In November 2012, sbe founder and CEO Sam Nazarian opened the SLS Miami Beach. Launched in November 2008 with the SLS Beverly Hills, Nazarian’s flagship SLS brand included partnerships with world-class talent including French designer Phillippe Starck, Spanish chef José Andrés, and Katsuya Uechi. Their arrival had Miami buzzing.
“Everybody was talking about the SLS,” recalled Miranda, “and before long, several Setai managers were leaving to work there.”
He also felt the gravitational pull. “Reversing the more rigorous approach to luxury at the Mandarin Oriental and Setai, SLS brought a sexier, more vivacious attitude. I found that very appealing, and through connections, started meeting people there.”
Miranda initially left the Setai to develop concepts for another luxury flag, the Carillon Miami Beach Resort. Then sbe reached out via a headhunter, and the relationship blossomed.
Currently on a worldwide development hot streak (by the end of 2018, sbe is reportedly aiming for a global portfolio of some 28 hotels and 130-plus culinary, nightlife, and entertainment venues), the company began circulating Miranda around various Miami-based projects. “Impressed and inspired” by the training, staff development, and sbe’s company culture, Miranda also got sbe’s attention. In 2017, the company sent him to facilitate the opening of three sbe restaurants at SLS Baha Mar, part of the $4.2 billion integrated Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas. These included Cleo Mediterraneo by Chef Danny Elmaleh, Fi’lia by Chef Michael Schwartz, and significantly for Miranda’s future, the tenth location of Katsuya.
That experience, which included directly interacting with Chef Uechi, led to his appointment as executive chef at SLS LUX. His quest for the best, the sbe way, included handassembling a crack team of chefs and managers, including former Setai colleagues, former Nobu sushi chefs, and younger talent that he “especially enjoys taking under his wing.”
Leading a property-wide F&B team of some 130 people, his style is hands-on, often working alongside the line cooks, and his dishes are as transporting as his background.
Heading back downstairs, appetite and expectations primed, I was ushered into Katsuya from S Bar. Globally renowned Toronto designers George Yabu and Glenn Pushelberg have created a truly liminal transition from S Bar’s lush, energetic bohemian-chic space into the restaurant. Presented as a “modern interpretation of a rustic Japanese izakaya,” Katsuya’s serene, seductively lit interior beckoned through a wall of stacked wooden sake boxes.
Entering the first of two main dining rooms, big design statements start with the giant doll heads suspended from the ceiling. “Those are Daruma wishing dolls,” explained Miranda. “Embodying the Japanese proverb ‘Fall down seven times, stand up eight,’ they symbolize determination and endurance.”
Calligraphy, blackened bamboo, and other elements further the authentic Japanese ambiance of the 180-seat restaurant, which includes side nooks and private dining space. And then there’s the artistry on the plate. Chartered with “delivering a Miami vibe while updating and elevating the menu,” Miranda was given leeway to create his own dishes, several unique to the location, alongside Chef Uechi signatures such as his famed crispy rice with spicy tuna.
Leaving the evening entirely in Miranda’s hands, first up was a sensational soba noodle salad with wild Japanese shiitake mushrooms and truffle ponzu. Updating the traditional Filipino ceviche, Miranda’s specialty kilawin roll unites snapper marinated in coconut, and calamansi, a Philippine citrus fruit, with shrimp, ginger, and lemongrass. The traditional Japanese gyoza dumpling meets French onion soup in his hot-selling braised wagyu short rib with dashi braised onions and gruyere. He also salutes Miami’s signature Latin flavors with his version of arroz con pollo, featuring Jidori, “the wagyu of chicken,” cooked in a hot pot with rice simmered in three-times reduced chicken stock, soy, and sake.