Meet Shuji Hiyakawa, a Walking Miami Gem

February 21, 2018Janel Allen

Chef Shuji Hiyakawa, like much of Miami’s best culture, isn’t from here. He came to the U.S. about 10 years ago from Japan’s southern region, packed with the authentic recipes of his home country. He honed his skills from Los Angeles to Philadelphia under the wing of famed Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto. A prodigy in his own right, he helmed Kura at the Seminole Hard Rock and Dashi at the former River Yacht Club. Now, he’s built his own home in Miami’s Eastside: Wabi Sabi by Shuji.

A Great Pair.

A man of that caliber comes with a certain level of skill and understanding of tradition. You can find Shuji Hiyakawa behind the counter, diligently cutting fresh ingredients or brainstorming creative pairings. He’s the kind of chef you always want walking you through the complex flavors of an even more complex culture. His counterpart, Maggie Hyams is a breath of fresh air. Welcoming and friendly, she’s the perfect balance to Shuji’s traditional roots.

‘Wabi-sabi’ means ‘accepting incomplete perfection’. Here, there are no frills or dishes doused in sauce. Everything is straightforward and, pun intended, raw. The place, and even their menu is a perfect marriage between learned skills and collective acceptance. Local artwork is generously exhibited on the walls, the intricately perfected dishware is Japan-made by most celebrated craftspeople. Even the rarity of their green tea, a loose leaf variety from Shuji’s hometown doesn’t come as a surprise.

Tasting Traditions.

Not to be confused with the current poke trend, Shuji’s Wabi Sabi is all about authentic Japanese sushi bowls. The execution is all about the freshness of ingredients and gets straight to the point of flavor. No marinade to hide behind. Only fresh tuna, salmon, real crab, and more. Every level of every bite is made in-house, even picking some of the produce from their garden out back. From noodles and bowls, to cold-pressed juice, there’s something for every level of spontaneity.

Many people might get intimidated by only four bowl options, but each one can yield over 16 flavor combinations. It also eliminates the risk of lowering the standard of quality by allowing themselves to focus on what’s important: fresh fish. The protein in question is even imported directly from Hiyakawa’s home country. Everything from himachi to scallops can be found on the menu, even an adventurous omakase bowl that changes every day.

A Neighborhood Home.

The new Japanese outpost opened to the public on January 5th and has seen a solid cult following since. It was instantly beloved by neighbors and locals alike, which is always a good sign. The moment you walk in, the attention to detail is striking. You’re surrounded by furniture, decor items, and concepts that were all handmade by Chef Shuji himself. Even the origami on the wall was folded by the staff and Shuji’s family. The man’s talents and dedication to eco-friendly sustainability knows no limit.

The next time you’re craving something fresh and straight to the point, make sure Wabi Sabi by Shuji is top of the list. See you there!

Photos by FujiFilm Girl.