A towering man with tattooed arms, Richard Hales looks more like an NBA player than a chef, let alone one with a finely honed Asian sensibility. Yet since December customers have been coming to Sakaya Kitchen at Midtown Miami for his boldly flavored takes on traditional Korean, Filipino, Vietnamese and Japanese snacks. The name means “sake shop” in Japanese, but Sakaya is more of an izakaya (drinking restaurant) with Asian tapas. A Tampa native whose maternal grandmother is Filipino, Hales was turned onto Asian street food on a trip to Manila when he was 19. His culinary training was classical, at the French Culinary Institute in New York and in the Manhattan kitchen of Michelin-starred chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. A job as wine director at the Mandarin Oriental brought Hales to South Florida in 2001, where he met his Cuban-Venezuelan wife, Jenny. She does the bookkeeping and bakes chocolate chip cookies and mini banana breads for Sakaya. Prominent in Hales’ arsenal are Korean ingredients such as gochujang (chile paste), fish sauce and kimchi (fiery fermented cabbage) that he makes himself. In fact, everything is made in-house, from the pate tete (made from a braised pig’s head and pork liver) to the cured duck legs with foie gras. Both are used in bahn mi sandwiches with pickled carrots, pork belly and cilantro. Spongy buns are also slit and stuffed with roasted pork with sweet chile sauce. Filipino shrimp and pork egg rolls come with tangy barley vinegar and soy dipping sauce. Daily specials might include popcorn shrimp ssam (wraps) in butter lettuce, soft-shell crab bao (in steamed buns with pickled cucumber and spicy mayo) and ginger green beans. Succulent honey-orange ribs infused with anise and bulgogi (sliced grilled beef) served with sticky rice, bean sprouts and lettuce are among the top sellers. Sunday brunch includes kimchi-scrambled eggs and scallion waffles topped with fried chicken wings and spice-spiked maple syrup. There are also Korean hot dogs with red cabbage slaw and sesame cream and grilled kimchi and cheese sandwiches. Wash it down with a glass of pastel pink Snow Maiden sake or Kirin beer. Kampai! (Cheers!)