/ green tea poured over it - very refreshing)* (no longer on the menu)
-okonomiyaki (they call it a japanese pizza - an odd omelette type concoction with cabbage, fish, fish flakes and mayo - really rich and an excellent late night munchie) (no longer on the regular menu)
-jack tataki
-jack nanbanzuke (sometime special - this was surprisingly good - jack, a somewhat strong-flavored fish, fried and served cold, sort of pickled with vinegar and peppers - almost exactly like a jamaican fish escovitch)
- kimpira gobo (sauteed burdock root)
- crispy fish & onion salad
- local octopus ceviche (occasional special)*
- black pork sausage (a favorite of our kids)
- motsuni (pork intestine stew, occasional special; not for everyone)*

It's always fun to watch the open kitchen, where 3-4 chefs make almost everything other than the fried or stewed items that come from a back kitchen. It was a beautiful thing to see one of the chefs start to slice a loin of tuna and then, amidst all the chaos of a busy kitchen and full house, just stare at it intently for a minute while assessing his plan of attack. Yakko-San is open late (2am weekdays, 3am Fri-Sat) and you will frequently find local chefs and other restaurant biz folks there late or on their off-nights.

UPDATED: Yakko-San has moved, note new address below. Also, to avoid confusion, note that there is another restaurant along the 163rd St. Causeway called "Hiro." That is not Hiro's Yakko-San and is not asssociated with Yakko-San. Yakko-San is in the Intracoastal Mall, just west of the bridge over to Sunny Isles, right next to the Old Navy store.

Hiro's Yakko-San
3881 NE 163rd St.
North Miami Beach, FL
305.947.0064

Hiro's Yakko-San on Urbanspoon


Comments

  1. Congratulations Fro!

    So happy to see you're doing a blog. Please let the kids post too. I've always wondered if they might add their own, unique perspective to all of your restaurant visits.

    Bravo!

    AG

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's an awesome idea. I think the chowpups would get a real kick out of it.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Great blog, Frod. Really love to hear your opinions. I have to admit I haven't been to Hiro's much since Marumi opened in Broward, but YS does do some things a lot better (and vice versa).

    PS - Nothing like sucking on a shrimp head!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Always great at Hiro's, and always on point Frod! Check me out at: http://twoteaktables.blogspot.com/
    http://measuringmiami.blogspot.com/
    http://printinrichardson.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete

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