Jonathan Cheban, the beloved cohort in television’s blingiest of sagas who moonlights as a PR guru, celeb wrangler, publishing pro, entrepreneur, and Kim K’s BFF, is looking for longevity with the newly-opened Miami outpost of Sushi Mikasa at the Shelborne South Beach hotel. Part celebrity hangout (with secret entrance to boot), part culinary hit that’s birthed the Golden Flower Salmon Tomato Roll, the restaurant marks Cheban’s inaugural foray into a possibly lustrous gastronomic career. With plans to launch a burger franchise, we caught up with the fast-talking Kardashian confidant, who is parlaying the art of name-dropping into a budding enterprise.
Isn’t the original Mikasa located in the middle of nowhere? How did you stumble upon it?
Yeah, it’s in Brooklyn. Not even in edgy Williamsburg, mind you. It’s in Sheepshead Bay. I was on my way to the Hamptons to host an event and was looking at the pictures of Mikasa sushi on Instagram. It all came together in my head when I realized that the chef from Sushi Seki was the one at Mikasa, and if you know anything about Seki, it is that it’s so frickin’ expensive, but so top quality. It’s like couture sushi. So we pulled over in Sheepshead Bay, I walked in, the place was jammed, and it turns out I knew the owner, Michael Barkin. I’m such a foodie so I was instantly smitten.
Maybe. I left the place thinking that it’s a shame that not many people know about it. I called Michael that night and told him that we needed to open Mikasa in Miami. Why here? Because I love Miami. In New York and LA I work my ass off, but here in Miami I feel like I’m on a semi-vacation. So I wanted to start a business here, which would give me the incentive to pop in and check on things once in a while. I’m a concept guy, and I thought that this would be a mega hit here. And I was right. Mikasa is all over the media, on Instagram and Twitter.
Is that how you leverage success? By how many media hits you can generate?
Am I the operations guy? No. You are not going to see me slicing tuna behind the bar. I’m the media guy. So I generated the buzz and that’s probably worth more than anything. And judging by the write-ups and the celebs we’ve had in here already, I’m going to say that we are in a very good place.
Speaking of concepts, what’s up with your Burger Bandit idea?
I’ve wanted to open up a burger join for the past 13 years. Recently the burger has gone through a modern makeover, and I miss the old school burger, the meaty, simple In-n-Out version. Nothing fancy, just your good-sized burger, grilled with bun on top. I would like to open it up in the next six months somewhere in Florida and then take it everywhere else.
Would you ever give up your TV cameos for Burger Bandit?
No way. I love being on TV. It’s so much fun. I was the guy behind the scenes for so long, now I go to the mall and I have young girls asking me to take my picture. Who would have thought? The only time I long for anonymity is when I’m not looking my finest, or when my hair is all whacked. Hey haters, this is a once-in-a-lifetime kind of a thing. And I’m enjoying it. If you had the chance, I bet you’d like it, too.
[Related: BlackBook Miami Guide; Listings for Sushi Mikasa Miami, Shelborne South Beach, Sushi Mikasa New York, Sushi Seki; Download the free BlackBook City Guides app for iPhone and Android; Subscribe to the BlackBook Happenings email newsletter.]