Chef famous for his barbecue leaves Miami to open upscale seafood restaurant in Broward

Miami’s booming restaurant scene has drawn attention and praise from across the country and around the world, luring a host of restaurateurs, national publications and the Michelin Guide to the Magic City.

But for Chef Raheem Sealey, the explosion has a more troubling side. Formerly a chef at the Wynwood hot spot KYU and the Japanese Izakaya restaurant Zuma in Miami, Sealey is the force behind the beloved and nomadic Drinking Pig BBQ, which began during the pandemic in a North Miami cul de sac and popped up all over Miami, most recently downtown in the former space of Pez Mexican restaurant.

Watching powerful hospitality groups from New York flood the city, Sealey worries Miami has grown too expensive, too busy, too big — and that outside groups are overshadowing the growth of local restaurants and their chefs.

That’s a large part of why he and owner Cesar Cifuentes have boldly opened their new restaurant across the border in Broward County.

J&C Oyster, a seafood-forward restaurant that pays a small tribute to the Asian-influenced cuisine Sealey prepared at KYU and Zuma, is now open on Harrison Street in Hollywood, in the former space of the wine bar Hollywood Vine. The restaurant is next door to Cifuentes’ Mexican-Asian fusion spot Oaxaka, and though both spaces share a liquor license, they operate separately (even the music is different).

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The staff works in the open kitchen at J&C Oyster restaurant in Hollywood.
The staff works in the open kitchen at J&C Oyster restaurant in Hollywood.

Quiet Harrison Street is a world away from trendy Miami, and that’s how Sealey, who lives close to the restaurant in Hollywood Lakes, prefers it.

“When I started at KYU, there was KYU, Alter and Wynwood Kitchen & Bar,” he says, remembering Wynwood’s beginnings. “There were no buildings taller than the restaurants. Then they built a building right in front of us, and Wynwood exploded. I get it — things change, and places get gentrified, but this is crazy. It doesn’t feel the same. It feels like it lost its soul.”

After seeing so many changes, Sealey was ready for a move north, much like a chef he worked for at Sugarcane restaurant when he was 19 and fresh out of culinary school: Timon Balloo, another successful chef who left Miami to open an ambitious, upscale restaurant in Broward, The Katherine in Fort Lauderdale.

Sealey says the more relaxed Broward atmosphere suits him.

“I grew up in the Caribbean,” he says. “I’m laid-back. We do things in our own time. Miami is super fast.”

The interior of J&C Oyster on Harrison Street in Hollywood.
The interior of J&C Oyster on Harrison Street in Hollywood.

What he is doing at J&C Oyster, with the help of fellow chef Monika Dominquez, whose resume includes Zuma, KYU, Chug’s Diner and Dale Street Food, is this: creating an upscale Miami-level menu in a neighborhood that sorely lacks one.

The menu includes the requisite shellfish, on ice or broiled, as well as mussels, snapper ceviche and shrimp cocktail. Crab plays a role, too, in dishes like a perfectly spiced Thai crab curry. On a hot day (or any day), the generous crab and noodle salad offers cool relief with the perfect hint of heat. The best way to explore, as always, is to order dishes for the table and share.

Seeing a crudo dish on any menu these days isn’t unusual, but the hamachi with white ponzu, serrano and garlic oil is a standout, as is the show stopping lobster risotto, made with sushi rice instead of the usual arborio. Mascarpone renders it creamy beyond belief, while chili crisp reinforces that ever-present hint of Asian influence. At $63, it’s one of the more expensive menu items — aside from the caviar service, something you don’t see a lot in Hollywood — but it’s worth the splurge.

Focusing on seafood is a challenge Sealey relishes. Change, he believes, makes him sharper, so he’s not sorry to step away from barbecue (for now).

“Chefs get comfortable, and we stay in our comfort zone,” he says. “When Cesar told me he wanted to do a seafood concept, it was inspiring. I grew up in the Virgin Islands. We eat a lot of fish, a lot of seafood, and it kind of brought me back. I get to do something I grew up eating.”

Lobster risotto is one of the show stoppers at J&C Oyster in Hollywood.
Lobster risotto is one of the show stoppers at J&C Oyster in Hollywood.

There are also meat dishes at J&C Oyster — pork belly, oxtail, bone marrow — and, in a surprising-yet-not-surprising twist, juicy, flavorful fried chicken, a nod to the fried chicken Sealey was famous for cooking at KYU. The restaurant also offers a generous happy hour menu — which includes a smoky fish dip and the fried chicken — for the after-work crowd.

Sealey calls his time at KYU a “blessing for my career” and says he never takes it for granted. The single biggest lesson he learned in kitchens over the years has been simple: “Treat people the way you want to be treated.”

“I learned that from a lot of kitchens,” he says. “When you grow up in the industry you work with so many different people. Some of them you want to be like, and some you don’t. I’ve learned that to open any restaurant, you have to make sure you build a team you trust and give them creative freedom. KYU was my playground. I got to explore a lot. I found myself as a chef there.”

Having a restaurant on the notoriously quiet Harrison Street, which gets little to no foot traffic, is a challenge, Cifuentes acknowledges. But he believes in his partnership with Sealey, the city’s need for upscale dining — and that Hollywood is on the precipice of change. New developments are popping up around the small downtown area, which means more potential diners.

Fried chicken is also on the J&C Oyster menu, a nod to Chef Raheem Sealey’s famous chicken at KYU in Wynwood.
Fried chicken is also on the J&C Oyster menu, a nod to Chef Raheem Sealey’s famous chicken at KYU in Wynwood.

“We took a gamble, but we knew growth was coming,” Cifuentes says. “We have to stay consistent and prove ourselves. There’s so much development going on in every direction within a block. I think there’s going to be a shift in the culture downtown. And our mission is to make J&C Oyster a destination beyond Hollywood.”

As for Sealey, he wouldn’t mind opening a Drinking Pig location nearby at some point.

“I really would like to have Drinking Pig in downtown Hollywood,” he says. “Just because it’s home for me.”

J&C Oyster

Where: 2035 Harrison St., Hollywood

Hours: 5-10 p.m. Wednesday-Sunday; happy hour 5-7 p.m. Wednesday-Friday

More information:; (954) 300-1007

The interior of J&C Oyster restaurant in Hollywood.
The interior of J&C Oyster restaurant in Hollywood.