Since 2016, KYU has been a staple of Miami’s creative and eclectic Wynwood neighborhood. Considered one of the best restaurants in the U.S., the wood-fired, Asian-inspired restaurant has received a number of accolades since its inception, including a James Beard Foundation semifinalist nod for Best New Restaurant in 2017, and TIME’s “Best Restaurant in Florida.” On the heels of the Miami location’s success and a second outpost opened in Mexico City in the summer of 2020, KYU is set for global expansion through a new partnership with the Britain-based firm Reuben Brothers. The Reubens, along with entrepreneurs and KYU founders Alan Omsky and Jordan Sayfie, plan to expand the KYU’s brand across America and Europe, beginning with New York City.
“We’re thrilled with this new partnership with such a prestigious group as the Reuben Brothers and the opportunity to expand KYU to cities worldwide,” Omsky says. “This has been an incredibly challenging time for our industry, and we’re proud of the momentum and forward trajectory of the restaurant, while staying true to our diverse menu, professional yet relaxed service, and commitment to green practices.”
The powerhouse executive team at KYU, along with many past and present diligent team members, will stay on board and continue to consistently deliver KYU’s renowned level of service and delectable, innovative menu. Joining the executive team as managing director, George Atterbury, who will spearhead the growth and development of these expansions, brings an extensive hospitality portfolio.
Executive chef Raheem Sealey, formerly of Zuma and Pao and who has led the KYU kitchen for the last three years, will continue to helm all culinary aspects at KYU, remaining true to its original Japanese yakiniku wood-fired grilling methods. All signature dishes and crowd favorites will remain on the menu, including the Thai fried rice stone pot with king crab, duck breast “burnt ends,” wagyu beef brisket, whole-roasted cauliflower with goat cheese and shishito herb vinaigrette, crispy tuna tartare, sliced hamachi, and the popular coconut cake. Sealey will also bring his own flair to the menu, and intends to roll out unique, innovative dishes in his new role. Hailing from St. Croix, followed by years of training in some of Miami’s best kitchens including Michael’s Genuine, chef Sealey joined KYU when it first opened in February 2016 as sous chef and was quickly promoted to executive chef thanks to his dedication, hard work, and talent, and continues to spearhead KYU’s culinary innovation to this day.
The menu features a variety of grill specialties, locally sourced produce, and “low and slow” wood-fired cooking methods. The plates are designed to be straightforward and shareable, enabling a warm social environment. Sunday brunch is also available, serving dishes like crispy banana and bourbon French toast, eggs benedict with soft shell crab or crispy pork, and a Kimchi Bloody Mary.
“I am beyond honored to continue my journey with KYU as executive chef,” Sealey says. “I’m looking forward to sharing KYU with the rest of the world as the expansion begins to roll out, providing simple yet groundbreaking, and truly delicious dishes.”
KYU’s bar program complements the wood fired and Asian-inspired menu perfectly, providing a carefully curated cocktail list featuring variations of classic cocktails with a clever Asian twist. Highlights include the Wynwood Mule, infused with vodka, ginger beer, bitters, and three-hour, house-smoked pineapple; the Spicy Shiso Sour crafted with tequila, fresh-pressed cucumber juice, and Thai chili tincture; and the Raging Geisha, made with double aged Toki Japanese whisky, Thai basil, obliterated cucumbers, and fresh dill.
Following a brief closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the restaurant’s flagship Miami location underwent minor renovations to add covered outdoor seating, in addition to its outdoor terrace, 100-seat indoor dining room, and eight-seat bar area. Plexiglass barriers have also been installed between tables and bar seats to further provide a safe environment for guests. When KYU founders first opened the 4,000 square-foot restaurant in 2016, their pillar of inspiration came from wabi-sabi design—a Japanese worldview that embraces and finds beauty in imperfection and profundity in earthiness. True to the locale, guests approaching KYU are greeted with an exciting entryway flanked by a mural to the left by local artist 2ALAS in their signature linear style, and a lush living plant wall to the right. The balance of these parallel walls creates a fitting transition from the outside in.
Once inside the restaurant, low-lit micro-cement walls offer a break from the bright colors and busy murals of the outside, and reclaimed wood and personal touches add warmth to the otherwise industrial space. Mirroring the dueling nature of the entryway mural and live wall, the kitchen and bar face one another on opposite ends of the restaurant. The room is divided into three sections—a bar, restaurant, and lounge—with custom-made wood and iron units. In the spirit of wabi-sabi, these units use mill-scale iron with exposed welding that is deliberately imperfect, and the incorporated shelves are filled with cookbooks, micro-herbs and pottery; homey touches that invite guests to explore and interact with the surroundings.
Finishing touches throughout the restaurants are prolific examples of KYU’s pledge to maximize global environmental sustainability, including responsible food sourcing and planting trees to compensate for those used by the wood charcoal grill.