Wine & Dine: When in South Beach, do as the Shogun

For the past two years, a striking, sophisticated, sushi Shangri-La has been waiting for the true seeker of divine dining to discover. A pleasant stroll down the west end of Lincoln Road may perhaps (if you’re lucky) lead you to the doors of Doraku. Inside, a surfeit of edible pleasures awaits…Doraku, meaning, “Joy of” in Japanese, is the perfect word for the perfect place to experience the joys of exquisite Japanese food, and of course, sake – with which this place seems to claim high expertise.
Doraku, owned by Benihana and Kevin Aoki, the son of Benihana owner Rocky Aoki, has a flavor all its own.

The atmosphere is like a waterfall – peaceful, serene, and full of life (althouth if this were the 18th Century, you could very well find a bold Japanese shogun munchin’ at the sushi bar). Covering the length of the ceiling are woven panels and above those you may be surprised to find the giant tentacles of an octopus, pulsing with light. Downtempo lounge music shoots subtle soundwaves for all the hipsters and customers. The design came from a renowned New York architect and is teeming with class and style – as well as comfort. Glowing globe lamps, classic symmetry and world art seem to accompany digestion as well as peace of mind. Man, all this sounds really zen, doesn’t it?

Specializing in sushi and sake, this spot serves more than 20 kinds of hand-selected sake from Japan and fresh sushi from the Atlantic to the Pacific. A recommended roll is the Doraku roll ($13) containing lobster, kanikama (crab), cream cheese, scallion, black and red caviar, then it’s deep-fried tempura style. The seaweed salad ($6), tossed with a chili sesame vinaigrette, or an aromatic bowl of miso soup ($2) are great accompanying any meal. Seared ahi steak ($8.50), chicken teriyaki ($15.50) or chilean seabass ($20.50) are among the grilled selections for those non-sushi-lovers. The menu here contains every combination you could think of, and if it is missing something you crave, they can prepare just about anything – well, within reason, of course…

The bar should get you going for any Saturday night as well. There are cocktail specialties to die for – especially the chocolate cake saketini ($8), which features frangelico liquor, absolut citron, and their premium house sake served in a sugar-rimmed glass. Japanese beer – Kirin, Tsing Tao, Sapporo and Asahi (from $4.50 to $6.50) – go well with any sushi order and red, white, blush or plum wine are commended as well as their array of champagne, which can be ordered by the glass ($6 to $12) or by the bottle ($23 to $225). Their “Water from Heaven” (sake, that it) is delivered to you in a tray of individual cups – so that you may choose your chalice – and its taste ranges from winsome and delicate to mellow, green-apple tartness.

Check the influx of talented poets and ethnocentric rap every Wednesday night and chow down on some quality sushi. The best part is that this place is open late for all the real night owls and fashionable late-eaters. For you freshman out there, forget Chartwells for a night and get some delicacies into your chomps or bring a date and impress him/her with your genteel sensibility to the recondite world of the SoBe gastronome. You just might get addicted.

Doraku is located at 1104 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach. Call 305-695-8383 for more info.

Rachael Henrichsen can be reached at