The goods: Sleek Asian cuisine lands in Bal Harbour with the opening of Makoto, Stephen Starr’s twentieth restaurant and his second in Florida joining Steak 954 at the W Fort Lauderdale. Starr, who’s famously known for his mega-eateries Buddakan and Morimoto in New York, named this one for its chef, Makoto Okuwa, who was executive sushi chef at Morimoto in New York and Philadelphia.
Ambience: The secluded, wood-paneled eatery occupies a quiet space at the south end of the Bal Harbour Shops, providing a handsome counterpoint to the ladies-who-lunch scene at the mall. There are ample choices for seating: the outdoor patio with views of pricey sports cars, the soaring indoor dining room with rustic communal tables and cushy booths, the twelve-seat sushi bar overlooking the glass-enclosed open kitchen and a small outdoor courtyard.
The grub: Modern Japanese cuisine. Chef Makoto incorporates a few Western riffs with ingredients like caviar, foie gras and quail eggs. Prices are relatively gentle given the posh setting: starters are $6-$17, rolls are $7-$14 and rice and noodle dishes average $14. For high rollers, a 26-ounce bone-in wagyu rib-eye runs $90.
Start things off with Japanese tapas like roasted shisito peppers and black edamame sprinkled with sea salt. Offerings from the robata charcoal grill include chicken meatballs topped with poached quail eggs and tiger prawns brushed with yuzu butter. The Makoto ramen is pure Japanese comfort food with a tangle of noodles swimming in a beef broth spiked with ground steak and chiles. Elegant mains include a braised black cod accompanied by shiitake mushrooms and burdock root and Kurobuta pork belly with micro chives and pork cracklings. The Kobe beef is presented on a hot stone that guests use to cook the meat tableside.
Desserts include mochi ice cream “dumplings” in flavors like mango and strawberry and an Asian take on molten chocolate cake filled with a yuzu miso custard.
Verdict: Innovative Japanese cuisine in a plush setting proves a worthy addition to the Bal Harbour Shops.