Add Kuro at the Seminole Hard Rock to the list of South Florida's best Asian restaurants.
Like Nobu in Miami Beach and Zuma in Miami, executive chef Alex Becker has created a contemporary Japanese restaurant that surprises and delights at every turn. To dine at the 3-month-old Kuro is to take a small-plates tour of Japanese food styles, from simple tempura to elegant maki and pristine sashimi. Becker also uses Japanese ingredients in decidedly un-Japanese dishes.
Becker comes to Kuro with nearly a decade of experience at Nobu, and several more with Katsuya, opening restaurants from South Beach to Kuwait. Both Nobu and Katsuya are international players in the high-end Japanese restaurant game, with names that elicit adoring praise from well-traveled foodies. Kuro is set to do the same.
Kuro is gorgeous, thanks to New York-based David Mexico Design Group. Look to the right of the hostess stand and there's a near two-story column covered in seashells. Inside the restaurant, your eye will be drawn to the kitchen, open to the dining room like a well-lit stage. The undulating ceiling is meant to mimic the ocean. Water elements show up everywhere, from the driftwood on the walls to the river rock and beach glass used in the central bar. Best of all, there are floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the pool. Casinos aren't known for their sunlight.
At Kuro, there's a refreshing lack of pretense. The young and energetic servers and food runners are mostly well versed in the menu. They also seem to be learning as they go along, not afraid to mispronounce the name of a Japanese ingredient or excusing themselves to get the correct answer to a question. It's the kind of menu that might have you asking questions. Ask away.
We started with a special that combined Japanese and Italian ideas: Wagyu tenderloin carpaccio from Kagoshima Japan served with spheres of spicy umadashi and micro wasabi salad ($19). Like everything at Kuro, it was presented on rough-hewn pottery with the precision of a diamond man showing off his gems on a jewelry tray. Like all good Japanese food, Becker knows to let good ingredients speak for themselves.
Chilled tuna crispy rice ($16) with spicy tuna and osetra caviar perfectly balances textures and flavors: sweet, salty, spicy, creamy and crunchy. Becker's multicultural prowess is no place more evident than in his Green Goddess salad ($14), in which he uses minty shiso in the dressing and crunchy noodles in the tomato-and lettuce mix to give the salad a distinctly Asian treatment. I loved it.
If you can judge a Japanese restaurant by its tempura, then Kuro scores high marks. Vegetable tempura ($11) was virtually greaseless. Vegetables don't get much better than the Brussels sprouts ($9), with just the right amounts of soy, garlic and crunch.
Chicken tsukune ($8) with tomato and yakitori glaze might have been the only disappointment. These tiny meatballs were cold and oddly bland. Koji lamb ($27), however, was anything but bland, the tender meat served with cauliflower, kabocha croquette and blueberry demi-glace. Sea bass miso ($25), a preparation perfect at Nobu, was also quite good, although perhaps a bit overcooked.
Credit for the sushi goes to executive sushi chef Shuji Hiyakawa, a protégé of "Iron Chef" Masaharu Morimoto. Soft-shell crab maki ($15) was impeccable — just the right amount of rice and the perfect ratio of crunchy crab. Likewise, seared hamachi ($22) with cilantro and jalapeno ponzu was beyond fresh.
Pastry chef Ross Evans sustains the Japanese flavors in his inventive desserts. His panna cotta ($10), for instance, features green-sesame-flavored custard along with ginger gelee, cucumber pearl, pomegranate foam and nori-sponge crumble. Brilliant. Likewise, chocolate-hazelnut bar ($12) gets an Asian makeover with spiced ganache, strawberry gel and sesame brittle.
I'm mightily impressed that the Seminole Hard Rock has realized that sophisticated Asian food isn't the exclusive domain of the county south of Broward. Foodies finally have a reason to go to the Hard Rock.
1 Seminole Way, Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Hollywood
Cost: Very expensive
Hours: Dinner Tuesday-Sunday
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Moderate
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Highchairs
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free garage parking or $20 valet