I can’t remember a time where I felt judged by someone at a restaurant for choosing to dine off the Miami Spice menu. Hello, Katsuya.
Take a look around my blog; this isn’t my first rodeo. I dine out. A lot. At small mom & pop shops. At bucket-list worthy stops. E-VERY-WHERE. The staff’s hospitality left a lot to be desired. Honestly, it shouldn’t matter whether a guest is well-dined or not. I can’t stand the thought of someone else innocently stepping out of their comfort zone and into the restaurant hoping to take advantage of the Spice summer promotion as their big night out and being treated that poorly. No, just no.
Katsuya recently opened a second Miami location (the first is in South Beach) at the SLS Brickell. Dark and sultry interiors, intimate rooms sectioned off within the vast space, and the booming jams coming off the speakers set the vibe from the second my girlfriend and I set foot inside. We were welcomed warmly by the hostess and escorted to our table. That’s where the hospitality ended.
The waiter arrived and happily welcomed us at first. He immediately jumped into a lengthy explanation on the “art” of dishes coming out as they are ready. You know, that way there is no “... downtime waiting for the next course. You are always trying something new,” he explained. I must have dozed off, given I’ve heard the spiel so many times. “Do you understaaaaaand?” he leaned in and asked slowly as if we didn’t speak the language, or perhaps couldn’t hear him properly. I nodded quizzingly and requested the Miami Spice menu. Dun, dun, dun!
His entire demeanor changed for the rest of the night. “You know the portions will be very small, right?” he cautioned, as he made a circle with both thumbs and index fingers to better show me what small meant. “Well, it’s a good thing there’s another menu I can order from if I stay hungry,” I replied.
What I tried:
The Soba Shiitake Salad (buckwheat soba and Asian mushroom ponzu) delivered a tangy punch and that comforting taste of well-cooked noodles. My friend’s (Jackman Florida) American Wagyu NY Strip also arrived nicely prepared with a combination of spinach, puffed buckwheat, and wasabi-brown butter, in beef jus. The biggest standout for me, however, was the Salty Samurai dessert. I didn’t want the salted caramel ice cream, and candied popcorn mix to end.
The portions were on the smaller side compared to other restaurants. Don’t fall for my photos. I tend to photograph up close.
The Kakuni Tonkatsu (Kurobuta pork belly + carrot puree, heirloom carrot salad) fell short. The outside, breaded and deep-fried, concealed the almost dried-out pork inside. I didn’t dislike the overall taste, but it resembled more of an egg roll. The usual decadent taste and tender texture of a Kurobuta pork belly was missing.
My Lobster Robata suffered the same fate. The claws were perfect, but the rest arrived unevenly cooked, and mostly dry.
During dinner, our charming waiter and friends stood nearby seemingly smirking and looking over to our table. Part humorous, and part junior high, I thought I must have imagined or surely misinterpreted their behavior. I’ve heard diners complain about similar encounters at restaurants (a Miami Spice urban legend, I thought), but I always wrongly dismissed it thinking they must have misread the situation or perhaps felt intimidated by an upscale restaurant. While not all restaurants embrace this promotion (and I understand the hesitation), most have changed their outlook. I find the new Miami Spice era now welcomes diners during the slower summer months, use it to their benefit, engage patrons, and entice some to become regulars.
Within seconds of paying the bill (where the tip was, of course, included) our table was cleared of everything. Not one single item left. Water glasses and drinks included. Not even the candle. I had to laugh. We weren’t even worthy of the friggin’ candle! I stopped a waiter midway as he lifted my friend’s drink off the table and confirmed with her that she was, in fact, done with it. “Oh, sorry, are you done with this? May I clear it?” he finally said. We were obviously overstaying our welcome in their eyes. Really, all we did was sit and wait for valet to text us when our cars were ready. This meant our head waiter came by twice to ask if there was anything else we needed and, wait for it, rolled his eyes as he walked away. It’s not like they needed the table, several tables still sat vacant near us. In hindsight, I should have asked for my water glass back; I really did feel thirsty. But I was also done interacting with him and now am officially done with Katsuya. Dine at your own risk, friends.
8, SE 8th St
Miami, FL 33131