Kuro, an innovative, new-style Japanese "dining experience", is set to open Saturday, March 28, at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood. The restaurant is a start to what will be a series of upgrades geared towards revamping the Hard Rock property with more upmarket attractions.
A year in the making, Kuro will offer guests a sophisticated setting featuring an original menu created by a pair of high-profile chefs, handcrafted cocktails organized by the five flavor profiles, and a variety of dining options from poolside tables to omakase chef's seating.
The restaurant's most unique touch, however, will be its interactive dining experience designed to take guests on a "culinary journey," a progressive concept that focuses on a theater-like dining experience complete with an open kitchen, sushi bar, and several private dining areas.The idea, according to Seminole Hard Rock's vice president of food and beverage Justin Wyborn, is to create an energetic and exciting dining experience unlike any other in South Florida.
"This concept takes people on an adventure," said Wyborn. "A roller coaster dining experience that will take you up and down, from mellow palate cleansing dishes — to big, bold, sharp flavors, and back again."
The Kuro menu has been organized into several distinct sections with various offerings, affording patrons a chance to order up a new taste exploration each time they visit. For that reason, the Kuro servers — here known as your culinary guides — will be an integral part of the dining journey. They're trained to help shape and guide your experience, leading you through a series of dishes from aperitif and appetizer, right through to dessert and digestif.
At the helm of your dining voyage stands executive chef Alex Becker and executive sushi chef Shuji Hiyakawa, who together offer more than three decades of restaurant experience. Becker, who also serves as the Hard Rock's creative culinary director, comes to Kuro after a seven-year stint with Nobu, and time spent as the corporate executive chef of Katsuya in Los Angeles, opening multiple restaurants for the brand everywhere from South Beach to Dubai.
Considered a protégé of Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto, Hiyakawa will preside over Kuro's sushi offerings. He first drew accolades for his work as executive sushi chef at Morimoto in Philadelphia, and later helped the Iron Chef to prepare ground breaking cuisine at Ooka, which led to an invitation to cook at the James Beard House in 2012.
Over the past year, both chefs say they have been hard at work building relationships with artisan and craft purveyors to source the best quality product possible, from local Florida farms offering fresh bamboo shoots, to exotic fish transported from the waters of Japan to be stored in Kuro's in-house, sub-temp freezer.
Kuro's open kitchen features several stations. For the full experience, patrons are encouraged to travel through each section of the menu during their visit. Start with chilled items like sashimi, and continue on with salads, robata charcoal grill selections, tempura, sushi, and larger entree style dishes. Last, finish with dessert prepared by the restaurant's in-house pasty chef.
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During your culinary journey, a drink menu created by award-winning mixologist Jared Boller features a number of handcrafted cocktails designed around the five flavor profiles: sweet, sour, bitter, salty, and umami. Boller launched his bartending career under the tutelage of Manhattan's Julie Reiner, helping to open her tropical-themed cocktail lounge, Lani Kai, in 2010 and later her critically acclaimed Flatiron Lounge. Each drink — named for a Japanese number — has been created to pair with various dishes during your meal to help accentuate the sweet, salty, savory, and sour elements of each.
"Not many Japanese restaurants of this scale or volume build their menu around seasonal items," said Becker. "I'm taking the ideas and experiences that I have gathered throughout the years, and am using it to create something totally new to South Florida. We're excited to finally share it with everyone."
Nicole Danna is a food blogger covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.