Azabu Head Sushi Chef Yasu Tanaka

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By: Miami New Times

Chef Yasu Tanaka's enthusiastic approach to sushi making

Chef Yasu Tanaka may hail from the landlocked region of Yamanashi, Japan, but he has traveled all over the world in pursuit of his culinary passions. From Mozambique to Miami, Tanaka has delighted diners with his incredible talents and genuine enthusiasm for his craft. These days, he’s making a splash in the Miami culinary scene as the head sushi chef at The Den at Azabu, a Miami Beach favorite.

Sushi bowl at Azabu
Sushi bowl at Azabu

A Global Education Fueled by a Desire to Share

Born the second son in a family of five in the Yamanashi Prefecture, Chef Tanaka was raised with a deep appreciation for the culture and cuisine of his native Japan. After graduating from college, he opted to take part in a volunteer program based in Africa, residing and working in Mozambique for two years. There, he took on the challenge of sharing his love for Japanese cuisine, working diligently to teach himself an exceptional range of culinary techniques.

It was in the heart of Mozambique that Tanaka realized his professional calling was to connect people to Japanese culture through the power of food. After leaving Africa, he enrolled in the Tokyo Sushi Academy, graduating with honors and placing at the top of his class.

When it came time to embark on his professional career, Chef Tanaka’s talent and dedication propelled him to positions in Michelin-starred restaurants across the world. In Tokyo, he worked at the famous Sushi Iwa for three years, later moving on to New York City to join the team at Sushi Azabu. A few years later, Tanaka moved to Miami Beach, where he now pursues his dream of sharing traditional Edomae sushi with the local culinary community.

Sushi at Azabu
Sushi at Azabu

Crafting World-Class Sushi at The Den at Azabu

The Den at Azabu is part of a Michelin-starred concept that’s earned rave reviews around the world, dedicated to welcoming patrons to partake in the tradition of Japanese hospitality. Considered by many to be one of Miami’s “hidden” sushi counters, The Den is a one-of-a-kind dining experience tucked inside the upscale Marriott Stanton South Beach hotel. With Chef Tanaka at the helm, a team of Tokyo-trained sushi chefs prepares a carefully curated selection of authentic Japanese sushi.

One of the most beloved dishes at The Den is more of a dining experience than a single meal. The omakase menu follows in the Japanese tradition of allowing the chefs to shape the diner’s experience, tapping into their culinary expertise and creativity to design a perfect symphony of flavors and textures. When a guest at The Den opts for the omakase menu, they’ll benefit from an impeccably selected assortment of dishes selected by Chef Tanaka and his talented team. Sashimi and sushi will be tailored to complement the other courses, ensuring that the entire meal is an incredible culinary journey.

Tempura at Azabu
Tempura at Azabu

A Homebody with a Love for Miami

When asked about his all-time favorite hangout spot in Miami, Tanaka doesn’t miss a beat when answering, “[My] kitchen in my house.” A homebody at heart, he loves spending time in his home kitchen, creating meals that run the gamut from simple to complex. If you consider the action-packed career Tanaka has led – both past and present – it makes sense that winding down at home is his idea of a perfect day.

But that’s not to say he doesn’t take full advantage of the many perks of being a Miami resident. Don’t be surprised if you run into him jogging along South Beach, enjoying the scenic route between his apartment and South Pointe Park. Like a true Miami local at heart, Tanaka can often be found soaking up the sun and scenic views.

And where does an acclaimed sushi chef like to eat when he’s not dining at home or at work? Tanaka is quick to admit his favorite food – “sushi,” of course – but when he’s craving something different, there’s one Miami restaurant that never fails him: Mandolin Aegean Bistro. A sharp contrast to the Japanese cuisine Tanaka is best known for, Mandolin Aegean Bistro is a small but wildly popular restaurant serving up a modern take on Greek and Turkish cuisine. Inspired by the coastal towns bordering the Aegean Sea, the friendly bistro is one of Tanaka’s favorite mealtime destinations.

Discover More of Miami’s Best Chefs

If you’re interested in learning more about the chefs and restaurants that have made Miami one of the world’s top culinary capitals, browse our full collection of restaurant guides anytime.

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