Today we welcome Shari Sushi Lounge to the flog. (Everybody say Hey, Shari.) If you’ve read my statement about advertisers on the site, you know that not just anyone can have an ad displayed in these pages. In order to keep the integrity of SJO high, only restaurants that meet my standards of quality may present themselves here for your consideration. And in case you’re wondering, yes, I’ve said no to a number of requests to advertise here, and I’ve dropped some restaurants whose quality flagged. If you don’t believe me, ask Nicole Spooner, my sales rep.
So when Nicole said that Shari would like to come on board I said, “Hmmm, it’s been a while since I’ve been there; I’d better go back and check them out.” After a couple of recent visits, I’m wondering why I hadn’t been back in so long. Everything I tasted was terrific.
On one of the visits my guest and I nibbled on deliciously salty edamame while we waited for our first course to arrive. And it made quite an entrance. It was the Kobe ishiyaki, strips of raw wagyu to be cooked on a hot-stone hibachi (that’s the ishiyaki) by us. We chopsticked the meat onto the round stone, which sat atop a charcoal-filled platform, for only a few seconds, then dipped them into one of the three sauces, garlic ponzu, shichimi pepper aioli, and sweet soy. We agreed that the aioli was our favorite.
We next had a Love Roll, which is not what you’re thinking. It featured bluefin tuna wrapped seductively around lump crabmeat and avocado — a three way? — topped with salmon eggs and bits of cilantro, with foamy lime zest ponzu on the plate. An orgy of flavors.
Next came something unique, an uni panna cotta. It was served in a hinged glass jar with tiny wooden paddles for scooping out the cooked cream, sea urchin, tuna and fish eggs that popped in our mouths.
Our sashimi selection was tsubugai, which is also known as whelk or sea snail. the opaque white flesh was made colorful with the addition of blood oranges, a granita fashioned of strawberries and yuzu, an Asian citrus. They added to the flavor, as did the cobanero chilies and a drizzle of sesame oil. A masterful presentation.
I’ve never understood why people would go to a sushi restaurant and have dessert after the meal (that's really a Western thing), but those of you who do will find some tasty treats to try, including a lava cake, tempura strawberries and a gooey bread pudding. Personally, the coolness of fresh ice cream will do it for me.
Shari still has the funky, bohemian atmosphere it had when it first opened in late 2002. And it’s still more youthful than mature, but now a fixture of the downtown dining scene.
Shari Sushi Lounge is at 621 E. Central Blvd., Orlando. (Music alert on the website.) It is open for dinner daily. The phone number is 407-420-9420.