Remembering Sakaya Kitchen in Miami

Sakaya Kitchen was an essential Miami restaurant during the current “foodie” boom. Chef Richard Hales changed the game with his Korean Funk Fusion.

In 2017, I had an inkling that Richard was closing up operations of all of his restaurants. He had mentioned that he was considering moving back to his hometown of Tampa.

In my mind, it was only a matter of time before we would lose him to the West Coast, and we did.

Remembering Sakaya Kitchen in Miami

It’s easy to take something for granted. It’s been years since I first stepped inside Sakaya Kitchen (3401 N Miami Avenue #125) in Midtown Miami. Back then, Midtown was not what it is today.

You were either there for Five Guys or Sakaya Kitchen, which also happened to be next door to one another. Chef Richard Hales took a chance on opening in a former seafood spot.

Sakaya Kitchen in Miami, Florida
Sakaya Kitchen in Miami, Florida
Sakaya Kitchen "Original" Famous Chalk Board from Sakaya Kitchen in Miami, Florida
Sakaya Kitchen “Original” Famous Chalk Board

I remember reading about Sakaya Kitchen and initially thinking it wasn’t my thing. Then, someone posted a picture of their burger online. On my first visit, I was floored by everything I ate and wrote about it on this blog.

A Double?

"Burger Beast" Double Bulgogi Burger from Sakaya Kitchen in Miami, Florida
“Burger Beast” Double Bulgogi Burger

I had suggested that the Bulgogi Burger might need to be a double. On my next visit, I met Chef-Owner Richard Hales.

When I ordered a single Bulgogi Burger, it arrived as a double. Chef Hales would later name it “The Burger Beast” after yours truly.

Right around this time, the food truck movement exploded in South Florida. Chef HalesDim Ssam a Gogo mobile, would debut at the first South Florida truck rally I curated. On Dim Ssam a Gogo, he created a couple of dishes (Chunk’d Tots and the K-Dog) now on the restaurant’s permanent menu.

K-Dog from Sakaya Kitchen in Miami, Florida
K-Dog

He then opened BlackBrick, right across from Sakaya Kitchen (which has since relocated to Tampa, Florida), Bird and Bone on South Beach (which is closed), and, more recently, Society BBQ, which would eventually replace this Sakaya Kitchen (now permanently closed) location. All of them brought something different to the South Florida comfort food scene.

Taken for Granted

Duck Sandwich from Sakaya Kitchen in Miami, Florida
Duck Sandwich

Why did I start all this talking about taking something for granted? It had been years since I had sat down and enjoyed a meal at Sakaya Kitchen.

I brought my bud Alfred with me, who had never been, and he was just floored, just like I was all those years ago. It was then that I realized how unique Sakaya Kitchen is. There’s nothing else like it in Miami.

I’ll be the first to call it a landmark restaurant in the history of Miami cuisine. Midtown’s restaurant scene grew around its central pillar, Sakaya Kitchen.

Orange Ribs with Coconut Jasmine Rice and Ginger Brussel Sprouts from Sakaya Kitchen in Miami, Florida
Orange Ribs with Coconut Jasmine Rice and Ginger Brussel Sprouts
KFC Chicken Wings from Sakaya Kitchen in Miami, Florida
KFC Chicken Wings
"Dae Ji" Spicy Pork Croquetas from Sakaya Kitchen in Miami, Florida
“Dae Ji” Spicy Pork Croquetas

Dim Ssam a Gogo is one of the food trucks that gave credibility to the Miami food truck scene. It’s why, all these years later, Sakaya Kitchen is an iconic Miami restaurant.

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