By Lisa Petrillo

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — Sitting in the open-air Palm Court in the heart of the Miami Design District is Itamae, a charming restaurant that is fast becoming a favorite of locals and tourists alike.

The restaurant fills with diners who’ve come to experience the acclaimed Nikkei-inspired cuisine from a family of chefs behind the concept.

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It all began with Fernando also known as Papa Chang, who left his native Peru some 20 years ago to find work in Miami. He began working in a well-known sushi restaurant.

Nando Chang, his sister Val, and their father Fernando, also known as Papa Chang. (Courtesy: Nando Chang)

“Because my dad is Asian, they would ask the Asian guys to be in the front at the counters at the Sushi bar to give the restaurant some authenticity, so my dad just kind of fell into the job.  He really liked it and the more he liked it, the more he practiced, he just got really good at it,” said Nando Chang, chef and co-owner of Itamae.

Nando and his sister Val began watching their dad’s culinary talents soar, and later began their path in the world of food.

In 2018, they opened in the Miami Design District’s food hall, which was once St. Roch, but with a growing need for space, they moved downstairs in the middle of the pandemic.

“We actually built a space to be takeout only and then as we opened our guests were like ‘no, no, no, no’,” he said.

Outdoor tables at Itamae (CBS4)

Now there 10 tables outside and seating for 6 inside.

‘Itamae,’ which means ‘chef in a Japanese kitchen,’ serves up elevated Nikkei cuisine. It is a harmonious blend of Peruvian ingredients and Japanese culinary techniques.

“I think Val and I really wanted to kind of give you guys, the people who are here in Miami, a true representation what it would be like if you were experiencing this back at home,” Nando explained.

Tiraditos from Itamae (CBS4)

CBS4’s Lisa Petrillo’s began her tasting experience with a Nikkei favorite, Tiraditos. The classic dish is made with Kampachi red onion, potato, ají limo, Peruvian corn and leche de tigre.

“So, there’s such a unique blend in your sauces, there’s also almost like a taste of a flowery scent and the acidity. The blend is so interesting and so wonderful,” said Petrillo.

My Neighbor’s Totoro’ roll from Itamae (CBS4)

Next, one of many mouthwatering signature rolls.

‘My Neighbor’s Totoro’ has spicy tuna, avocado, sweet shiitake mushroom, sweet soy, and Peruvian peppers.

“Every bite is so special,” said Petrillo.  “You taste so many different things. The tuna is so fresh. It’s just an ‘I love you roll’.”

Ceviche Barrio from Itamae (CBS4)

Then, a Nikkei classic called Ceviche Barrio, which has grouper, octopus, and grilled spot prawns, along with fresh corn fritters for dipping.

“There’s just so many things that go into it for me, but at the same time it tastes so refreshing and delicious,” said Petrillo.

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Cremolada dessert from Itamae. (CBS4)

They end on a decadent dessert called Cremolada.

It has soft ice, vanilla creme, merengue and white chocolate.

“This is a cool breath of fresh air with a little sweet that makes me happy,” said Petrillo.

“She’s a rock star, we’re happy to have her here,” said Chang, laughing.

Itamae is open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch and Fridays and Saturdays for dinner.

CLICK HERE for more info.

If you would like to try the Tiradito dish at home, here is the recipe:

Yield: 1 Tiradito

LECHE DE TIGRE

  • 2oz fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 habanero rough chop
  • salt to taste

Method

Mince garlic into a paste, rough chop habanero, add to a bowl add salt to taste. add lime juice to bowl and mix until garlic and salt dissolve.

POTATO

  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove
  • 3tbsp sugar
  • 1 small Japanese sweet potato

Method

Roast Japanese sweet potato in oven with orange juice, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 clove, 3 tbsp white sugar roast until tender. Peel potato and cut into cubes.

Tiradito

  • 4oz grouper or bonito cut into thin slabs (sashimi style)
  • 1/4 red onion, quartered and thinly sliced
  • salt to taste
  • cancha (Corn nuts, also known as toasted corn)
  • steamed choclo (Large-kernel Peruvian corn)
  • micro cilantro

Method

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Roll think slices of fish and place to form a circle on a flat plate. Pour leche de tigre over fish. Add cubed potato, cancha, choclo, and onion. Finish with black pepper and olive oil, and micro cilantro.

Lisa Petrillo