Pedestrians may misconstrue the long, white structure in the narrow alleyway just off Lenox Avenue as a standard wall and walk right by — but that would be a mistake. As what lies behind it is Chotto Matte, a high-end restaurant specializing in Japanese and Peruvian fusion Nikkei cuisine, with a design that makes it a destination worth seeking out.
Set in the heart of Miami Beach, the 220-seat eatery opened in April 2018 as the first U.S. outpost of the London original, founded by restaurateur Kurt Zdesa and the NZR group. Beyond the myriad of traditional dishes like the best-selling Nikkei sashimi, shrimp and pork gyoza and yuca dumplings, Chotto Matte is memorable for its unique design, set to emulate a play between Tokyo’s urban feel and Miami’s tropical flair.
London-based architectural house ama (Andy Martin Architecture) is responsible for the creation and evolution of all four Chotto Matte restaurants, along with other successful eateries in the UK. The firm is most known for its ability to play with natural light as well as its creative use of bright and dark spaces.
“Our mission at ama is to carry out ambitious building projects at multiple scales with a commitment to innovation, design, and sustainability,” founder Andy Martin explains.
Extensive research, including multiple visits to Tokyo, went into play when designing the first Chotto Matte outpost. For the ones that followed, ama focused on combining the same elements of Japanese design with the unique identity of the city where the restaurant was in.
“Miami has the palms and the rock that makes it have a Miami vibe,” says general manager Anthoanette Rojas, referring to the trademark aspects that make Chotto Matte Miami so unique.
The results are striking, beginning with the aforementioned unconventional entryway to the extensive retractable roof which serves as a showstopper for the windowless space. Inspired by the Japanese roof style known as “Irimoya,” it is made with Shou Sugi Ban wood (sustainable charred wood) and meant to create an enhanced connection to the sky — a sensibility not lost on Miamians.
“People here like to eat outside. With the retractable roof it gives you this al fresco type of dining experience. You can see sunsets when the weather is nice,” Rojas says.
The dramatic opening also serves as the main source of light to the dimly lit space and is framed by lush foliage to further connect the space with Miami’s subtropic feel. Poised underneath is the restaurant’s cocktail and sushi bar, framed by two full-size palm trees and a towering 33,000-pound volcanic boulder. The menu plays along: guests can order tropical cocktails like Amazonian Queen (mango vodka, passion fruit, apple, and elderflower) or Lychee Picante made with tequila, lychees, chia seeds, chilli, and lime, dragon fruit or purple potato pancakes stack with pomegranate syrup from the recently launched Jungle Brunch.
There’s a mindful balance between contemporary, urban grit and Miami playfulness throughout the 4,500-square-foot space. Natural stone, carbon steel, and tinted glass are used as a nod to Japanese design favoring muted tones to create a soothing environment. Juxtaposed with these elements is Miami’s energy, most pronounced in the whimsical, vibrant mural the wraps around the majority of the restaurant. Created by two of the city’s best-known graffiti artists, Gustavo Oviedo and Dave “Ahol SniffsGlue” and curated by Marcel Katz, the piece is titled “Tropical Osmosis” and depicts Miami’s diversity using various mediums like oil stick, chalk, and spray paint. Each artist began on one side, Oviedo on left while SniffsGlue on the right, meeting halfway and fusing their work, much like Peruvian and Japanese cuisine combine to form the restaurant’s Nikkei concept. The remaining sides use tinted glass to create reflections of the art. Blonde wooden chairs and tables keep the space airy and bright.
But what makes Chotto Matte, whose name translates to “wait a minute” in Japanese, stand out is that it offers just that: the measured pacing of the food that invites diners to explore the countless design details gracing the space.