There are certain Miami dining rules you learn over the years - like how nobody goes to dinner before 9pm, reservations are easier to get in the summer, and a place you’d bring your friend who’s on a first-name basis with the door guy at E11even probably won’t work for your coworker who can’t even listen to a 2 Live Crew song without gasping. But KYU is the exception to those rules and it works perfectly for basically any situation (or person) we can think of.
KYU sits at the center of Miami’s dining Venn diagram, where special occasions, business meals, and impressing out of owners all meet. Because of that, it’s almost always full, even on a Tuesday at 6pm during the summer. And amid the constant motion of the wide-open, concrete dining room, you’ll see a mix of the Brickell highrise crowd, big groups celebrating birthdays, and tourists sitting at the bar who probably Googled, “best fried chicken in Miami,” which KYU is certainly in the running for.
But there’s a lot more to try here than just the excellent chicken. The menu is broken up into seven sections with names like “crispy, crunchy,” “smoked,” and “wood-fired.” Most dishes have some sort of Asian influence - mostly Japanese, but also some Korean and Thai as well. A lot of the must-order dishes involve meat, like the aforementioned fried chicken or the massive beef short rib, a great thing to split with the table since it comes with lettuce, pickled onions, and some sauces so everyone can make their own little wraps. But KYU also serves a really good whole roasted cauliflower, soft shell crab bao buns, and a Thai fried rice stone pot, which is mixed tableside with an egg.
It’s one of those menus that even an argumentative table can order from in record time. And while food is the best part about this place, KYU also has a really great atmosphere. It’s exciting enough for any big night out (the cocktails are really good too) but it never goes over the top like some Wynwood restaurants with sparklers or needlessly artsy dishes.
The dining cliche of saying “you can’t go wrong” does not apply to 99.9 percent of restaurants, but at KYU, you’d need to put in some serious effort to have a bad time since the normal rules of the Miami dining universe just don’t apply here. The only way your KYU experience is going to suck is if you try to walk in without a reservation, because that probably won’t work out unless you are David Beckham or a solo diner cool with eating an early dinner at the bar. So make one online - at least two or three weeks in advance.
Even you, Mr. Beckham. Just to be safe.
The contrast of the soft bao bun with the crispy fried soft-shell crab is like ASMR for your mouth. Is that a thing? It should be.
The Korean fried chicken does all the things fried chicken is supposed to do - and it does them very well: crispy outside and juicy inside with an awesome red chili butter that adds the perfect amount of heat.
The name on the menu really undersells this beauty. It’s not just beef short ribs, it’s a huge slab of beef short rib that looks like it came from a cow obsessed with CrossFit. There are lettuce wraps and sides like cucumber and pickled onions for you to make your own lettuce wraps with too. If you’re eating with three or more people, get this on the table.
The name here is a little misleading. It’s really just a tuna crispy rice - but a really great version. The rice is fried beautifully into a crispy little rectangle and topped with a generous portion of tuna, which is more of a paste-like consistency than diced tuna tartare.
They mix this beauty tableside and - if all goes according to plan - there will be little chunks of scorched rice mixed in with yolk from the egg, making this a delicious mix of crispy and creamy.
This is a very photogenic piece of cauliflower with great color on top - but the best part of the dish is hiding underneath all that: a lovely pool of goat cheese and shishito vinaigrette. Don’t forget to scoop it up with every bite you take.
This is what happens when duck does an impression of barbecue brisket - and if you’re not quite hungry enough for that beef short rib, it’s a worthy substitution.