Editor’s note, February 2019: Sorry to report that Vagabond Sushi has closed. A new concept will be debuting soon.
A new fave for uber tasty food, a comfortable and Miami experience, and fair prices is Vagabond Sushi Bar & Market . Now don’t think it’s yet another sushi place, this is Pan Asian. In fact, my standout picks were not sushi. It’s not surprising the place is solid – it’s the brainchild of Amir Ben Zion, formerly of sushi hot spot Bond Street and Miss Yip. He created what he calls Vagabond Village at the Vagabond Motel Miami with the restaurant, pool and bar, and “Brigitte”, a social/billiard room with cocktail and full bottle service.
Start the evening with a drink at The Oasis pool and bar with its lush, tropical vibe, breezes from the bay, and a neighborhood feel. The pool is part of the Vagabond Hotel, a 1953 icon of mid century modern architecture which had the likes of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. performing. Expect a laid back atmosphere at the tiki style bar and signature cocktails with names like Paloma’s Hotter Sister made with mezcal, syrup, lime juice, grapefruit and grapefruit soda .
The menu features Korean, Japanese and Pan-Asian selections including sushi direct from Japan, Izakaya style global plates, bento boxes, and an extensive nigiri and sashimi list. Begin with a selection of appetizers including the standout cauliflower in a spicy Japanese sauce, and watermelon kimchi with a dollop of goat cheese and just the right amount of zip. Then move on to the Japanese fried chicken and coleslaw. It was perfectly fried and seasoned and moist inside, another standout.
Don’t miss the pan seared scallops, nestled in a shell with a potato mash and sea salt garnish, two to an order. Next time I’d like to try the salmon sashimi three ways – king salmon Scottish salmon and Tasmanian salmon with pickled cucumber and myoga, pickled wasabi and serrano dressing. Other dishes on my “must try” list are the pork belly ramen which I admired at another table, the Japanese snapper salad with ume dressing and duck foie gras fried rice.
Carnivores will be happy with a selection of starters including steak tartare and beef carpaccio and a “Go Big and Share” Cowboy steak ($54, by far the most expensive thing on the menu).
For dessert, my pick was the Torreja, cinnamon baked apples, maple syrup, moist with just the right amount of sweetness, and accompanied by ice cream.
Bottom line, whatever we ordered was made with quality ingredients and expertly seasoned. Dishes are in light bite portions. Prices are reasonable. Small dishes, box sushi and maki rolls are low to mid teens, nigiri/sashimi ranges from $4 to $6 per piece, and desserts are $10 . A glass of wine (6 ounce pour) starts at $12; bottles at $36. Cocktails are $12. Coming soon is the Vagabond market, selling menu items for take out, flowers, candy, and more.
The restaurant offers outdoor and indoor seating at tables and the bar. It’s a casual setting, enlivened by the artwork of Juan Rosas from Little River and by the novel t shirts worn by serving staff. Uniforms are created by a local artist, Lisu Vega, who has her studio in Ironside on 76th and 4th Ct. Her design features the face of owners and staff members, with their children. It is a message of unity and equality.
Valet parking is $7, available 7 days a week, with street parking on 73rd and 74th cross streets.