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10 Questions with Jose Icardi, Executive Chef, Katsuya South Beach

Behind the scenes with the chef at SoBe's favorite sushi restaurant

Katsuya Chef Jose Icardi

Those in-the-know understand that when it comes to fresh and innovative sushi, very few places compare to Katsuya {1701 Collins Avenue, Miami Beach; 305.455.2995}. And now, the South Beach location of the SBE group restaurant is spicing things up by adding some brand-new dishes to its already popular menu that won’t disappoint. DiningOut recently had the chance to interview Katsuya’s Executive Chef Jose Icardi to discuss the new items, his background, and how Miami reflects the menu as a whole.

1. Tell us about your background. Where are you originally from and how did you end up in Miami?
I grew up in the Ramos Mejía neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina. I moved to Spain in 1997 after graduating from culinary school to work and learn from the rich Spanish food culture. After a year of living abroad, I decided Miami would be an amazing place to live. I came here in 1998 and immediately fell in love with the city!

2. What was your experience with food like growing up? What made you decide to be a chef?
I grew up in a big family and almost every night of the week, my dad was cooking a great asado, which is an Argentine barbecue, or we were visiting friends and family for a party or dinner. Even though I moved out of the city and studied to be a lifeguard on the coast of Argentina, I found myself attracted to the amazing food culture we have in the country and I decided to go to culinary school to sharpen my skills.

3. How did you end up working with SBE, specifically Katsuya?
I was working with Starr Restaurants and Chef Makoto Okuwa in Bal Harbour for about five years when I decided to take a leave of absence to be with my family in Buenos Aires. When I returned to the States, SBE and Katsuya reached out to me to lead their kitchen operations. I was more than happy to become part of such a great team.

4. How does the menu at the South Beach location differ from other Katsuya locations?
The Katsuyas all differ to an extent. We like to incorporate the flavors of Latin America and Miami into the menu, which gives us a unique edge. One of my favorite dishes is our Katsuya Ceviche, which is popular throughout Latin America. Our version is an Asian fusion with a fresh yuzu citrus ponzu and a dash of truffle oil.

5. Does Miami itself play a part when creating menu items, selecting ingredients, etc.?
It definitely does! We have beautiful weather year-round, which makes it ideal to promote locally grown and farm-to-table ingredients. We are very lucky to buy both locally sourced fish, produce, and meat, such as the natural Wagyu beef from Jackman Farms in Central Florida. We also to buy directly from Tsukiji Fish Market in Japan.

katsuya Chicken karaage

6. Tell us about some of the newer menu items. How do these items reflect Katsuya as an evolving culinary destination?
We strive to maintain a balance between classic and contemporary cuisine, and one example of that is our Salmon Tartare with paddlefish caviar. We use salmon rather than a traditional whitefish and drizzle it in ponzu with crispy salmon skin for texture and a dash of caviar on top. Another favorite of mine is our Chicken Karaage [pictured above], which is cooked low and slow with aromatics and served on top of a cold potato salad with Key limes. We like to keep our menu new and fresh, so that even if you have visited our location or any other Katsuya before, it will always be a unique experience.

7. What is a must-try for first-timers?
For first timers—even those who do not eat sushi—our menu is perfect because it is so diverse. While we pride ourselves on having high-quality and creative sushi, sashimi, and maki, Katsuya also has my favorite, the Robata Grill. Everything there is tapas-style, so it’s great for sharing and really embodies the izakaya dining experience of Japan. I recommend trying the Wagyu Filet and Foie Gras, or the grilled Maitake Mushrooms.

8. What can we expect in the future for Katsuya?
Our most important goal is to continue to offer consistent, yet creative dishes that will reflect the high standard that we hold for ourselves. We want to be ever-evolving as well, so we like to have weekly additions to the menu based on the seasons.

9. What local or celebrity chefs do you admire?
I admire Chef Susur Lee; not only is he a great friend, but he is talented and creative. I’d love for him to visit Miami more often so we could collaborate.

10. Do you have a favorite food or food guilty pleasure?
I really stick to my roots and try make everyone in my house happy. On the weekends, I’m always cooking up an asado dinner just as if we were back in Argentina. I bring back all my favorite spices and rubs from Argentina for the meat, and I make a lot of the same recipes my dad taught me when I was a kid. It’s a win-win situation!

—Sherri Balefsky | Miami Editor