Jinya Ramen Bar

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Jinya black

With the popularity of ramen at a height, it was only a matter of time before we'd see a chain noodle its way into town. It happened with Vietnamese, it's happening with poke, so why not ramen?

Jinya Ramen Bar is the company with a new franchise in Orlando, its first in Florida (oddly, the website lists the names of the cities for locations in other states but the Florida listing is Thornton Park). It took over and remodeled that space in Thornton Park Central that had briefly been Verde Cantina and, before that, a Tijuana Flats.

Jinya kitchen 1

As with many chain operations, Jinya's corporate connections bring advantages and disadvantages. It brought money to turn the space into a moody urban noodle bar with an open kitchen inside the front door, a central bar with seating on three sides, and a sunken dining room at the back.

Nothing I sampled at Jinya on my two visits was less than acceptable. Some things were delightfully better than I expected, some less so.

Urban Hibachi Sushi + Grill

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Urban Hibachi rolls

Urban Hibachi Sushi + Grill, a minichain with three locations spread across Greater Orlando, is really slick. Or at least the Oviedo location I visited is. The decor is bright and modern with minimalist decorations.

I think maybe I just misordered.

Stopping in for lunch, I selected the Makimono Lunch Special, which allows you to choose two selections from a small list of specialty rolls. The two that sounded the most interesting to me were the Sumo and the Tokyo.

Urban Hibachi sumo

The Sumo had escolar and salmon rolled with avocado and scallions with a bit of spicy mayo dotted on top. I somehow missed the note that said the roll was deep fried, but I don't think it would have been a deal killer anyway. I was in the mood for some escolar. Also, not at all sure why this was called the Sumo. No wrestling was involved and they certainly weren't bigger than other rolls.

Jade Sushi & New Asian

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Jade interior

I wanted Jade Sushi & New Asian to be better than it was. I expected it, in fact.

I had not been to this Edgewater Drive address since the restaurant was known as Jade Bistro and, in 2003, replaced a rather sketchy Chinese restaurant that I never had the courage to eat at. Jade Bistro, too, leaned more toward Chinese with its menu, though it did introduce sushi, which at the time was showing up on all types of Asian menus, even some non-Asian ones.

Jade Sushi & New Asian places the sushi more prominently, at least in the name. Sushi traditionalists might be disappointed in a dearth of classic rolls and a preponderance of items with cream cheese.

Umi Makes Magical Dining Month a Little More Magical

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Umi two rolls

How's your Magical Dining Month going? Mine's going great, thanks for asking. If yours needs a boost, I have a suggestion for you: Umi Japanese Restaurant on Park Avenue.

I was invited to sample their MagDinMo menu and I was really impressed. For one thing, Umi offers four courses instead of the usual three that other participating restaurants have. At one point I had to ask to make sure they weren't doing something special for me -- I was assured that everyone gets the same treatment, which includes impressive portions.

Tenji Hibachi Express & Sushi

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Tenji exterior

Japanese food has come to the Hoffner/Belle Isle neighborhood in the form of Tenji Hibachi Express & Sushi, The Express part should convey that this is not a full service restaurant but rather a fast-casual concept. You should also take it as an indicator that the food is modest.

Tenji occupies a sizable storefront facing Conway Road just a couple of doors down from the first Tacos el Rancho.

The menu is also ambitious, with numerous noodle and teriyaki options, nigirzushi and specialty sushi rolls, and of course hibachi entrees, though they're cooked for you in the back rather than you doing it at your table.

Domu

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Domu ramen

On my third visit to Domu I was finally granted a seat. On one visit the restaurant, which does not accept reservations, had a wait of an hour and a half. Nope.

On the second visit, middle of the week, there were dozens of open seats, but the hostess said I would have to wait a while because there were only two waiters on that evening and if she were to seat me I might not be greeted right away. So, the logic was, stand here and wait instead of being seated and wait. Nope.

But that proverbially charming third time worked. I was shown an ideal seat at the food bar — there is a bar-bar, too, but they won’t serve ramen there; I would have asked for an explanation of the logic in that but…see above.

Ah, yes, ramen. That is Domu’s raison d’etre, or dearu koto ni kiin shimasu in Japanese. The noodley soups have been enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and Domu does them nicely.

Jimotti's

Written by Scott Joseph on .

 IMG 6590

Jimotti’s is a bit of an odd place. Odd name, too, at least to my ears, which want to hear something Italian.

But Jimotti’s is Japanese and has a surprisingly substantial menu of kitchen foods and a more compact roster of sushi, sashimi and specialty rolls.

I was in the mood for ramen when I stopped in and ordered the Tonkatsu Ramen from the list of seven or more choices. But I thought I would get a piece of nigirizushi to nibble on while I waited, and I was impressed enough to want to come back for a full sushi complement sometime.

Omakase at Morimoto Asia

Written by Scott Joseph on .

MMOmakase kobe cu

As the area gets more — and better — sushi restaurants, the omakase experience is becoming more prevalent. Omakase is a Japanese term that translates roughly as “I’ll leave it to you.” When you request omakase, you put your trust in the sushi chef to present you the best and freshest and finest.

This concept isn’t unique to Japanese restaurants. Many cuisines, though mainly upscale restaurants, offer chef’s tasting menus that might include little bites or full entrees, all at the whim of the chef. Regardless of the type of food, diners who choose this option tend to be more adventurous and willing to try something different. But even the most daring diners often say they would order omakase only in a restaurant in which they are a regular and they know the chef (and the chef knows the diner, too).

Morimoto Asia at Disney Springs recently added an omakase option and I was invited recently to give it a try. Here the dinner is offered only at the sushi bar — and only with a minimum 24-hour advance reservation and deposit. The cost is $150 per person, and after my nearly three-hour experience, I can’t imagine any lover of sushi and Japanese food walking away feeling that it wasn’t worth it.

Omakase is the purview of the sushi chef, but chef de cuisine Yuhi Fujinaga was our guide for the evening. He explained the progression of the dinner and the various courses that would be represented. Technically, there are seven courses in Morimoto Asia’s omakase, but some of those courses have multiple components, so it seems like much more. For example, the sushi course had five items, each presented separately, as did the sashimi course. The high-grade Wagyu beef was served two ways. And there was a “pre-dessert” before the final plate.

Below is how the evening flowed. You may also click on the video below to get a look at the meal.

 

Yamasan Sushi & Grill

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Yamasan bar

Yamasan Sushi & Grill is the latest restaurant to open at Mills Park. It’s a small restaurant with a very large and ambitious menu. Besides a full offering of sushi, Yamasan has hibachi and stone grill cook-at-your-table options as well as one-pot cooking, such as shabu shabu and sukiyaki. There are seven soups and 26 each of hot or cold appetizers (not counting variations on individual items, such as the Tuna Tartare that may be ordered a la Nobu or Morimoto).

Umi

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Umi ramen

I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to Umi, the latest sushi bar and Japanese restaurant to occupy a familiar Park Avenue Space, even though it included some of the absolute worst mussels to ever have been placed in front of me.

Umi is at the "bottom" of Park Avenue, at 525 South, where various other sushi and Japanese restaurants — plus an occasional bit of Thai — have called home. Most recently it was Avenue Thai & Sushi. Its longest and most familiar occupant was Shiki.

Umi has an austere yet pleasant vibe. The menu features not only the expected sushi selections but also kitchen foods that include robata grilled meats and a couple of ramen soups.