The Rise of Asian-Latino Food
Asians and Latinos may live half a world away from each other, but share unique commonalities that make them pre-destined cooking partners. Both cultures turn to chiles for heat, and tamarind for sweet. The fresh, fragrant hint of cilantro is a staple in Mexican salsa as well as the herbaceous element in Vietnamese pho. These crossroads are perhaps why every major city in America has some form of food truck or fast casual restaurant serving up some version of Asian-influenced tacos, as well as other gourmet intersections that have you thinking the Asian-Latino food trend is here to stay.
Food truly is a powerful and subtle way in which communities share their culture, history, and identity. Tell us, when opening Sushi Garage, how did you infuse your Asian heritage with the the heavily Latin-based culture of Miami? Has your personal experience of living close to both Asian and Latin cultures inspired any of your culinary experimentation?
Chef Sunny Oh: I have been in the U.S. for so many years now so I’ve come to understand and appreciate the different cultures that are here in Miami. I’ve realized their needs to be a bridge of cultures and that is where the Latin ingredients come in. The difficult part is making the marriage work in my cooking but it’s worth it.
We read somewhere that you and your partners like to joke around that you were forced to open Sushi Garage so you’d have a place to eat Japanese food in Miami that’s neither too expensive nor experimental. Asian food has been having a moment in Miami; from fusion restaurants to mash-ups of pan-Asian cuisine, there’s been a lot of new restaurants popping up on the radar. Where do you think Asian food is headed towards next in SoFlo? Are locals receptive to the idea of infusing Asian and their native Latin flavors, or do they just find it confusing?
Sushi Garage is “dinner”. We wanted a restaurant that was refined on the cuisine, the atmosphere and where you can enjoy the highest quality ingredients without being too over the top. Today, every restaurant has its own special touch on Japanese cuisine and while guests dine with us at Sushi Garage, our goal is to keep it simple and clean – the basis of Japanese food.
You decided to open up your restaurant in a renovated garage, why? Is there a story behind that decision?
Sushi Garage is located in Sunset Harbor, known to be more of a warehouse and car mechanic shops type of area. The first time I saw the space there was a car on a lift. While the restaurant was being built, we referred to it as the ‘Sushi Garage’ and the name just stuck.
Lastly, can you tell us your favorite Asian dish in Miami NOT OF YOUR OWN CREATION?
I love the Garage Ceviche. The dish was made by my Corporate Chef Kaoru Chang. His background is Japanese-Chinese-Peruvian and he took all the elements of a classic ceviche and replaced them with Japanese ingredients. The leche de tigre is replaced with dashi and the cancha is replaced with black edamame. The twist of this ceviche dish is the perfect balance of simple and flavorful.