Call me a snob if you must, but when you can buy a dish at your local gas station, it kind of loses its luster in my eyes. There is probably no better example of this than sushi. Once deemed something exotic and only for the adventurous eater, now it seems like sushi has become as exciting as a ham and cheese sandwich. Now, just like there are some pretty orgasmic ham and cheese sandwiches out there, there continue to be otherworldly sushi experiences in the world, and even some in Miami. Nevertheless, the majority of sushi experiences can be likened to getting a media noche at a cafeteria. Give it whatever value you’d like. There doesn’t seem to be much in terms of innovation when it comes to sushi. The best sushi chefs stick to tradition and minimalism, and the midrange guys (and gals) can only pile so much onto a roll before it starts to resemble a Colombian hot dog. Sushi, it seems, has become old news...or so I thought. It turns out that the maki, temaki, and nigiri that we’re used to are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to presentations of seasoned rice and seafood. With all that being said, it is high time that we are introduced to the temari.
A temari is like a spherical nigiri - those little mounds of rice topped with anything from Japanese omelet to eel. Typically, some sushi chefs will add one or two of them to a boat or plate of sushi as a special visual treat, mostly because they’re a bit labor intensive to make. Most chefs who prepare them do so by placing a spoonful of rice on a sheet of plastic wrap, topping it with whatever inspires them, and twisting the plastic wrap to make a ball. As one can imagine, it’s not the most practical method, especially when compared to making maki (rolls).
Alex Perroni’s love of temari sushi is almost as great as his frustration with more traditional rolls, which have not only become played out but also grotesquely unwieldy. He saw one too many diner cutting pieces of sushi in half and realized that perhaps it was time to bring temari sushi to Miami. The time-consuming plastic wrap method, however, would not do, so he found a better way. With the help of some connections made in Japan, Perroni found out how to turn out trays of jewel-like temari sushi in close to a minute, and thus his sushi bar was born.
Temaris in Brickell is not what one would expect from a sushi bar. There are no paper lanterns or anything hinting at Japanese décor, and if you want a California roll, you’ll probably get a dirty look. The space is clean, modern, and casual with a look similar to frozen yogurt joint. Perroni intended his sushi bar to be accessible and quick - not really a bar, but more of a Japanese answer to Chipotle. While there are rolls available, it would be foolish to stray too far from this eatery’s namesake.
For anyone familiar with Japanese culinary culture, it is obvious that the Japanese eat first with their eyes, meaning that food must look visually appealing, and not in that “OMG this looks super yummy” kind of way. Food is supposed to be art. If one looks at maki, it is very difficult to achieve that sort of visual effect. Temaris, on the other hand, seem to be made for delighting the eyes! Instead of the elements being trapped within concentric layers of rice and nori, they are resting on top of beautiful globes of rice, and any garnish, sauce, or other flourish is added on top. Look up wagashi online, and you will get the idea of what temari sushi evokes.
In addition to the visual appeal, temaris offer just the perfect bite size. There is none of that stuffing your face and struggling to chew that is becoming too common in sushi bars, and there is definitely no need to cut anything in smaller pieces. In short, temaris are elegant! A perfect embodiment of just what this approach to sushi can be is sampled in Temaris’s Tokyo temari: eight globes of sushi rice topped with spicy tuna, almonds, tobiko, and a spicy sauce that is aptly described as a flavor explosion. Another creation, the Hot and Crispy, offers a bit of textural interest with crispy rice topped with spicy tuna or salmon, habanero, and a special sauce. Perhaps the most interesting temari, however, is the Machu Picchu made with minced ceviche and topped with an ají amarillo sauce. This Peruvian-Japanese fusion is perhaps the ideal combination for any fan of both sushi and ceviche.
The temaris here are so delightful to look at and to eat that they can overshadow the rest of the menu, which is actually very good for a restaurant this casual. It’s advisable, then, to try some of the non-sushi items before ordering the temaris, such as a good beef tataki with a well-balanced ponzu, crispy shallots, tobiko, and micro greens. A dish of tuna tartare, however, is definitely one thing that should not be missed. Deep maroon pieces of melty tuna are mixed with scallions, Haas avocados, and what tastes like a Sriracha-spiked sweet and spicy dressing. The tartare is served like nachos with baked chips that make this a rich and fun dish to eat.
Beverages include either hot or iced matcha tea that is made to order, as well as a sort of passionfruit and sake punch that gives the impression of a sangria and is definitely a perfect midday quencher as our days get increasingly hotter. Temaris is one of those eateries that brings foodies a spark of imagination just when they think something is over. For sushi lovers, sushi will never grow old. However, it is nice to know that there is somewhere in Miami where a sushi experience gives a seasoned aficionado the same kind of excitement as his first time.
1250 South Miami Avenue
Miami, FL 33130
Also check them out on facebook at www.facebook.com/TemarisMiami, and be sure to participate in the "Top Your Temaris" contest starting on May 9th.