How a Sushi Chef Makes Crab, Uni, and Shirako Risotto

Behind Japanese restaurant Azabu in Miami Beach hides a sushi counter called The Den. There, chef Yasu Tanaka creates an omakase-style dinner experience with dishes that feature a combination of local and Japanese ingredients and flavors.

Chef Tanaka comes from a long line of clocksmiths, which gives him an eye for detail, precision, and ingenuity.

“A clocksmith’s work is very delicate, and I grew up watching my father and grandfather wearing loups over their eyes, working on very small details for hours on end,” he recounts. “I have chosen a different direction, as a craftsman. Repairing clocks and making sushi is completely different, but like my father and grandfather, I hope to become a respected shokunin.”

At The Den, the chef channels his craftsmanship skills into his food by putting creative spins on traditional dishes. He has re engineered a classic seafood risotto, for example, to be rich without using the cream found in traditional Italian risotto. Instead, the chef makes a mousse out of shikaro, mixes in buttery uni, and adds soft crab meat to get the desired texture.

“In my life, I have experienced many things, and have had to overcome adversities,” says chef Tanaka. “And through that I learned what makes me tick, what interests me, touches me, gives me joy in my life. So I think I have lots of patience, but I do what my heart says.”

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