A line of Buddha statues stand like sentries along the patio at the new Sushi Sake restaurant in Miami Lakes.
There is a wall emblazoned with a purple neon message, “Miso Happy,” where diners can pose for photos to post on Instagram.
And inside the southeast corner storefront in the Cypress Village Shopping Center are wicker basket lights and terrariums that hang from the ceiling over a small lounge area.
Chefs work in a partially open kitchen.
It’s a scene, where fresh seafood is served with a side of style.
“We felt like there wasn’t a place like this in Miami Lakes,” said Irina Rivera 45, who owns the restaurant with her husband Lorenzo Rivera, 47.
Irina Rivera said they wanted to create a fine dining experience for customers who would also linger after a meal.
And it seems to be working.
“The response has been great,” Rivera said. “We are super overwhelmed and grateful.”
The Miami Lakes location is the 16th Sushi Sake in Miami-Dade, Broward and Monroe Counties.
The couple put it together in just eight months, in partnership with Sushi Sake co-founder Angel Aguayo.
Rivera said she designed the space to have a “Zen-like” environment.
Owners of other Sushi Sake restaurants have visited it for inspiration.
It’s easy to forget that Sushi Sake occupies the former Food Spot convenience store that was in that location for 25 years.
The restaurant, at 7301 Miami Lakes Drive, offers several items unique to its location.
They include The Miami Lakes Lobster Roll, filled with tempura lobster, crab salad, asparagus, avocado and cucumber, wrapped in soy paper and topped with fried plantains, eel sauce and spicy mayo, for $29.
Rolls are named for professional and college sports teams in South Florida.
The Calle Ocho roll has ham croquettes, avocado, asparagus, sweet plantains potato sticks and eel sauce for $18.
Special cocktails include a “Mango Tango Margarita,” a mojito of the day and the Paloma, made from tequila, Aperol, grapefruit juice, lime juice and agave.
Rivera hopes to offer brunch soon.
She and her husband live in Miami near Florida International University.
The couple has never owned a restaurant before and were undaunted when it came to opening it during a pandemic, when just 50% of capacity is allowed and the bar must remain closed for the time being.
The word ‘no’ was not in their vocabulary, she said, and other than waiting on permits and inspections, they didn’t face obstacles.
“This has always been a passion of ours,” Irina Rivera said. “We are both foodies.”
The menu is extensive, with raw, rolled and cooked appetizers and main dishes.
There are hibachi specials (chicken, beef and seafood), too, that cost from $22 to $42.
Appetizers start at $3.50 for miso soup and go up to $18 for nine pieces of sashimi.
Entrees range from $14 for chicken teriyaki with rice to $40 for the chef’s choice Sashimi dinner with 20 pieces.
The sushi rolls are served in large portions that could be shared, and are colorful and meticulously put together.
Some of the chefs have Japanese backgrounds, Suarez said.
Desserts include Thai donuts and lots of tempura: battered and fried ice cream, cheesecake, banana or brownies and ice cream.
Happy Hour happens weeknights from 4 p.m. – 7 p.m., when some drinks and appetizers are sold at half price.
Eddie Blanco, a real estate broker who chairs the town’s Economic Development Committee, attended the Sept. 3 opening with his wife, Arianna Blanco.
He appreciated the buzz the restaurant was generating.
“The place was busy, which is a testament to business owners that Miami Lakers want nice dining options and are willing to spend a little extra for a nice evening of dining near home,” Blanco said.