Omakase at NAOE

What a great little place we ate at last week in Sunny Isles. It’s NAOE, and it features a master itamae named Kevin Cory.

After you finish the amazing bento presented by Chef Kevin Cory, you can eat sushi until you’ve had enough. But none of those lame and saucy sushi rolls you get at the Dragon Moon Sushi Bar down the road from your home.

Actually it’s a combo of sashimi and nigirizushi, and it’ll rock your world. No second-rate jobber seafood here – every ingredient is deliberately chosen and ordered, from wherever it makes sense.

Above is Chef Kevin Cory slicing some Scottish Salmon to make nigiri. It was wonderful and had a light brushing of soy sauce.

Here’s the bento box prepared by Chef Cory – looks amazing right?

I started with the Chawanmushi. A simple egg custard featuring portabella mushrooms and stems of mitsuba, and with thick square chunks of cobia at the bottom. I hate to describe it as a combination of these ingredients because it hardly does justice to the flavor. It was a deep, creamy, mushroomy delight – better than any chawanmushi I can recall.

This exotic bento section was absolutely unique to my experience. A maine whelk, tsubugai, simmered in a sake was a first for me, but a bit more bland than I would have guessed. The cod milt, simmered in a soy pepper sauce, was so creamy I thought THIS is what uni aspires to.

Meanwhile, tucked away below that was a lightly tempura fried piece of whiting. And beside that, a fantastic spoonful of moromiso, perched atop a couple slices of yamaimo.

That last quadrant of the bento box would have sufficed, but there was much more goodness in store. Here we have the cobia sashimi, with nama wasabi ground just before serving.

But we’re also presented the true star – the kazunoko (herring roe) firm and fresh. Not to diminish the accompaniments – shiso leaf (a perennial favorite of ours with nearly any type of sashimi) and a flavorful bite of wakame seaweed.

Oh and don’t let the previous rambling convince you that the rice was ordinary. The sardine rice in the lower left compartment was masterfully executed. Not overpowering, not dull, just right.

No, all that drooling over the main chef’s choice dinner did not make me forget about the sushi. Here was perhaps my favorite (I’ll change my mind later, on another picture) – Live Scallop. Super fresh, with that delicate sweetness that I love.

As an uni lover I can tell you I was excited to see Chef Cory bring out a fresh box of Hokkaido uni! These small, red/orange wonders are creamy bits of bliss! Luckily for us, Chef Cory loads up nigiri with three uni sections.

In case you’re curious, the taste was sweet and clean. Pretty much everywhere else this side of the Pacific serves California uni, or the occasional Oregon or Chilean uni – typically big and yellow or gold colored and also very good.

But a trip to NAOE is a scarce opportunity to try the Hokkaido version, and should NOT be missed!

Chef Cory serves up Maine lobster nigiri as well. He boiled the tails earlier in the evening, and serves us these lovely lobster sushis that disappeared immediately after the photo.

Once again, freshness is the key word. Like uni, it is a requirement for enjoying oysters. These Kumamoto live oysters were perfect, served with a dash of soy and wasabi!

Chef cory also served up this Golden Ring Octopus from Portugal. These are not baby octopi, they are fully grown at this size. And I must say, more tender and flavorful than the typical purple octopus (madako) served at your neighborhood sushi bar.

Chef Cory used three different shoyu (soy sauces) in his preparations. His family has been involved in soy sauce production since 1825.

And yes, the night was still young when we snapped this photo. He wore down that wasabi rhizome considerably as the patrons ordered more and more sushi.

Here’s the freshly baked castella (also called kasutera カステラ) they served for dessert, a honey cake which is famous in Nagasaki. Also fresh fruit and mystery flavor ice cream. This kasutera was marvelous, and we took some home to boot; it was that good.

Also be sure to enjoy some of their fine sake, all brewed at their family brewery in Japan. We tried a fine ginjo sake that was reasonably priced and satisfied us without making us drunk.

Finally the bummer of the night. We were told that the tenants of this strip mall had to be out by late December. NAOE will shut the doors of this place in December, and will not re-open until some time early next year in Brickell Key. They have a nice location selected down by the Mandarin Oriental. We’ll give you a report from there next year!

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