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How Master Chef Yasu Tanaka Makes Sea Urchin Risotto

The Japanese twist on the classic Italian dish is just one of the chef’s many innovations at Azabu in Miami

Behind Japanese restaurant Azabu in Miami Beach hides a sushi counter called The Den. There, chef Yasu Tanaka creates an omakase-style dinner experience with dishes that feature a combination of local and Japanese ingredients and flavors.

Chef Tanaka comes from a long line of clocksmiths, which gives him an eye for detail, precision, and ingenuity.

“A clocksmith’s work is very delicate, and I grew up watching my father and grandfather wearing loups over their eyes, working on very small details for hours on end,” he recounts. “I have chosen a different direction, as a craftsman. Repairing clocks and making sushi is completely different, but like my father and grandfather, I hope to become a respected shokunin.”

At The Den, the chef channels his craftsmanship skills into his food by putting creative spins on traditional dishes. He has re engineered a classic seafood risotto, for example, to be rich without using the cream found in traditional Italian risotto. Instead, the chef makes a mousse out of shikaro, mixes in buttery uni, and adds soft crab meat to get the desired texture.

“In my life, I have experienced many things, and have had to overcome adversities,” says chef Tanaka. “And through that I learned what makes me tick, what interests me, touches me, gives me joy in my life. So I think I have lots of patience, but I do what my heart says.”

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