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.
When I first wrote about Kabooki, back when it opened in 2013, I noted how stylish but small the restaurant was. So I was anxious to take a peek inside at the expanded space when I recently picked up an order.
It is indeed a much larger space, now with an L-shaped sushi bar toward the back of the restaurant and a liquor bar just inside the front door. And it still has a chicness that belies its surroundings. (In my original review, I noted that it was just across the street from the Sears Auto Service Center, which is long gone and now replaced with a Darden restaurant.)
There are a couple of tables outside in front of the place, but they were unoccupied when I visited. I waited there while my order was being completed.
For an appetizer I ordered the rock shrimp, little nuggets of firm shellfish with a light breading, tossed with a tobanjan sauce that gave it a bit of spiciness. The creamy yuzu tartar sauce was perfect for dipping. I started popping them addictively and didn’t mind at all that the kitchen had accidentally given me two orders.
I also had a couple of pieces of hamachi nigirizushi, which were expertly formed and served at a proper temperature to allow the full flavor of the yellowtail to come through. Nicely done if a little on the smallish side.
The double tekka sushi roll had spicy tuna and not spicy tuna (the spicy won) with delicious bits of takuwan, a pickled radish. I preferred mine dipped in the pungent tamari.
Ordering was done over the phone, and I asked to pay for the complete order, plus gratuity, in advance, and my credit card information was taken. Yet, when the order was brought outside, the server thrust a charge slip and pen at me. So much for paying in advance and being contactless.
Judging from all of the other people inside the restaurant, I was in the minority with my cautiousness, but I’ll remain so for a bit longer. As long as I can still enjoy good food like Kabooki prepares, I don’t care where I eat it.