I'm usually pretty wary of anything with an intentionally misspelled moniker, 'N Sync being the perfect example. When it comes to restaurants, gimmicky, misspelled names already drop my expectations of a place. Abokado is such a place. Recently opened in the sprawling Mary Brickell Village, where restaurants are popping up much like the weeds and garbage along the unkept streets surrounding it, Abokado sits all alone in a large plaza that will soon house Blu (of the South Miami Trattoria Sole family) and not much else.
We showed up Friday night after calling to put our name down on a wait list. After having to get to MBV from the UES via the Rickenbacker Causeway exit on 95 due to the Calle Ocho 8-K (who the heck does a race on a Friday night anyway?) we still arrived before our scheduled time. There was some confusion and it turned out to be on their part since they neglected to tell us that the entire restaurant, save two tables by the front door and the entire sushi bar, were off limits due to a private event. Why they didn't shut the place down for this event I have no idea, but open and half empty it was and we were given the choice of the worst seats in the house. We opted for the sushi bar, if anything to avoid facing the participants of the private event for which we never found out the occassion.
Menus arrived, drinks were ordered and off we went. The menu focuses on Japanesy preparations with decidedly western influences. Here are the winners and losers of what we sampled:
- Small squid are stuffed with chorizo - loser in that it arrived lukewarm. Squid were tender and not overcooked which is a plus.
- Nachos - this is apparently a signature dish but it needs to lighten up. Basically two shiso leaves are dipped in batter, then seemingly dipped in batter 3 more times before being fried, cooled, and topped with spicy tuny. The breading was just way to much for the shiso leaf. Maybe shiso tacos where the leaf takes the place of a soft corn tortilla would be better?
- Spicy tuna roll - my gauge for how much a place really wants to differentiate itself. Here the addition of baby greens and the thinnest layer of sushi rice I've ever seen hold a roll together makes me think this place does not want to be middle of the road.
- El Diablo roll- crab salad roll topped with spicy mayo and sea bass, torched, then topped with tobiko. Pretty good, then it reminded me of the Dynamite Roll at Shoji, then I didn't like as much because I used to really, really like the roll at Shoji (Chef Chin, if you're out there, we miss you!).
- Forgot the name roll - which is probably a good thing because the roll was unmemorable. It was wrapped in thin soybean paper which added not much. Rest of the roll was fairly flavorless. I only ordered it to avoid ordering the roll wrapped in flour tortilla after the chef insisted that I should try a roll wrapped in something and tortilla was his preference. I don't think I'll get either.
For a newly opened place Abokado had its act together. Service was on and the sushi bar was humming. Rolls are interesting enough but a bit on the pricey side ($8 to $10 for basics, $12 to $24 for more elaborate ones). There's a section of entrees as well (the ususal miso cod, sesame tuna type stuff) that were fairly reasonable. This place won't knock your socks off, nor will it be a neighborhoody place where you can drop by when you feel like it (they already had the dreaded chain-restaurant type beeper/buzzers ready to go). My advice would be to stick to the basics and be selective when venturing into the realm of "fusion".