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Kabooki exterior

Kabooki Sushi and its owner, Henry Moso, seem to have done just fine over the past year. First, a second location of the popular restaurant opened in Bayhill Plaza in the Restaurant Row district. Then Moso was named a semifinalist for the James Beard Foundation’s Rising Star Chef of the Year Award. And then, Kabooki’s original location, in an odd spot on Colonial Drive near Maguire Boulevard, was renovated and enlarged.

Unfortunately, Moso did not advance to the Beard Award’s finals – and the awards ended up being cancelled altogether anyway. And since the Rising Star award is for chefs under 30, Moso has now aged out.

But he will undoubtedly have more awards in his future – Kabooki has already won a platinum Foodster Award for Best Sushi.

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KnifeSpoon dining

Well, that was a year.

The first two and a half months of 2020 were normal enough with the usual openings, closings and restaurant reviews – both positive and not-so. We began the year with news that K Restaurant and Wine Bar was closing because of the owner’s health, and a few days later word came that Urbain 40, the American cafe with a French name at Dellagio Plaza, had closed abruptly.

Review highlights included Spice Indian Grill; Hungry Pants, the meatless-or-not eatery in Sodo; Dexter’s New Standard, the relo of Dexter’s of Winter Park; El Vic’s Kitchen in College Park; a revisit to Stefano’s Trattoria; Elize, the very good Netherlands restaurant that took over the Rusty Spoon space; and Mia’s Italian Kitchen, an excellent Italian trattoria that was worth braving International Drive for.

I recall dining at Mia’s in early March. Word was already circulating that a novel coronavirus was going around. I remember begin careful not to shake hands with anyone. But I shared dishes with my dining companion and no one had come up with the term social distancing yet.

Then a couple of weeks later all hell broke loose.

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FonsecaAfter his restaurant Millenia 106 closed, the chef Bruno Fonseca, left, started a series of popup dinners under the moniker The Foreigner – A Culinary Experience. Now Fonseca plans to open a permanent restaurant using the same chef’s-tasting concept called simply Foreigner. The restaurant, in partnership with Omei Restaurant Group (Bento), will feature a 10-seat counter facing an open kitchen and will offer prix-fixe multi-course dinners. Think Kadence with more than sushi. Look for a spring opening.

Saturday, Jan. 2, is the reopening date for Orlando Meats, now in Winter Park. The popular butcher and cafe closed its Virginia Drive spot on Christmas Day, so it wasn’t a terribly long time to wait. OM has taken over a larger restaurant space in Ravaudage at the corner of Lee Road and Orlando Avenue.

Jan. 2 is also the date for Purple Ocean Superfood Bar’s opening at Waterford Commons. The acai bowl specialist has been operating out of a truck exclusively until now.

Unfortunately, Great Harvest Bread Co. has closed after a little more than a year in downtown Orlando. The franchise was owned by Brad and Rachel Cottle, who announced the closing in a video that showed both of them with inspirationally brave smiles when they have every right to be bummed.

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Stoppe ext

This is the first time I’ve reviewed the Meatball Stoppe. I did, however, review a place called the Meatball Shoppe when it first opened nearly six years ago in, not so coincidentally, the same location.

They are, of course, the same business owned by the same people, Isabella and Jeff Morgia, the whole time. What happened, I’m guessing, is that someone else who owned the rights to the name Meatball Shoppe found out about the new Orlando restaurant and had a lawyer send one of those cheery little letters telling the Morgias to stop. So Stoppe they did.

Over the years, the restaurant has gotten more appreciated attention, including being featured on the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, though it really isn’t any of those.

One thing seems to have changed since my review in January 2015: The original assemblage concept has been eased a bit. You no longer have to pick one from column A and one from column B. But the quality of the food has remained the same, which is quite good.