The east side of Orlando has grown immensely over the last several years and there is now a tremendous volume of humanity living and working from Oviedo to Waterford Lakes.
I have no idea where they eat. Or I don’t want to think about where they eat, because even while the population in that area has increased, the quality of the restaurants has not. It’s still a hotbed of mostly mediocre chains. It needs more independent restaurants that offer good food and a pleasant dining experience.
It needs more Sushi Pops.
Not that Sushi Pop is fine dining. (The area really needs some of those -- I don’t have one place I can recommend in that category for that part of town.) But SP offers a very nice array of fresh sushi in a fun environment.
Actually, I think maybe the staff has more fun than the guests, who seemed to be enjoying themselves just fine when I visited. But the servers appear to try to outdo each other with fun little quirks, such as sporting neon blue hair or wearing a backpack that looks like a stuffed animal clinging to the wearer.
The line of sushi chefs take everything quite seriously. The sushi bar is more like a cocktail bar than a conventional sushi counter. And the line of sushi chefs and the area they work in look more like what you would see in a short-order diner.
But the product is mostly first-rate.
The list of rolls might frighten and horrify a sushi traditionalist, but they’d at least have to concede some of the offerings are pretty creative. Such as the Oviedo Chicken, a paean to the pullets who roam the streets of downtown Oviedo (the strip mall that Sushi Pop is in, not so much). One hardly ever sees tempura chicken in a sushi roll starring role. Or bacon, for that matter, as found in the cleverly named Choleste-roll. Or sliced bananas topping a roll that included eel. I dearly wish I had ordered the Hot Mess, which I saw delivered to another table. It had bacon, too, somewhere beneath a glop of spicy mayo and roe.
Not that I was disappointed with my selections. I had the Black Widow, a tempura’d soft shell crab with avocado, asparagus and smelt roe flavored with a spicy tartar sauce. Or the Pair of Kings, with salmon and tuna. I also tried a serving of escolar nigirizushi, and although the fish was a lovely room temperature and had a buttery texture, it easily fell off the pad of rice when flipped.
Service was friendly and fast. So fast that our waiter forgot to bring the order of edamame we had requested to nosh on while we waited. Instead, we passed the time watching the chefs do their work and enjoyed it thoroughly.
The dining room is not fancy. Tables are a wood-grain laminate, artwork follows the pop theme. Pink lanterns that look a little like floating squids hang from the ceiling. One neat little touch: instead of bottles, soy sauce is dispensed in little individual squeeze tubes.
Like I said, it isn’t fine dining, but at least it’s a nonchain place that Oviedoans can go for good food.
Sushi Pop is at 310 W. Mitchell Hammock Road, Oviedo. It’s open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, late night Fridays and Saturdays. Here’s a link to Sushi Pop’s website, but frankly it doesn’t offer a lot -- many of the pages still say “coming soon.” The site doesn’t even offer a menu, but you can download it by clicking this link . The phone number is 407-542-5975.