Japanese/Sushi in Orlando

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  • Amura Sushi Bar & Japanese Restaurant

    7786 W. Sand Lake Road West

    (407) 370-0007

    After a slowdown from the sushi overload of last year, several new restaurants have opened lately in various parts of town. Gracing the dining hot spot of Sand Lake Road is a familiar name in new clothing: Amura.

    Owned by the same folks behind the cozy Church Street location, Amura on Sand Lake is upscale and reservedly glitzy. It's to their credit that, despite some stiff competition and the shaky state of Church Street, Amura has thrived enough to expand.

    Owned by the same folks behind the cozy Church Street location, Amura on Sand Lake is upscale and reservedly glitzy. It's to their credit that, despite some stiff competition and the shaky state of Church Street, Amura has thrived enough to expand.

    This venue includes teppan tables, secluded on one side of the restaurant from the main room; judging by the appreciative noises coming from that end they seem to go over well. The new Amura is a gorgeous space, with backlit glass walls, rich marble flooring and tiny halogen lights suspended invisibly overhead like stars. But oohs and aahs at the decor quickly turn to gasps at the pricing – $21.99 for boring salt-coated scallops? A "deluxe Isleworth boat" sushi assortment for $99.98?

    This venue includes teppan tables, secluded on one side of the restaurant from the main room; judging by the appreciative noises coming from that end they seem to go over well. The new Amura is a gorgeous space, with backlit glass walls, rich marble flooring and tiny halogen lights suspended invisibly overhead like stars. But oohs and aahs at the decor quickly turn to gasps at the pricing – $21.99 for boring salt-coated scallops? A "deluxe Isleworth boat" sushi assortment for $99.98?

    The quality of the sushi does remain high, and it's particularly nice to see varieties of fish that have a low environmental impact, like hamachi (yellowtail, a kind of amberjack) and saba (mackerel). The saba is particularly good, with a slightly pickled taste that complements the firm rice. I recommend any of their nigiri sushi or sashimi, which glistens like jewels under those lights, except for the sashimi appetizer ($8.99), which includes a piece of surimi (that horrible fake crab). Surimi also turned up in the sunomono salad ($7.99) – shame on them.

    The quality of the sushi does remain high, and it's particularly nice to see varieties of fish that have a low environmental impact, like hamachi (yellowtail, a kind of amberjack) and saba (mackerel). The saba is particularly good, with a slightly pickled taste that complements the firm rice. I recommend any of their nigiri sushi or sashimi, which glistens like jewels under those lights, except for the sashimi appetizer ($8.99), which includes a piece of surimi (that horrible fake crab). Surimi also turned up in the sunomono salad ($7.99) – shame on them.

    The rolls didn't fare as well as the sushi. The "bamboo wine roll" ($8.99) of white tuna wrapped in avocado was limp and tasteless, the avocado overwhelming other flavors. And the "Magic roll" ($7.99), with shrimp, crab and asparagus was so soggy with a sweet, watery sauce, that it was almost impossible to pick up.

    The rolls didn't fare as well as the sushi. The "bamboo wine roll" ($8.99) of white tuna wrapped in avocado was limp and tasteless, the avocado overwhelming other flavors. And the "Magic roll" ($7.99), with shrimp, crab and asparagus was so soggy with a sweet, watery sauce, that it was almost impossible to pick up.

    It's when we get to the kitchen that everything falls apart. Not everyone likes the same thing, but I'll bet very few people enjoy oily and lukewarm shrimp tempura, with batter-dipped vegetables that are either undercooked or in such large pieces, like the broccoli, that raw batter sits inside as an unpleasant surprise. All that for $16.95. "fiery garlic chicken" ($15.99), a small portion of chewy chicken bits, was more overseasoned than fiery. The "geisha shrimp" ($18.99) were battered, then covered in an odd white sauce, with a bitter, burnt garlic taste that lingered for hours.

    It's when we get to the kitchen that everything falls apart. Not everyone likes the same thing, but I'll bet very few people enjoy oily and lukewarm shrimp tempura, with batter-dipped vegetables that are either undercooked or in such large pieces, like the broccoli, that raw batter sits inside as an unpleasant surprise. All that for $16.95. "fiery garlic chicken" ($15.99), a small portion of chewy chicken bits, was more overseasoned than fiery. The "geisha shrimp" ($18.99) were battered, then covered in an odd white sauce, with a bitter, burnt garlic taste that lingered for hours.

    If you go, stay with what Amura knows best – sushi – and let the kitchen staff take a break.

  • Amura Sushi Bar & Japanese Restaurant

    54 W. Church St., Suite 170 Winter Park Area

    (407) 316-8500

    A much-awaited renovation gives an updated look and feel to this downtown establishment hidden away on Church Street. Blissfully undiminished is the quality of the food ' seaweed salad that crunches just right and sushi so fresh it needs no adornment (though the elaborate rolls are delicious).
  • Amura Sushi Bar

    950 Market Promenade Plaza, Lake Mary North

    (407) 936-6001

  • Bayridge Sushi

    1000 W. State Road 434, Longwood North

    (407) 331-0000; (407) 331-0069 (FAX)

  • Bento Cafe

    151 S. Orange Ave. Downtown

    407-999-8989

    Sushi and noodles are all the rage at this cool lunch spot. Handsomely presented "torch rolls" with conch, scallops, salmon, tuna and sriracha are luscious, while spicy red tobiko proffer a proper pop. Bento boxes run the gamut and a bonanza of boba awaits tea-totalers.

    2 articles
  • Big Fin Seafood Kitchen

    8046 Via Dellagio Way West

    (407) 615-8888

    You can tell that size matters to Bobby Moore. The local restaurateur seems to believe that good things come in big, sometimes gargantuan, packages. Step inside the Big Fin Seafood Kitchen ' his 11,000-square-foot behemoth of a seafood emporium ' and you'll see that philosophy in action: It's an imposing space with a centerpiece globe dangling from the high ceiling and large murals reading 'Best Tails in Townâ?� and 'We've Got the Crabs.â?� Classy. Then again, Big Fin is a perfect fit amid the grandiose environs of the Dellagio Town Center. Ample square footage appears to be a requisite for tenancy here ' a requirement Moore was more than happy to satisfy after the economy and the tax man harpooned his previous venture, Beluga, in Winter
    Park Village.

    Still, finding refuge in this enormous and clamorous fish tank is possible ' just ask for a table in the carpeted Atlantic Room and conversations can be had with your dining comrades. 

    You'll certainly hear cries of disappointment if they run out of crab legs (as was the case on the Saturday evening we visited), murmurs of dissatisfaction after slurping the 'ya ya gumboâ?� ($5.95) and exclamations of joy at the shrimp cocktail ($9.95) and can't-eat-just-one flash-fried potato chips ($7.95), served with a roasted garlic-horseradish gorgonzola fondue. Yellowtail nigiri ($4.95) had us nodding our heads, yes, yes; room-temperature tuna sashimi ($4.95), not so much. The steakhouse roll ($6.95), with shaved prime rib, asparagus, horseradish mayonnaise and arugula, was different, but not different enough. 'It was almost innovative,â?� one of my dining partners remarked.

    When the mains arrived, we were hopeful for a better effort from the kitchen. Blue crab crusted grouper ($29.95), served with a light beurre blanc, lived up to all expectations. Both the fish and the crab pancake were perfect. Garlic mashed potatoes, sadly, were dry to the point of being crumbly. Queen snapper en papillote ($24.95) was a letdown not because of its flavor, but because it was unevenly cooked. The same lapse plagued the pan-seared mahi mahi piccata ($22.95), an otherwise flavorful fillet topped with lemon, capers and again with the beurre blanc.

    The pound-and-a-half broiled Maine lobster ($26.95) fulfilled the restaurant's assertion of serving the best tails in town. Unfortunately, the rest of the crustacean's flesh was zapped of its succulence due to overbroiling. Indeed, parts appeared blackened ' not browned ' and no measure of melted butter could've salvaged this
    charred invertebrate.

    But dessert provided sweet redemption. A homemade New Orleans-style bread pudding ($5.95) was given a delightfully airy rendering, with caramelized banana slices, vanilla ice cream and amaretto sauce. The big finale came in the form of the 'Big Fin dessert� ($14.95), a rich, decadent milk chocolate brownie cup drizzled with caramel sauce and speckled with pecans. It was big enough to finish off a table of four and helped erase the slightly bitter memory of the mains. 

    The fresh catch, the service and even the soaring space put Big Fin in an enviable position. If it shores up the kitchen, it should do swimmingly.

    1 article
  • Bikkuri Sushi

    1915 E. Colonial Drive Mills 50

    407-894-4494

    Picking up sushi for dinner on the way home from work is a fairly daunting proposition in that it usually means stopping by the Japanese deli case near the produce section at your local grocery store. The convenience is nice, but the sushi – while tolerable and far better than a delivery pizza – leaves something to be desired (especially the weird, plastic-looking tuna). If you're one of the approximately 80 billion people who uses East Colonial Drive for the daily trip home, you've no doubt noticed the poster-sized photo of the scrumptious-looking "Sky Tray" of sushi that graces the window of Bikkuri Sushi and wondered: Wouldn't that be great for dinner?

    Although there is limited seating inside Bikkuri, the restaurant's specialty is takeout, as the menu is almost completely composed of takeout trays. From the Rose Party (32 pieces, all rolls; $13.29) to the African Violet (80 pieces of rolls, 10 nigiri sushi; $46.59), a variety of sizes and combinations is available and all of them are, surprisingly enough, priced more reasonably than the stuff in the grocery store.

    The 72 pieces (and $50 price tag) of the Sky Tray might be a little much for a typical after-work meal, but I had friends coming over and figured it would be a good opportunity to sample Bikkuri's skills. Still, none of us expected Bikkuri's fare to be as fresh as it was. Some of the nigiri wasn't cut to perfection (a tiny piece of bone showed up in some yellowtail), but the fish was excellent and well-chosen, and the rolls were beautiful and bursting with flavor.

    It would have been unimaginable a few years ago to think about picking up sushi as easily as picking up a pizza, much less FRESH sushi, but Bikkuri's tray combinations make it easy, and their excellent sushi makes it a pleasure.

    4 articles
  • The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar

    6000 Universal Blvd. I-Drive/Universal

    407-363-8000

    In the midst of celebrity-branded restaurants and kiosks slinging theme-park kitsch, the Cowfish at Universal CityWalk, occupying a sprawling three-story space with more than 500 seats, fills the need for a kind of inventive, delightfully weird cuisine. There’s a menu section for burgers, one for sushi, and a selection of bizarre combinations requiring a suspension of disbelief, like the Buffaloooo-shi burgushi roll: chipotle bison, fried green tomato and feta rolled in crispy tempura flakes. It works.
    2 articles
  • Crazy Buffet

    945 W. State Road 436, Unit 1179, Altamonte Springs North

    (407) 869-1233

    We all know what image the word "buffet" conjures up, and it's not a complimentary one if you're looking for a fine meal. Add "crazy" to that, all sorts of pictures spring to mind that would make the late eccentric filmmaker Ed Wood blush.

    So my problem is in finding an alternative phrase for a place called "Crazy Buffet" to describe how impressive it is. Part of a small chain, this location (open since October 2001) has a giant pink facade with a pagoda on top and "gee whiz" decor inside: The black-marble entry, bubbling streams and many dining rooms will make your mouth fall open.

    So my problem is in finding an alternative phrase for a place called "Crazy Buffet" to describe how impressive it is. Part of a small chain, this location (open since October 2001) has a giant pink facade with a pagoda on top and "gee whiz" decor inside: The black-marble entry, bubbling streams and many dining rooms will make your mouth fall open.

    Called an "upscale Japanese" restaurant, many of the offerings are Chinese, including a not-too-sweet honey chicken, tofu-laden hot-and-sour soup, and crunchy, shell-on salt-and-pepper shrimp. Lo mein fans won't be disappointed; neither will seekers of peppery Szechuan beef.

    Called an "upscale Japanese" restaurant, many of the offerings are Chinese, including a not-too-sweet honey chicken, tofu-laden hot-and-sour soup, and crunchy, shell-on salt-and-pepper shrimp. Lo mein fans won't be disappointed; neither will seekers of peppery Szechuan beef.

    It's when you find bowls of Japanese udon noodles and crabmeat waiting for a ladle of rich broth, or sweet black-hijiki-seaweed salad, or rich and comforting miso soup, that things become interesting.

    It's when you find bowls of Japanese udon noodles and crabmeat waiting for a ladle of rich broth, or sweet black-hijiki-seaweed salad, or rich and comforting miso soup, that things become interesting.

    I have had sushi made with higher grade fish locally, but I've also had a lot worse and paid a lot more. The best part for sushi lovers is that you can choose your favorite and eat all you want. Toasted salmon-skin rolls, California rolls, the interestingly different "house" roll that's fried on the outside with moist fish within, broiled unagi (eel), a refreshing, spicy chopped octopus, sweet red tuna -- the assortment changes with supply, but it's all worth a try.

    I have had sushi made with higher grade fish locally, but I've also had a lot worse and paid a lot more. The best part for sushi lovers is that you can choose your favorite and eat all you want. Toasted salmon-skin rolls, California rolls, the interestingly different "house" roll that's fried on the outside with moist fish within, broiled unagi (eel), a refreshing, spicy chopped octopus, sweet red tuna -- the assortment changes with supply, but it's all worth a try.

    Desserts, particularly the green-tea cake, are a step above the ordinary, and the bread -- always my first indicator of how much a restaurant cares about its food -- is superb.

    Desserts, particularly the green-tea cake, are a step above the ordinary, and the bread -- always my first indicator of how much a restaurant cares about its food -- is superb.

    Service (yes, there are servers who bring drinks and clear used plates) is attentive and polite. Lunch ($9.95, or $15.95 for weekend brunch) is a great deal for sushi fanatics, and dinner ($18.95 to $21.95, depending on the day) features a one-shot hibachi counter: Pick some vegetables, your meat of choice (chicken, beef, pork or seafood) and a sauce, and it will appear at your table.

    Service (yes, there are servers who bring drinks and clear used plates) is attentive and polite. Lunch ($9.95, or $15.95 for weekend brunch) is a great deal for sushi fanatics, and dinner ($18.95 to $21.95, depending on the day) features a one-shot hibachi counter: Pick some vegetables, your meat of choice (chicken, beef, pork or seafood) and a sauce, and it will appear at your table.

    Think of it more as Asian communal eating rather than a buffet. And since there are Japanese creatures akin to foxes running wild in their native country, I'll coin a new phrase and say, "Crazy Buffet is crazy like a kitsune."

  • Domu

    3201 Corrine Drive Audubon Park

    407-960-1228

    Open for takeout and delivery from 4-9pm.
    2 articles
  • Dragonfly Robata

    7972 Via Dellagio Way Dr. Phillips

    407-370-3359

    5 articles
  • Fuji Sushi

    504 N. Alafay Trail East

    (407) 277-0060

  • Fuji Sushi

    6700 Conroy Road West

    (407) 298-2989; (407) 299-0032 (FAX)

    Believe it or not, some of the best sushi in our humble burg comes from the Bangladeshi brothers behind Winter Park's fiercely popular Fuji Sushi. One of the brothers, known simply as Mohani to his many sushi worshippers, is to seaweed and sticky rice what Picasso was to paint and canvas. Luckily for his fans on the west side, Mohani has opened a sister location in the Universal Studios/Dr. Phillips area, with a super-hip classic modern/Japanese décor that's a stark contrast to the flagship. Here at Fuji's spiffy new spot, you can sit at the space-agey, frosted-glass sushi bar, underlit with glowing blue lights, and indulge in some of the most amazing sushi this side of Tokyo.

    With so many sushi restaurants to choose from, it's not hard to find a decent slice of yellowtail or tuna. So how does one stand out in an ocean of sushi? For Fuji, it's the rolls. As a major creative force behind Fuji's culinary fame, Mohani dares to develop the most unheard-of food combinations in the history of sushi. Take the "candy cane" roll ($8.95), for example. Named for its striped, candylike appearance, it combines spicy snow crab and asparagus topped with red and buttery white tuna strips. The combination, especially the two tunas, will impress even the most discerning of palates.

    With so many sushi restaurants to choose from, it's not hard to find a decent slice of yellowtail or tuna. So how does one stand out in an ocean of sushi? For Fuji, it's the rolls. As a major creative force behind Fuji's culinary fame, Mohani dares to develop the most unheard-of food combinations in the history of sushi. Take the "candy cane" roll ($8.95), for example. Named for its striped, candylike appearance, it combines spicy snow crab and asparagus topped with red and buttery white tuna strips. The combination, especially the two tunas, will impress even the most discerning of palates.

    For a richer, more buttery taste, the "polar bear" roll ($7.50) delivers the goods with salmon, white tuna, cream cheese and crunchy tempura crumbs.

    For a richer, more buttery taste, the "polar bear" roll ($7.50) delivers the goods with salmon, white tuna, cream cheese and crunchy tempura crumbs.

    A big part of Fuji's success lies in the something-for-everyone menu. You don't have to eat -- or even like -- raw fish to enjoy a meal here. Vegetarians can choose from a variety of hearty rolls, like the toothy "Popeye" roll ($5.25), done with spinach and tempura sweet potato.

    A big part of Fuji's success lies in the something-for-everyone menu. You don't have to eat -- or even like -- raw fish to enjoy a meal here. Vegetarians can choose from a variety of hearty rolls, like the toothy "Popeye" roll ($5.25), done with spinach and tempura sweet potato.

    Low-carbers craving something more exciting than plain ol' sashimi will be thrilled by the "naruto maki" roll ($6.50) of salmon, crab, avocado, cream cheese and ponju sauce in thinly coiled cucumber instead of rice.

    Low-carbers craving something more exciting than plain ol' sashimi will be thrilled by the "naruto maki" roll ($6.50) of salmon, crab, avocado, cream cheese and ponju sauce in thinly coiled cucumber instead of rice.

    If you like fish, but not the raw variety, the whitefish "dynamite" roll ($6.95) lives up to its name. Topped with a mixture of the cooked fish in a spicy, creamy sauce and broiled until browned, the end product melts in your mouth; you and your dining partner will be eyeing the last piece.

    If you like fish, but not the raw variety, the whitefish "dynamite" roll ($6.95) lives up to its name. Topped with a mixture of the cooked fish in a spicy, creamy sauce and broiled until browned, the end product melts in your mouth; you and your dining partner will be eyeing the last piece.

    The "dancing eel" roll ($8.25) might create a similar scuffle with its perfectly grilled eel, generously draped over a roll of crab, avocado, cream cheese and slightly sweet eel sauce.

    The "dancing eel" roll ($8.25) might create a similar scuffle with its perfectly grilled eel, generously draped over a roll of crab, avocado, cream cheese and slightly sweet eel sauce.

    While the culinary delights of Fuji Sushi's many famous rolls are no secret to legions of Central Floridians, the sushi empire's new location still is, so go now while its still fairly new; inevitably, with food this good, getting a table there is bound to become a bloodsport.

  • Fuji Sushi

    1449 Lee Road Winter Park Area

    (407) 645-1299; (407) 645-3044 (FAX)

    What do soft-shell crabs have in common with the Orlando Magic? Sports fans could debate this for hours, but the answer is: They're on the menu at Fuji Sushi – sort of.

    This new restaurant near the busy crossroads of Lee Road and Highway 17-92 offers some of the most sumptuous sushi in the Winter Park area, and they name it after local points of interest. So the "Orlando Magic roll" ($8.95) is prepared with soft-shell crab and chopped vegetables. The "Lee Road roll" ($5.95) contains eel and salmon skin. The "Rollins roll" ($4.95) offers crab, avocado, cucumbers with a tempura batter.

    This new restaurant near the busy crossroads of Lee Road and Highway 17-92 offers some of the most sumptuous sushi in the Winter Park area, and they name it after local points of interest. So the "Orlando Magic roll" ($8.95) is prepared with soft-shell crab and chopped vegetables. The "Lee Road roll" ($5.95) contains eel and salmon skin. The "Rollins roll" ($4.95) offers crab, avocado, cucumbers with a tempura batter.

    The names and ingredients don't always match up, or even make sense, but when the sushi is this good, who cares? Dining here was a rediscovery of how sensual sushi can be. Really good sushi, the kind served at Fuji, is dense in texture, yet light and oceanic in its flavors. A little bit goes a long way and is immensely satisfying.

    The names and ingredients don't always match up, or even make sense, but when the sushi is this good, who cares? Dining here was a rediscovery of how sensual sushi can be. Really good sushi, the kind served at Fuji, is dense in texture, yet light and oceanic in its flavors. A little bit goes a long way and is immensely satisfying.

    As a prelude to dinner, we enjoyed the "Fuji roll" ($7.95). Each slice was plump and heavy, packed with an array of hamachi, eel, scallions, cucumbers and asparagus. It was rolled in sesame seeds and flying-fish eggs for a blaze of atomic-orange color. Another appetizing variety is the "rock and roll" ($7.95), with tuna, eel, crab, asparagus and scallions. As a clever touch, the sliced rolls were cradled on the deck of a polished miniature boat platter.

    As a prelude to dinner, we enjoyed the "Fuji roll" ($7.95). Each slice was plump and heavy, packed with an array of hamachi, eel, scallions, cucumbers and asparagus. It was rolled in sesame seeds and flying-fish eggs for a blaze of atomic-orange color. Another appetizing variety is the "rock and roll" ($7.95), with tuna, eel, crab, asparagus and scallions. As a clever touch, the sliced rolls were cradled on the deck of a polished miniature boat platter.

    Moving along to soups and salads, we preferred osumashi ($1), clear fish broth, although the miso soup ($1) was not bad, with its soy-bean broth. We couldn't resist the hijiki ($4), a warm salad of black seaweed that had an intriguing smokiness. Of everything we ordered, this was the item that caused dueling chopsticks. A close second was ika karage ($4), strips of garlic-battered squid meat, then deep fried.

    Moving along to soups and salads, we preferred osumashi ($1), clear fish broth, although the miso soup ($1) was not bad, with its soy-bean broth. We couldn't resist the hijiki ($4), a warm salad of black seaweed that had an intriguing smokiness. Of everything we ordered, this was the item that caused dueling chopsticks. A close second was ika karage ($4), strips of garlic-battered squid meat, then deep fried.

    Out of curiosity, we tried the "Japanese curry" platter ($11.95), a medley of seafood, vegetables and rice in a mild sauce. It was OK but served as a reminder that curry is best saved for Indian restaurants.

    Out of curiosity, we tried the "Japanese curry" platter ($11.95), a medley of seafood, vegetables and rice in a mild sauce. It was OK but served as a reminder that curry is best saved for Indian restaurants.

    Adding to our enjoyment, the decor is simple and subdued. Lustrous wood partitions envelop the tables and make them seem utterly private, and the primary lighting comes from a single rice paper lantern.

    Adding to our enjoyment, the decor is simple and subdued. Lustrous wood partitions envelop the tables and make them seem utterly private, and the primary lighting comes from a single rice paper lantern.

    The service is sensitive and responsive. A glance from across the room brought someone immediately to the table. Fuji Sushi pays attention to detail – and it shows.

  • Hana Sushi

    397 E. Altamonte Drive, Altamonte Springs North

    (407) 830-9233; (407) 830-7599 (FAX)

    Altamonte Drive near I-4 isn't exactly known as a dining hot spot, what with the never-ending strip of fast food, chain food and, well, almost-food lining the road. Still, there are a few shining moments in the otherwise ketchup-slathered landscape, such as Amira's and Sam Seltzer's nearby and, for a fairly decent meal just outside Altamonte Mall, Bahama Breeze.

    Add to that list Hana Sushi, situated in the Renaissance Shopping Center on the west side of the mall. It's a plaza going through a transition, with many stores vacant or under construction, and I guess the Hana folks, who have been there since December, are hoping the changes will do them good, because right now it is an obscure place to eat sushi.

    Add to that list Hana Sushi, situated in the Renaissance Shopping Center on the west side of the mall. It's a plaza going through a transition, with many stores vacant or under construction, and I guess the Hana folks, who have been there since December, are hoping the changes will do them good, because right now it is an obscure place to eat sushi.

    Like many of the town's new sushi bars, it's scantly decorated with light wood tables and some lovely brush prints on the walls. I felt sorry for the four fish in the corner tank and wondered if they knew what was going on right in front of them.

    Like many of the town's new sushi bars, it's scantly decorated with light wood tables and some lovely brush prints on the walls. I felt sorry for the four fish in the corner tank and wondered if they knew what was going on right in front of them.

    The restaurant's tables were practically empty when we were there, but the sushi bar was amazingly crowded with people who were obviously regulars, a surprising thing for such an odd location, with several people wagering who could eat the largest lump of wasabi. I guess nobody bets on football anymore.

    The restaurant's tables were practically empty when we were there, but the sushi bar was amazingly crowded with people who were obviously regulars, a surprising thing for such an odd location, with several people wagering who could eat the largest lump of wasabi. I guess nobody bets on football anymore.

    The sushi menu is full of those specialty rolls that combine odd and usually cooked ingredients for those who don't think pristinely fresh tuna is inventive enough but haven't gotten the hang of raw fish yet. I ordered the rainbow roll ($6.95), which seemed interesting: tuna, carrot and cucumber wrapped with grilled eel, which is a weakness of mine. It would have been perfect if not for the inclusion of cream cheese (who came up with that?) that melded the tastes and textures into one schmear-laden blur.

    The sushi menu is full of those specialty rolls that combine odd and usually cooked ingredients for those who don't think pristinely fresh tuna is inventive enough but haven't gotten the hang of raw fish yet. I ordered the rainbow roll ($6.95), which seemed interesting: tuna, carrot and cucumber wrapped with grilled eel, which is a weakness of mine. It would have been perfect if not for the inclusion of cream cheese (who came up with that?) that melded the tastes and textures into one schmear-laden blur.

    It may not be the best Japanese food in town, but you sure get a lot of it. Along with the regular list of tempuras and grilled meats, the definitive choice has to be the $19.95 bento box dinner. It comes with a ginger-dressed salad, miso soup, tuna roll, four pieces of sushi, tempura veggies, fried spring roll and your choice of chicken teriyaki, or shrimp or chicken tempura. Unfortunately, one of the "sushi" used that fake crabmeat, which I just object to on principle. But the food just keeps coming, bowl followed by plate followed by a lovely red and black box stuffed with food.

    It may not be the best Japanese food in town, but you sure get a lot of it. Along with the regular list of tempuras and grilled meats, the definitive choice has to be the $19.95 bento box dinner. It comes with a ginger-dressed salad, miso soup, tuna roll, four pieces of sushi, tempura veggies, fried spring roll and your choice of chicken teriyaki, or shrimp or chicken tempura. Unfortunately, one of the "sushi" used that fake crabmeat, which I just object to on principle. But the food just keeps coming, bowl followed by plate followed by a lovely red and black box stuffed with food.

    Sushi bars were never meant to be the chic, reverent eateries that a lot of folks have elevated them to: They were probably the original fast-food joints. Hana Sushi, tucked into a shopping center, has the right attitude.

  • Ichiban

    19 S. Orange Ave. Winter Park Area

    (407) 423-2688; (407) 423-3474 (FAX)

    Way back in 1988, when sushi was considered more of a punchline than a serious dinner option, Ichiban bravely opened on Orange Avenue, offering sushi and sashimi along with tempura and grilled fare. Ten years later, this spunky downtown pioneer is like the woman scorned in the Gloria Gaynor song -- it has survived. And, its dance card is still filled up with admirers.

    Not everyone knows this, and those are the uninformed who show up on Friday and Saturday nights without reservations. There was a whole flock of them waiting outside when we visited. But with reservations, we were whisked into the dining area. It's the same as always -- soothing and casually elegant, with kimonos displayed on blond-brick walls, and a translucent glow thrown off by rice paper lanterns.

    Not everyone knows this, and those are the uninformed who show up on Friday and Saturday nights without reservations. There was a whole flock of them waiting outside when we visited. But with reservations, we were whisked into the dining area. It's the same as always -- soothing and casually elegant, with kimonos displayed on blond-brick walls, and a translucent glow thrown off by rice paper lanterns.

    Seated on tatami mats in one of the booths, we decided we were in a sushi mood and perused the options: rolls made with gator meat ($4.50), asparagus tempura ($3.95), sea urchin ($5) and even quail egg ($1.50). My guest gave up and chose the special ($9.50): tuna, cucumber and California rolls. Ichiban turned this sushi cliché into quite a presentation, slicing the rolls diagonally and arranging them like blossoms on a chop block.

    Seated on tatami mats in one of the booths, we decided we were in a sushi mood and perused the options: rolls made with gator meat ($4.50), asparagus tempura ($3.95), sea urchin ($5) and even quail egg ($1.50). My guest gave up and chose the special ($9.50): tuna, cucumber and California rolls. Ichiban turned this sushi cliché into quite a presentation, slicing the rolls diagonally and arranging them like blossoms on a chop block.

    "Dancing eel" turned out to be a happy surprise as well, if an expensive one ($11.95). Crab, cucumber, avocado and flying-fish eggs were rolled up together, bonded by cream cheese and topped with barbecued eel boldly glazed with a dark caramel sauce. Teamed with robust jolts of wasabi, the sushi did exactly what we wanted it to do: primed us for the main course.

    "Dancing eel" turned out to be a happy surprise as well, if an expensive one ($11.95). Crab, cucumber, avocado and flying-fish eggs were rolled up together, bonded by cream cheese and topped with barbecued eel boldly glazed with a dark caramel sauce. Teamed with robust jolts of wasabi, the sushi did exactly what we wanted it to do: primed us for the main course.

    For dinner, seafood tempura ($12.99) has to be one of the best deals in town. An abundance of shrimp, scallops and grouper fingers were deep-fried in a fine, frothy batter that melted in your mouth. Teamed with broccoli and zucchini tempura, and even a fried banana, they were artfully propped against a lacy "fan" of fried rice noodles.

    For dinner, seafood tempura ($12.99) has to be one of the best deals in town. An abundance of shrimp, scallops and grouper fingers were deep-fried in a fine, frothy batter that melted in your mouth. Teamed with broccoli and zucchini tempura, and even a fried banana, they were artfully propped against a lacy "fan" of fried rice noodles.

    And the "Ichiban special," while pricey at $20.99, was a solid investment. A polished black box was divided into quarters, which were heaped with delicacies sized just-right for chopsticks: grilled lobster tips nestled into a split lobster tail; chargrilled shrimp and scallops that cast off a sweet, oceanic perfume; slivers of sweet teriyaki steak; and mixed grilled vegetables.

    And the "Ichiban special," while pricey at $20.99, was a solid investment. A polished black box was divided into quarters, which were heaped with delicacies sized just-right for chopsticks: grilled lobster tips nestled into a split lobster tail; chargrilled shrimp and scallops that cast off a sweet, oceanic perfume; slivers of sweet teriyaki steak; and mixed grilled vegetables.

    Ichiban offers the kind of choices that sushi and sashimi adventurers crave, along with tempura and grilled fare more agreeable with mainstream tastes. It may not break culinary ground, but it's good food, prepared skillfully, and served with attention and a sense of fun. Ichiban continues to inspires quiet confidence.

  • Izakaya Toshi

    478 N. State Road 434, Altamonte Springs North

    (407) 869-8809

    The traditional Japanese izakaya is a raucous late-night sake house that serves the Japanese equivalent of tapas ' basically, bar food. Izakaya Toshi slings a handful of sakes, plenty of Kirin Ichiban, and the small plates are served until the wee hours (that's midnight in Altamonte Springs), but the scene is much less boisterous than your average Ginza grog shop. The light of the swinging red lantern out front illuminates a largely empty dining room inside, but on the Saturday night we visited, that only served to make our dinner all the more personal. Yoshi Kushibiki, proprietress and wife of chef Toshi Kushibiki, was as pleasant a hostess as you'll find anywhere. She spoke of her emigration from Sapporo to Orlando and took the time to translate menu items in between joking with us.

    Surprisingly, neither oshibori (wet towel) nor otoshi (amuse) were offered, as is the custom, but a version of the latter was presented mid-meal to us in the form of kombu (kelp) cooked with soy sauce, sugar and a dash of seven-spice shichimi togarashi powder. More a condiment, the kombu, I found, went well with a little steamed rice. In fact, it would've made an ideal wrap for the onigiri ($5), mistakenly advertised as a rice 'bowlâ?� instead of 'ball.â?� The nori-wrapped triangle of rice came filled with umeboshi, a tart pickled plum paste. A bowl is what the yamakaze tororo ($10) came in, though the mucilaginous texture may turn some diners off. The grated Japanese mountain yam is the main ingredient in a runny broth layered with a bit of wasabi and fresh ruby-red squares of tuna. Yoshi encouraged us to finish the broth once the fish was eaten, as the yams, she said, were quite expensive. From the sushi menu, the yum yum rolls ($9) lived up to the name. A thin layer of panko breading was followed by the crunch of asparagus and, finally, a spicy mix of tuna. Nothing too adventurous, but the rolls were little works of art, and they were wholeheartedly devoured.

    Mains comprise meats that are either breaded (katsu/tempura), kebabbed (kushiyaki) or sauced (teriyaki/misoyaki). We chose to enjoy our New York strip ($20) with misoyaki, a sweet soybean paste lighter in flavor than teriyaki, and enjoy it we did. The beef was soft and pliant, though instead of the lackluster pasta salad on the side, I would've preferred a starch with more substance. Chicken yakisoba ($13) was a stir-fried wonder, with plenty of fresh vegetables ' broccoli, green beans, celery and asparagus ' mixed with the thin noodles. And the dish held up quite nicely the next day.

    I'd be remiss if I didn't mention their miso soup, which was the finest I've sampled anywhere in the city. If the complimentary bowl isn't enough, another can be had for $3.

    Desserts aren't listed on the menu, but if you're interested, just ask. More than likely, you'll be served a cantaloupe boat ($4) artistically sided with kiwi and strawberries with cream. The trio of fruit, perfectly cut and so wonderfully sweet and fresh, had us humming. Too bad they didn't have any karaoke machines ' if they'd served us some more, we would've broken out in song.

  • Jade New Asian Bistro

    2425 Edgewater Drive College Park

    407-422-7968

  • Jimotti's Restaurant

    2545 S. French Ave. Sanford

    407-952-3329

  • Kabooki Sushi

    3122 E. Colonial Drive Central

    407-328-3839

    5 articles
  • Kabooki Sushi Sand Lake

    7705 Turkey Lake Road Dr. Phillips

    407-776-2001

    3 articles
  • Kadence

    1809 E. Winter Park Road Audubon Park

    5 articles
  • Kaizen Izakaya

    54 W. Church St. Downtown

    407-316-8500

    20% off takeout orders; free delivery downtown
    1 article
  • Kiko Japanese Cuisine

    110 S. Semoran Blvd. Winter Park Area

    407-677-5800

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