Shima Japanese – Miami Lakes, FL

Shima Japanese Restaurant in Miami LakesRating: ★★★★☆Shima Japanese Restaurant
16873 NW 67th Ave
Hialeah, FL 33015
(305) 821-2310

In yet another unassuming shopping center in North Miami there is a place called Shima Japanese that is well worth trying. The neon sign on the shopping center facade simply says “Sushi”, belying the core strength of this place – the kitchen. The hot kitchen items are wonderful here! The kitchen seems a bit slow at times, but food comes out cooked masterfully every time – certainly the result of employing a perfectionist in the kitchen.

Delicious Ramen

Delicious Ramen at Shima Japanese

Overall this place has a great ambiance. The kaiten sushi is always a fun experience for all. And the all-Japanese staff is friendly, knowledgeable and capable, despite being located in an area not exactly known for Japanese cuisine. But the sushi, surprisingly, is not impressive here; more on that later.

Yes you’re reading the Sushi Pro blog. Yet we often fail to acknowledge the variety and quality of other Japanese foods. We’re reminded of this shortcoming when we visit a place like Shima Japanese. But most of their patrons will be drawn to the kaiten sushi, like moths to a flame, and fail to discover the treats on the menu’s second page.

Pork KatsuWhen you go, and you should, order pork katsu. This fried item is fabulous, and the appetizer portion is a steal. In fact many of their hot food prices are great deals. This one is a good value, cooked perfectly and a must try item.

The kitchen fare here seems to be top notch without exception. They serve a mean ramen, although tonkatsu ramen was not an option.

Ramen is an important benchmark of kitchen quality, just as the sushi rice is the quintessential measure of a sushi chef’s skills. We tested and proved beyond all doubt that there is no way for mere mortals to simply eat a few noodles and sip only one spoonful of the hearty ramen broth and leave it at that. It’s superbly addictive, as only a top ramen can be.


Takoyaki is superb here, made to order.

Make no mistake though, this is no ramen shop. There are just too many other great hot dishes to come here to eat ramen every time. Case in point – takoyaki! This classic treat that’s uncommon in the West is made to order as it should be, so it’s always steaming hot and soft.

For those who don’t know about this treat, don’t be put off by the description of it as a breaded, fried octopus ball. It’s a more delicate version of a conch fritter; batter fried using a rice flour and small strips of octopus that will become tender but still a bit chewy.

Gyoza at Shima JapaneseMost of the seating is around the perimeter of the kaiten sushi area, where small wooden boats with food items on colored plates circle endlessly. There are three different price groups for the sushi, and they include most of the usual items. The dishes are a bit more expensive than Katana sushi, and not as good.

Unfortunately we must report that the sushi here is mediocre. What was so wrong with the sushi you ask? The rice was lame. The rolls selection is boring. The presentation is fair, but hardly makes up for badly executed basics.

Uni gunkan sushi

Gunkan style Uni sushi

Their rice is simply not cooked properly, not seasoned and not, well tasty. Sushi rice must be cooked until barely soft and quickly cooled and vinegared to become very sticky. That allows the sushi chef to not use much and not pack it tightly to make it stick. And really, it must be seasoned.

If the rice is bad, nothing you can do later can make up for it. Nigiri fall apart and don’t taste right somehow, and nothing will quite seem great regardless of anything.

Now as it happens the current sushi chef is not cutting the fish well, unless you like all your neta to be perfectly squared, uniformly thick slices. Fact is, some fish must be sliced thinner than others, and some effort should be made to get as much surface area as possible for the thickness you’re aiming for. And back to beating our dead horse, the rice should be a small, tasty package that sticks together, and these nigiri exhibited none of those characteristics.

Okay to be fair, there were some small sushi victories we should credit the restaurant with. The uni we’ve tried has been fresh, orange and wonderful. And unlike the nigiri, the proportion of rice here seems just right. In fact most of the toppings seem to be good, a tribute to someone there.

And we’d be remiss if we failed to mention an unusual item lurking in the sushi list – whelk. This creature is like a giant version of a snail that lives in the water. It’s rarely served in restaurants, so we were excited to see it offered here. It is in fact tough, like conch, and begs for the skin to be scored to reduce the “chewiness” factor. It was presented as thickly cut nigiri served with a tiny slice of lemon. We would have preferred it thinly sliced and served in ponzu.

Overall, despite the bitching, this place gets high marks for a kitchen that simply cannot be denied. Well worth visiting, and relatively inexpensive to boot. A return trip is in order for the near future!

Rating: ★★★★☆

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