Almost every business and restaurant guru will automatically preach location, location, location. The very first lesson in hospitality school is “Choose the right location.” So what happens to the other less than stellar locations?
The growth of Baldwin Park behind Orlando’s Fashion Square Mall, has swung a double edge sword on local businesses in the area. Most of these businesses depended heavily on the Navy Base. With the Navy base closure and Baldwin Park taking it’s place as a multi use development there really isn’t enough traffic to substantiate the other businesses. Or is there?
Enter the Orlando Food Truck Bazaar, which draws a sold out crowd everytime they park behind the mall. So people still trek out to that section of town. Still there are empty storefronts. Meet Chef Henry Moso (the inked one pictured below) and his team, who are about to defy conventional thinking and start a revival.
Opposite the Sears Auto Care at Fashion Square mall is a non descript strip mall. If you were to drive from Downtown Orlando towards Fashion Square Mall on Colonial Dr., go pass the Maguire Rd light and turn right at second building. Parking is in front, to the side and at the back. If your are going north on Maguire take the last right turn before Colonial. There is a two top table out front.
Pull open the door under Kabooki Sushi. Bam! Did I get your attention now?
Take a good long look at this sexy, swanky, cool, modern, hip, contemporary space. Because before you blink, the “in” crowd of Orlando will flock and swarm this place and you will not be able to see anything. It might be packed already. The warm grey wall tone extends a soft supple invite with the pink tones giving an under eye provocative blink. Stark white leather chairs, with high back banquettes and booths sets the perfect backdrop for your Instagram pictures. The dark toned large format floor tile creates a feel of suspension in air. An open kitchen allow for bar patrons to be up close and personal with the chefs. During my dining experience I can tell the chefs are very interactive and not afraid to let loose a little. These guys can definitely carve up flavors not seen in Orlando.
The menu is a far cry from most sushi and Japanese restaurants in Orlando. Outside of the sushi selections, all hot and cold tastings are served small plate style. There are soups and salads. I know you are not expecting the proverbial “sushi list”. That is absent. Their list of rolls make a very impressive attempt at introducing some ingredients that are not common in Orlando. The sashimi and nigiri selections are somewhat similar everywhere. However, judging from the extreme quality of other ingredients I can only assume that there is extra care taken to deliver the freshest and best quality. Are you looking for the tempura ice cream dessert? Not here. They have a pastry chef on staff armed with several dessert items that sound very scrumptious.
Yellow Tail Nigiri
Yellow Tail Sashimi
Grilled Yellow Tail
Cold Tastings Special: Japanese Yellow tail 3 Ways: Sashimi with garlic oil, black pepper, chives; Nigiri with ginger, chives, salsa and micro cilantro; Grilled (Hamachi) with kimchee vinaigrette and daikon sprouts. Fresh with complimentary flavors. Yellow tail fish has a thick fleshy texture, the subtle coaxing with different preparation methods and spice showcase a wide range of these chefs. Instead of staying with the traditional, they are manipulating to enhance the flavors. Purist may turn their noses up, but epicureans will welcome the drift. These little nuggets were a burst of umami.
Kurabuta Pork Belly and Tamaki Seasoned sushi rice Are you really ready to put this in your mouth? I can’t find a food truck or restaurant these days without some sort of pork belly on their menu. Is it the newest fad? Well, Asian countries have been preparing and serving this slab of love for centuries. This particular piece of flesh and fat is dense not melted to mush. Even though a steak knife and fork was served with this, I don’t think it was necessary. Don’t let that high stance deceive you, the pieces fall right apart and are cut small enough as bite sizes. The well balanced seasoned rice served well to sop up that amazing sauce drizzle. Another piece please.
Otoro Sashimi not just toro, but otoro. What is the difference? In short Otoro is the fattiness, hence most sought after portion of the Blue Fin Tuna, found in the center of the belly. Chutoro, is at the ends of the belly with less fat. This was fresh, clean, fatty goodness. The dollop of crème fraiche added visual delightfulness. For an upcharge you can have freshly grated wasabi instead of the standard powder molded form. Is there a difference? You bet ya. Fresh grated, being the real thing is less poignant to the nose with a sharper cleaner taste. There is also Tamari Organic Regular Soy Sauce available which is has a denser more concentrated flavor. Both grated wasabi and Tamari Soy are served standard with Moriawase and Omakase (Chef’s choice and tasting courses)
Louis Vitton Roll King Crab meat, tempura flakes, asparagus, orange chili sauce, topped with blow torched wagyu beef, Italian black truffle salt, crème fraiche, 24k gold flake drizzled with faux nagi sauce. Are you feeling a little richer yet? Those are some luxurious ingredients in one tight little package. The crab meat is soft and delicate combined with a silken wagyu cut that just dissipates on touch. 24k bling was eye candy. Black truffle salt added that extra pinch of enhancement, not that any of those ingredients needed it. I would have liked about 10 seconds more under the blow torch to crisp up some of those fat droplets. The nod to a more sustainable faux nagi sauce ranks high up there. This roll could put a Louis Vitton store out of business.
Chef Cheng Special Roll Inside: fresh Scottish salmon, garlic miso aioli, fresh cut lemon, krab, tempura crunch, topped with four flavor fish eggs, and drizzle with lemon confit. A masterful play with colors and flavors. Fish eggs are eye catching where as lemon flavor dances well with salmon.
BookiBooki Roll Tempura shrimp, Japanese mayo, avocado, topped with spicy tuna tartare with bubu rice cracker and honey kakayaki sauce. This is going to have a huge cult like following. It is the most freshest delicate piece of tempura shrimp I’ve had in a roll. Little pops from the rice adds texture to a well balanced spicy tuna. Nice crunch, nice spice level.
C-4 Flourless chocolate cake with Madagascar bourbon vanilla ice cream, black lava salt. As the name entices, this little darling is worth the wait for any meal to end. Full chocolate and vanilla flavors that goes so well together. I was hoping for more gooeyness out of the middle. Not that I could handle anything else at this point.
Kitaya Ai No Hime Beni Sparkling Sake Slightly sweet sparkler, with notes of citrus and rice. Charming accompaniment to any sushi meal. These things are very addicting. It comes in this tiny 187ml bottle and can disappear in a few sips.
This restaurant has taken a bold step in moving away from the norm and tradition. The exciting décor and food is certain to put a stamp on the Orlando Dining scene. Can they start the revival of restaurants taking up empty spots in that area? That’s left to be seen.