By Mitchell Nover
YAKU by La Mar (500 Brickell Key Dr, Miami) is a chic outdoor bar and lounge from the Mandarin Oriental Miami’s award-winning restaurant, La Mar by Gaston Acurio. Giving Chef Diego Oka the space to be a little more playful on the outdoor terrace, YAKU blends multicultural ingredients with Peruvian cocktails, light bites, and a cozy waterfront gathering place from Thursday to Saturday nights. Conceptualized and designed by Chef Oka himself, the lounge is furnished with a selection of Peruvian-inspired textiles, sleek communal seating and bronze, terracotta, and colorful accents.
Menu highlights: The YAKU menu is concise and condensed, but these Peruvian-style tapas still manage to pack the punch that you expect from Chef Oka’s offerings right inside the doors at La Mar. Make a few selections for a few quick happy hour bites, or go to town and make a full-blown meal out of it. Personally, I did the latter, sampling all but one dish on the menu.
Highlights included the Cebiche Tostada (tuna tartare, crispy onions, chipotle aioli, and avocado); Coctel de Camarones (leche de tigre, avocado, and tobiko); Yuccas Estrelladas (hash yuccas, queso fresco, garlic, and egg); KFC Popcorn (Korean fried chicken with Peruvian chilies, gochujang, sesame, and scallions); Pescao (crispy fish with spicy tartare sauce and criolla); and Los Choritos (mussels in their juice with caucau flavors, toasted bread, and crostini).
Standout dish: To be honest, all the food was amazing, which is not a surprise to anyone who has tried Chef Oka’s food in the past. That said, the Quinoa Burger (alfalfa sprouts, pickles, chimichurri, and caramelized onions) was a surprise and delight. Putting all preciously-consumed veggie burgers to shame, the quinoa patty was crisp and crunchy on the outside, with a creamy and light interior that paired beautifully with the crisp, clean veggie fixin’s.
Are we boozing? Considering that YAKU is billed as a “bar and lounge,” drinks are definitely being consumed here. While you can order from the full bar, wine list, and beer selection, the Tiki-style punch cocktails are the way to go. In addition to being fresh, bright and (too) easy to drink, they are also absolutely perfect for sunset sipping overlooking Biscayne Bay and the Brickell Skyline.
The four signature cocktails include the YAKU (Bacardi white, Bacardi light, mango puree, lime juice, simple syrup, and chicha morada); La Picarona (dark rum, Midori, falernum, lime juice, pineapple juice, and orange juice); the Sexy Bombon Punch (bourbon, orange juice, lime juice, orange cinnamon infused simple syrup, orange bitters, and a pinch of baking soda); and the Amorcito (ginger-infused pisco quebranta, lime juice, pineapple juice, eucalyptus syrup, ginger beer, and angostura bitters).
Mitch’s take: Classy, comfy, and crazy good, YAKU by La Mar is a great option for a summer night out in Miami. It’s also a great entry point for those who may be a little intimidated by the full La Mar menu (and price point), offering up a scaled back and more approachable/affordable introduction to Chef Oka’s genius. And, did I mention the #views?