Dashi adds to the allure of River Yacht Club with Japanese cuisine that stirs the senses

Chef Shuji HiyakawaLess than a month into its run as the second culinary concept at River Yacht Club, the multidining destination along the Miami River, Dashi went dark at the worst possible time. It happened with a full house on a weekend night, the result of a Florida Power & Light issue that cut all power flowing into the minimally designed, 80-seat space.

But instead of a mass exodus, diners settled in to see what chef Shuji Hiyakawa, a protégé of “Iron Chef” legend Masahuru Morimoto and master of progressive Japanese fare, could do without the benefit of electricity. According to a waitress who worked that night, it was a coming-together episode for the front-of-the-restaurant staff—and a show-stopping spectacle for the kitchen, which produced one compelling cold plate after another.

Owner Stephane Dupoux, however, remembers the evening a bit differently.

“I’m very happy to hear that comment, because I didn’t picture it this way at all—I was running around like a chicken without a head,” says the restaurateur and CEO of Dupoux Design with a chuckle. “When the dust settled, we opened our mind to what was happening. People were having fun. And the room remained full. It was easier for a restaurant that serves sushi to work without electricity.

Chef Shuji Hiyakawa“But, yes, it could have been a disaster. Thankfully, we have a staff that takes great pride. And we have the best Japanese cuisine in Miami.”

That certainly was the intent as Dupoux considered the stand-alone concepts that would further his vision for River Yacht Club, an idea inspired by a restaurants-within-a-restaurant project he saw during a trip to Istanbul. The 40,000 square feet of waterfront property in downtown Miami, he figured, easily could accommodate the three experiences he had in mind. RYC would appeal with its fresh seafood and guest-chef menus, and Dashi would fill the void that Dupoux saw as lacking in Miami when it came to sophisticated Japanese dining. (The third, yet-to-be-announced concept, Dupoux says, will debut at RYC in the late fall.)

Chef Shuji Hiyakawa“The idea of creating various venues within the main venue gives our patrons choices within the same property,” he says. “Therefore, they’ll come more than one time.”

In Hiyakawa, the former executive chef at Kuro inside Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, Dupoux found the ideal conductor for Dashi, someone who can “tease different senses” no matter how simple or how complex the dish. A bed of microherbs, for example, pops with bright colors as part of the white fish tiradito; a light crunch accompanies each bite of tempura; raw ocean scallops tantalize, thanks, in part, to the tiny dollops of Russian caviar on top; smoke from lightly burning rosemary twigs lingers under delicate slices of lamb after the top of a wooden serving pot is removed.

“He’s an artist, and that creativity comes through in his presentation, even if it’s done in a simplistic way,” Dupoux says. “He’s also a master in the way he prepares his sushi and sashimi; the way he handles his fish, which melts in your mouth; the way he mixes his rice, so gently and with such sophistication. With the lamb and smoky rosemary, he’s adding to the flavor and texture by stimulating smell and taste; the two mix together—it’s almost a soothing sensation.

“When you [take full bites] of Shuji’s cuisine, it doesn’t need additional ingredients. It’s purity. And the result is just, wow.”

Interiors of Dashi at the River Yacht Club on the Miami RiverDashi

Location: 401 SW Third Ave., Miami

Hours: Tuesday–Saturday, 6:30–11 p.m. Reservations recommended.

Contact: 786.870.5304; dashirestaurant.com