The Best Sushi in Coral Gables

Forget the Rolls. We Went Looking for the Best Real Sushi – A Slice of Fish Draped on Rice – in the Gables.

Few types of cuisine have risen to the top of the food chain faster than sushi. Outside of Los Angeles and New York, nobody had heard of sushi – raw fish served with rice – until the 1980s. That’s when the cultural phenom was sparked by the epic TV miniseries “Shogun” (an amazing one-third of U.S. households watched) and the invasion of Japanese businessmen. Today there are some 4,000 sushi restaurants in the U.S. (at least there were, before the pandemic), grossing more than $2 billion annually. 

For most Americans, sushi usually means rolls, like the California, Dragon or Spicy Tuna rolls. But for the hardcore sushi enthusiast, these are just inventions for Americans, to make the idea of raw fish more palatable. For the purist, the real deal is nigiri – a slice of raw fish draped on a ball of sweet or sticky rice – which is how they eat sushi in Japan. 

We went to the top Japanese and sushi restaurants in Coral Gables, to test their Nigiri and nothing else. This is what we found. 

Moon Thai & Japanese: Tastiest Fish

Don’t let the extensive Thai menu fool you. The Japanese side offers a vast array of rolls (more than 50) along with sashimi and sushi appetizers, combos and a la carte. Whereas most sushi is limited to salmon, tuna, Hamachi (yellowtail tuna) and sometimes shrimp, Moon Thai goes beyond with selections of octopus, eel, conch, ama ebi (sweet shrimp), ikura (salmon roe), uni (sea urchin) and fresh fish of the day. We found their fish to be the best tasting of any we tried, and not badly priced (five pieces for $12). We tried their $40, 15-piece Nigiri platter for the variety, and it was delicious (added touch: A fried sweet shrimp head, for a real taste of Japan). Modern décor, with back-lit glowing statuary of Thai deities. 1118 S. Dixie Hwy. 305.668.9890 

Sakura: Widest Selection

In these days of the pandemic, we don’t like the fact that there is no outdoor seating at Sakura, long a mainstay on South Dixie Highway for sushi and hot Japanese entrees. But this is mitigated by their unique glass “booths” inside, seating in one of eight curved window niches. The feeling is also fairly authentic, with the dining area dominated by the sushi bar. We can forgive the lack of outdoor seating because they have the largest selection of fish, from mackerel, squid, grouper and cobia, to snapper, white tuna, eel, dolphin and fatty tuna. They offer more than two dozen by the piece; we ordered a $40 combo platter with eight fish; it had some of the best salmon and wahoo we’ve tasted. 440 S. Dixie Hwy. 305.665.7020 

Kao Sushi & Grill: Come for the Rolls

Kao Sushi, with its pleasant, shady outdoor seating on Miracle Mile, has perhaps the most inventive rolls in Miami, based on their unique fusion of Japanese and Latin flavors (guava shrimp, for example or spicy ceviche). They also offer a grill menu, again heavily Latin, including lamb churrasco and Argentine chorizo. Their nigiri, which is what we came for, has five options: Tuna, shrimp, octopus, salmon and white fish, which are ordered three pieces at a time for $9. Excellent flavor, with a sweeter than typical sticky rice. But it’s not why you come here. You come for the Kao Tempura Roll, with fried panko, seaweed, tempura shrimp, Asian flavored cream cheese and honey mustard sauce. 127 Miracle Mile 786.864.1212 

Su Shin Izakaya: Most Authentic Vibe

The most authentic feeling Japanese restaurant in the Gables is Izakaya, a modestly sized eatery downtown (across from the Colonnade Hotel) that bustles like a Tokyo tea house during the lunch hour and is likewise full, though less hectic, at night. Their menu for cooked Japanese food is extensive and delicious, from soft shell crab to fried eggplant with ginger sauce. Right from the start, they define their sushi as “seasoned rice balls topped with fresh raw fish,” as distinct from rolls. The value is good: Six pieces of assorted nigiri for $12.95, with a soup or salad, for lunch or dinner. Their rice is also the best we tasted, and the fish is tasty, especially the salmon. 159 Aragon Ave. 305.445.2584 

Sushi Maki: Best Bang for the Buck

Sushi Maki is now a regional chain, with locations in South Miami, Palmetto Bay, Kendall, Coconut Grove and beyond, including at UM, FIU and Baptist Hospital. That means they must be doing something right, including getting wholesale deals on their fish. Their nigiri platter for $16.50, with seven pieces plus a soup or salad, is a nice value – especially considering that the selection of wahoo, yellowtail, tuna, salmon and eel is fresh and flavorful. You can also order by the piece, two pieces per order, for $4 to $8, depending on the fish. The only off-putting element is the ambience of their flagship shop on Ponce; feels oddly like an ice cream parlor. 2334 Ponce de Leon Blvd. 305.443.1884 

Kae Sushi: Good Seating, But…

We include Kae Sushi because, as an outdoor dining experience, it is among the best – pleasant tables on Giralda Plaza, with live music on weekend evenings. They also have a surprisingly large selection of sake, some of it very high end ($78 for a bottle of Manutsuru). The menu lists a half dozen choices of nigiri, but the night we went there was only a platter of salmon, tuna and yellowtail available. A tad pricey at $38, but not bad. What continues to make this eatery a challenge is the terrible service. What sushi establishment makes you ask for soy sauce and wasabi separately, after taking forever to serve you? 143 Giralda Ave. 786.257.0511 

Honorable Mentions


We hesitated to include Hillstone because it is not a Japanese restaurant. But in deference to contemporary tastes, it does have a dedicated sushi bar, and a dozen rolls. Its nigiri plate, with two pieces each of salmon, tuna and yellowtail, is the priciest in town at $19, but the quality is good and the service phenomenal. 201 Miracle Mile. 305.529.0141 


In terms of authentic cuisine, food quality and depth of menu, Matsuri is arguably the best Japanese restaurant in Miami-Dade County. It is, however, located outside the boundaries of the Gables – albeit by a few hundred yards. But the fanatically loyal crowd attests to the superlative nature of its classic Japanese cuisine, amazing sushi and reasonable prices. A very hip, LA-style interior. 5759 Bird Rd. 305.663.1615.