Red Ginger- Restaurant Review (Miami)

Friday, January 29, 2016

Red Ginger Japanese Asian cuisine maki sushi robata sake
Onyx bar at Red Ginger

On a cold winter night in Miami standards (50 degrees) a group of friends and I ventured to Red Ginger restaurant SoFi (South of Fifth street) in South Beach. On a quick note, SoFi is blossoming with new restaurants that are outside the encapsulated tourist trap of Ocean Drive and Collins Avenue in the heart of South Beach.  Top chefs helm the kitchens and often the entire operations. 

Upon entering, the dim lighting and gradual descending walkway, the decor draws from the modern, natural and ancient-inspired worlds. 

Red Ginger Asian restaurant South Beach


Greeting us upon arrival was the filigree signage of stainless steel atop a shimmering shell wall- covering from the Philippines adorned with brass sea urchins.  Handsome wood-carved panels, onyx bar and soft leather seats, soothes, relaxes and elevates the dining experience.  Now for the food and drink.


Dining Room Red Ginger


THE MENU

The menu is broken into six sections as listed below. If you are not familiar with these terms, I provided a brief explanation of each.
Izakaya - variety of small bites
Robata- grilled meats or vegetables
Seafood- Familiar foods: salmon, sea bass, lobster or prawns
Maki- rolls of sushi
Sushi/Sashimi 

IZAKAYA

While listed first on the menu, Izakaya does not translate to "appetizer". Traditionally they were Japanese drinking establishments where men went after work to drink sake or beer and food was served to accompany the drinks. With changing times, as women entered the workforce, they also frequented the Izakayas.  The term for appetizer is otōshi.

From this section we ordered the chili garlic edamame. Absolutely delicious and spicy! The warm garlic and spicy chili offered an oozing warmth following by a nice kick.

garlic chili edamame Japanese cuisine
Garlic Chili Edamame

ROBATA

Robata means "fire-side" cooking in Japanese.  It's really fire-side grilling.  While many foodies immediately associate sushi with Japanese cooking history, robata grilling actually has a much longer culinary tradition.  Old homes in Japan had a dug out pit in the center of the home with burning coals for the tea kettle for the traditional tea ceremony.  The same technique was used for cooking.  It is the glowing heat from the coals, not flames, that cooks the food. The same coals were wrapped in foil and placde in boxes to keep food warm for fisherman. Boats were made of wood, so building a fire to cook was not possible. 

So an authentic Robata restaurant should not have flames and fire on the grill. It makes for fun and eye-catching presentation but takes away from the intended flavors. If you get the flames (you get them because of the grease from the meat) it actually makes the food taste scorched. Whereas the whole point of the technique is to get the juices to drip out from the ingredients and cause that little puff of smoke to enhance the flavor of the food.

From the robata, we selected  the Cauliflower, the Broccolini and the Hanger steak served with a  kale chimichurri.   

robata grilled cauliflower Japanese cuisine
Cauliflower with cucumber relish, pickled grilled onion, and ginger ponzu

The Cauliflower and Broccolini were excellent. The former looked scorched and we wondered do they use flames or charcoals? But after the first bite, the tester gave a thumbs up.  The broccoli, rich in green color, was evenly- grilled to perfection. 

On a roll with winners, sadly the steak did not meet our expectations.  While tasty, it lacked robust flavor. A lover of the Cuban chimichurri, the kale component dulled the hero ingredients of the Chimichurri.  However, the sauteed bed of kale leaves was surprisingly the best item on the serving plate. We feverishly scraped up every leaf.


MAKI

Maki means "roll" and here it is a sushi roll that includes toasted seaweed nori rolled a round vinegar-flavored rice and filled with raw seafood and vegetables. 

A hosomaki is a "thin roll". The common ones are cucumber rolls or tuna rolls.



A futomaki is a "fat roll"and is usually made with several ingredients and can be as much as 1.5 inches (4 centimeters) in diameter. It's often vegetarian and filled with sprouts, fried egg, and daikon radish.  


A uramaki is an inside out roll where the rice is rolled on the outside of the ingredients and may be dipped in sesame seeds or fish roe.

Salmon and avocado uramaki rolled in fish eggs

SASHIMI

Is a Japanese delicacy of very fresh raw meats or seafood cut in very thin slices. 

Sushi/Sashimi platter from Red Ginger

Relying on the sushi palate of my friends, it was unanimous the sushi was not the freshest seafood.  But it was acceptable. 

SEAFOOD

We went with the lobster pad thai and I thoroughly enjoyed this bowl of noodles, roasted pineapple and peanuts, plantain citrus and tamari. Subtle but tasty and light.  Great presentation.  This was my favorite dish next to the edamame entry. 



At this time I felt like a panda bear ready for a nap. Those small dishes pile up. Unfortunately we did not have a chance to sample the Shrimp Tempura which was also recommended with black truffle sauce.  Next time!

Thank you to my discerning friends who have enjoyed sushi in various parts of the world. Their input was valuable for this post.  We look forward to visiting and reviewing other restaurants in SoFi!

Sandra and Christine


Ceci and Richard


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