In the U.S., omakase has come to mean a prix fixe menu pre-selected by the chef. More traditionally, it can mean the diner entrusts the chef to present an ad hoc selection of dishes with no defined end.
Within a few days of relocating to Orlando, I began trying out downtown sushi restaurants. I enjoy a traditional meal of Nigiri sushi once every week, or so. My son mentioned that he liked Kabooki Sushi, so the next evening I was off to give the restaurant a try.
Kabooki Sushi is located in a small, nondescript shopping center across from the Orlando Fashion Square Mall at the corner of East Colonial Drive and Maguire Boulevard. The restaurant is accurately billed as a “stylish modern eatery offering sushi and inventive Pan-Asian cuisine.”
Indeed, the six-seat sushi bar is non-traditional. It lacks the countertop refrigerated cases normally seen in Japanese restaurants. This turns out to be a good thing, though, as it eliminates a barrier between the guest and chef, and offers an unobstructed view of the working areas, including a large open kitchen where hot dishes are prepared. Most nights, chef-owner Henry Moso can be found at his regular station at the bar across from Seat 1—the best seat in the house.
On Friday July 18, Kabooki and Hanson’s Shoe Repair, an Orlando speakeasy, partnered for a Chef’s Omakase. Hanson’s Shoe Repair, located on Pine Street, was represented by mixologist Rene Nguyen. The collaborative omakase offerings included seven courses of innovative dishes prepared by the Kabooki chefs, and six paired cocktails prepared by Rene and his team.
The omakase presentation started with a ceviche made of amaebi (spot prawn) served in a hollowed out orange skin shell. The prawn used in this dish was huge, as evidenced by the head served as a garnish. This dish was a bright and refreshing beginning to the service that followed.
With the ceviche, Hanson Shoe served a sake-based riff on the Negroni cocktail. I am a big fan of Negroni cocktails, and all of its variants, so this offering got the evening off to a pleasant start. The sweet and bitter notes paired exceptionally well with the amaebi ceviche.
The large, raw prawn head was placed on the plate as a garnish. After finishing the ceviche, I picked it up and was just about to take a bite when Chef Long Thanh interceded, offering to deep fry the head if I was intent on eating it. Once properly prepared, I enjoyed the head. Thank you, Chef Long!
The ceviche was followed by an interesting second course of yucca fritters topped with a spicy tuna tartar and served with a Thai chili vinaigrette. This dish was complimented by a rye whisky based cocktail with yellow chartreuse, Luxardo maraschino liqueur and Yuzo vinaigrette.
The July 18 omakase with Hanson’s Shoe was a big undertaking. The restaurant was fully staffed and Chef Henry assumed the role of anxious overseer and expediter. Once the kitchen settled in, things moved along smoothly.
With service for the first seating under control, the kitchen relaxed a little going into the final courses. These included a makimono (roll) consisting of hamachi with avocado, topped with hokkaido scallops and dressed with an orange chili vinaigrette. Excellent!
The final savory course was Miyazaki Kobe beef served nigiri style paired with a rich cocktail of cold brew black coffee with bourbon, Cynar, Aperol, Frenet Branca, bitters, and rosemary – a veritable smorgasbord of Italian bitter liqueurs. Unfortunately, I enjoyed the Kobe beef nigiri before taking a photo.
On this occasion, the set piece desert was prepared by pastry chef Pedro Betancourt. It was an exceptional curry sponge cake with coconut sorbet, miso caramel sauce, and Japanese sweet potato anglaise. Hanson’s Shoe provided a shot of unfiltered sake to pair with the dessert. Exceptional!
From my point of view, the collaborative omakase at Kabooki was a great success. It gives me hope that young chefs and mixologists are moving the Orlando food scene in the right direction. When Chef Henry organizes another event, I plan on being there – camped out at Seat 1. Let’s hope it is soon.
Kabooki is located in a Orando in small strip center at 3122 East Colonial Drive. Reach them at: (407) 228-3839.
Hanson Shoe Repair is a speakeasy located in downtown Orlando above the NV Art Bar at 27 East Pine Street. Call or text 407-476-9446 for the required password.