MISO Japanese Tapas, a long-anticipated vision of chef-restaurateur Thuan Lam, has emerged in the heart of Fort Lauderdale’s thriving Progresso neighborhood. This stylish 54-seat eatery is a collaboration between Lam, renowned founder of Phat Boy Sushi Kitchen & Bar, and the exceptional chef Julien “Jay” Barashari.
With decades of experience in crafting sushi and various Japanese delicacies, Lam and Barashari take a novel approach at MISO. The menu showcases the duo’s respect for traditional Japanese cuisine, while also celebrating the rich tapestry of Asian influences. Adding a new slant on Asian cuisine, the chefs incorporated the concept of tapas.
Traditionally, tapas consist of small light bites, snacks and appetizers shared by a group. This is also a great way to try new dishes. “There’s something about Asian cuisine that’s always communal and about sharing — that’s where the tapas approach comes in,” says Lam. “With smaller, shareable plates you get to experience more and pick your own food adventure.”
But this culinary journey is not only about the dishes; it’s about the melding of diverse backgrounds. Lam’s roots stretch from his native Vietnam and Cambodia to the bustling streets of Los Angeles. Barashari, proudly Filipino, introduces his unique perspective, while the MISO kitchen features chefs from Korea, adding to the multicultural blend.
Most of the menu at MISO is sourced from local purveyors, but their commitment to delivering an exceptional Asian cuisine and sushi experience goes beyond borders. They also import special fish and sake directly from Japan. “So in one evening, you can dine on local Florida grouper and uni from Hokkaido,” says Lam.
“MISO’s menu is a culmination of many minds, backgrounds and experiences,” he notes. The dining establishment also honors tradition with the use of classic ingredients, taking pride in infusing innovative elements into their dishes, such as adding maduros (sweet plantains) in their popular “Cali-Co” sushi roll. “Everything at MISO is meticulously made with attention and care, from hand-folding our own dumplings, hand-making every single item and doing everything from scratch,” explains Lam. One of the crowd-pleasers is the Squash Blossom Crab Rangoon, which offers a twist on the timeless Chinese culinary favorite Crab Rangoon by featuring a stuffed squash blossom that tantalizes the taste buds.
Through the array of smaller, shareable plates, guests can savor a wider variety of flavors. Lam brings more than just culinary charisma; he ushers in a youthful, trendy atmosphere to Progresso. MISO isn’t just another sushi joint. “Going out to eat should never feel like a chore or a bore,” says Lam. “MISO keeps everything light and fun, and if you’re new to this cuisine, our staff is here to educate and steer you in the right direction to the perfect bites and drinks.” The overall atmosphere could be described as “casually relaxed.” With a genuine passion for craft and sharing culinary adventure, the talented chefs and their staff aim to ensure guests enjoy their experience. “We love what we do and have fun doing it and hope our guests have just as much fun on their end.”
The Dish: Jay $$ Spicy Tuna Bliss Roll
- Fresh tuna (sushi-grade), cut into cubes
- 2 tsp kimchi
- 1 1/2 tsp kimchi juice
- 1/2 tsp honey
- 1/2 tsp sesame oil
- A hint of sriracha (adjust to taste)
- Pinch of garlic powder
- Scallions, finely chopped
- Nori sheets
- Sushi rice
- Sesame seeds (optional, for garnish)
Prepare sushi rice: Cook sushi rice according to package instructions. Once cooked, let it cool to room temperature. Spicy tuna mix: In a bowl, combine fresh tuna cubes, kimchi, kimchi juice, honey, sesame oil, sriracha and garlic powder. Mix well until the tuna is evenly coated with the spicy mixture.
Assembling the roll: Place a sheet of nori on a bamboo sushi rolling mat. Wet your hands to prevent sticking, and spread a thin layer of sushi rice on the nori, leaving a small border at the top.
Add the spicy tuna: Spoon the spicy tuna mixture along the bottom edge of the rice-covered nori.
Garnish and roll: Sprinkle chopped scallions over the tuna. Starting from the bottom, tightly roll the sushi using the bamboo mat. Seal the edge with a bit of water.
Slice and serve: Using a sharp, wet knife, slice the roll into bite-sized pieces. Arrange the slices on a plate.
Optional garnish: Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top for a delightful crunch.
Enjoy: Dip the Jay $$ Spicy Tuna Bliss Roll in soy sauce, wasabi or your favorite sushi condiment.