The last time I was in Shin was in 2007, shortly after the uptown sushi bar opened in the newly constructed office building that also houses Citrus restaurant. In my review for the Orlando Sentinel I was mostly underwhelmed. I found the staff condescending even in their inexperience and lack of menu knowledge. I thought the decor was spartan and the seating uncomfortable. And I found the food, though mostly good, horribly overpriced. So you can see why it has taken me so long to return.
But I was looking for a place to have a business lunch meeting. Citrus, of course, is known as Orlando Power Lunch spot. But that’s precisely why I didn’t want to go there. The place is always crawling with famous people making the rounds and stopping by tables to network. (Please, Mayor Dyer, we’re trying to have a discussion here.)
So I suggested Shin. Not that it’s without its own power players. Apparently it gets some overflow (and probably others looking for some privacy). I spotted Jack Lord there. The Orlando attorney, I mean, not the actor from the old “Hawaii Five-O” tv series because I don’t even know if that one likes sushi. Also, he’s dead.
Anyway, things were better this time around. The quality of the food has improved, and that quality and the price charged for it are more closely aligned.
My guest and I ordered some edamame to nibble on for a starter. I ordered the Shin lunch set and my friend chose a combination of three rolls from a list of about 15 options, a pretty good deal for $15.
Both lunches included a bit of cucumber salad (just a bit) with seaweed, a couple of teensy shrimp and a chunk of faux crab, a leafy lettuce salad with ginger dressing, served in a tall drinking glass for some reason, and a bowl of miso soup. All were very nice for starters, but we had finished them when we realized we hadn’t yet received the edamame. We figured our server had forgotten to place the order, so I flagged her over. No, she hadn’t forgotten, she told us, they just weren’t ready. There isn’t a whole to involved with steaming some soybean pods, but I didn’t argue.
They arrived a few minutes later, sprinkled with sea salt. And oddly covered with hairy. Don’t recall having hairy edamame before -- it’s the sort of thing you remember -- but although the furry feel in the mouth was a bit strange, the taste was good.
My lunch set included sashimi slices of red tuna and escolar, a California roll, shrimp and vegetable tempura, a salmon teriyaki, and a bowl of white rice. Now I need to mention that the option with the bowl of white rice is $14. The cost is $13 without it. This is significant because in 2007 when I requested a bowl of white rice to go with my rather plain entree, I was charged $3. So that’s a great improvement. Or at least it would have been if I had received my bowl of white rice, which I did not. (A miscommunication apparently; I was charged for the riceless lunch.)
The best part of my lunch was the tempura. The breading was lacy light and none of it was greasy from the frying. In fact, the broccoli head was cooked perfectly. Often the floret acts as a sponge when fried and is an oily mess. Not this one. Nicely done.
The rest was acceptable but did rise above that. The sushi roll was fine, though the sashimi was a tad limp but fresh tasting. I don’t think you can make a piece of salmon look more unappealing than by dousing it with a brown teriyaki sauce.
My companion clearly out ordered me. She preferred cooked items rather than raw, so she ordered the shrimp tempura, chicken katsu and veggie roll. My friend and I liked them all but found them to be too large for one bite. Cutting sushi rolls in half just doesn’t work very well.
The decor isn’t quite as plain as it was all those years ago. The walls now sport colorful large painted canvases. There is a long sushi bar that for some unknown reason remained guestless during my entire lunch, even though all the tables were taken. Seating is still at a mix of low tables and hightops, and the bar stools are just as uncomfortable. I did not see the sit-on-the-floor tatami seating this time.
Our server was focused and able if not particularly friendly.
But I saw enough good changes at Shin to put it on my list of recommended downtown restaurants.
Shin is at 803 N. Orange Ave., Orlando. (There’s free parking in the garage behind.) It’s open for lunch Monday through Friday and for dinner Monday through Saturday. The phone number is 407-648-8000.