Long before the birth of this blog, I had the honor of dining at this restaurant several times. Way back in 2007, my first visit was love at first sight or bite. Although, a review from the Orlando Sentinel that year may have propelled what this restaurant has morphed into.
When Shin debuted, it was one of the very few stark urban minimalist restaurants in town. Almost cold as some people felt. The menu and presentation was very high end with astronomical price tags and itsy bitsy portion sizes. Yes I whipped out my Motorola cellphone just to check the size of the Chilean Seabass as the reviewer mentioned. The service was stand offish and absent. It was as if a really hot shot restaurant landed from a different planet and demanded Orlando’s attention. Not so fast. Granted, taste was on point. But this is Orlando not New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, or Miami nor is the location of any high end hotel chain. While other more metropolitan cities are years ahead of us Shin had a conundrum to face. What to do? With all of its flashy starkness, it was slammed by the local newspaper and empty most of the time.
Lucky for us the owners listened and changed courses. As I recalled, shortly after the Orlando Sentinel’s review was published there was a menu change, with adequate adjustments made to suit the Orlando market. I am very happy that they kept the urban décor and adjusted the menu. Certain items were readily available but it seems are no longer carried. On my last two visits Aji (Horse Mackerel) failed to appear. I am left wanting. The sake and wine list are updated and the food offerings are more in line with the Orlando market. Let me rephrase that, the food is head and shoulders above most, if not all, of the sushi restaurants in Orlando. The 2011 Orlando Sentinel Foodie Awards Critic got it right this year.
So a group of bloggers and tweeps went to check out the place. @EatLocalOrlando of EatLocalOrlando spearheaded a gathering of @ricduck, @Ann_archy,@ladyskye77, @PrimlaniKitchen of The Primlani Kitchen, @mismamari of Forkful.net, and @randomhangers of randomhangers.com for a feeding.
Kitaya Ai No Hime Beni – A sweet sparkling sake with clean finish to start the evening. Unfortunately, the sake was shaken which disturbs the sediments and takes away from the tiny bubbles.
Sake Sampler – A flight of tastes: Kaiun (Jumai Ginjyo) light and super dry; Shintaro (Jumai) light and super dry; Setchukanbai (Jumai Ginjyo) light and super dry. The subtleties of taste profiles and types of sake is complex even to a trained palate. However, these selections have managed to offer a good range.
Jizake Tenzan – Medium dry and rich. One of my all time favorites. This being a boutique sake has the body and delicate richness of a flavor profile that certainly dances on the palate.
Agedashi Tofu – Lightly fried tofu served crispy with sweet tempura sauce sprinkled with
bonito flakes. Ever so light batter, silky texture.
Happy Lotus Roll – Tuna, crab mix, asparagus topped with salmon & lotus root. Minus the asparagus, since I am not a fan. Well balance of vinegar and sugar in the rice, roll not too loose but not too tight, fresh salmon and tuna, crab and lotus root were delightful. Great combination.
Sashimi Tokujo – Sushi chef selection of Uni (Sea Urchin), Ikura ( Salmon roe), Tuna, Toro, Yellow Tail, Salmon, and Sea Scallops. Perfect room temperature with a hint of coolness, all fresh and silky perfection. It does not get any better than this.
Shin Sunomono Salad – Snow crab, scallops, conch, octopus dressed with cucumber Tosazu
sauce. Amazing balance of acidity. A wonderfully spectacular dish.
Sweet Shrimp Sashimi – Fresh creamy sweet shrimp. Shrimp head was ever so gently battered and fried, amazing crispness and succulent goodness.
The food at this wonderful establishment continues to impress and wow. Very few sushi chefs in this town can make perfect sized sashimi cuts every single time. Yes I am being picky, to the millimeter. These gentlemen deserve the praise for their preciseness and consistency. I am thankful that the chefs here are not following the gamut of sushi chefs in Orlando who feel that turning a sauce bottle over a plate and going zigzag crazy is sushi art. I rather marvel at their preciseness and attention to keeping the plate as clean as possible.
The delivery of this high level of food demands a high level of service staff. I am not talking about clicking heels, white glove, bow and permanent smile. Neither would I rather an overtly friendly server. But there has to be a balance. ALL staff serving or assisting in the service of a table should at least know the basics and be able to answer questions or deliver items. Busy times is not a pass at service. While I welcome relaxed non obtrusive service, for this particular level of food I would have liked to see a little tighter service delivery.
Overall, Shin has come a long way when a newspaper review, albeit on point, could have crippled or closed this amazing establishment. I commend the people who have worked tirelessly and had fate in their abilities to keep delivering a high level of sushi to the Orlando dining public. Thanks for showing us what is great sushi.
To answer my fellow blogger Tasty Chomp’s question: Is Shin the best sushi in Orlando? A resounding YES!
Check out what our host EatLocalOrlando thought.