Whether it's Casselberry, Baldwin Park or I-Drive, this city's sushi game is strong, and no one flexes as much muscle as Kabooki Sushi's Henry Moso. At the wizened age of 29, he's become one of our most creative and forward-thinking sushi chefs – if you've experienced his extravagant, multicourse omakase free-for-alls, then you already know this. If you haven't, well, prepare to be dazzled by his precision and floored by the weight of his prodigality.
You'll find Moso commanding the kitchen at Kabooki's second location in the Bayhill Plaza, just a rice ball's throw away from the corporate poseurs lining West Sand Lake Road and well within reach of the neighborhood's posh and propertied restaurant-goers. The space is alluring – seductive, even – in 50 shades of sultry, but it's the sexagon (how apropos) that proves most shapely. The figure is employed on walls, under counters, as shelving, and all for good reason: Moso views the polygon as a symbol of limitless creativity. Again, apropos.
A sweet Okayama hotate (scallop) capped with a green apple aguachile and watermelon pearls with a yuzu sunomono isn't just creativity writ large, but easily the best thing I've put in my mouth this year. It was served during the opening rounds of a tasting omakase which, at $175 on the low end and $250 on the high end, isn't cheap. Moso suggests giving the restaurant a one-week heads-up – for "optimum culinary excellence" – though singed wild Alaskan king crab with truffle cream graced with shaved black truffles and truffle pearls, or British Columbian Kuushi oysters with a lychee-champagne sorbet, Thai basil oil and rainbow trout roe may be had with the 10-course a la carte omakase. It's based on what's available for the day and runs $150.
If you're the sort to indulge solely in nigiri, a 10-piece tasting ($65) with soup may have you moaning over Japanese threadfin bream with yuzu kosho, or kinmedai topped with monkfish liver and grated spicy daikon. Moso imports fish from Tokyo's Toyosu Market, and he and head sushi chef Dan Nguyen have the knife skills and torch technique to do these well-traveled swimmers justice – whether it's Japanese whiting, striped jack, horse mackerel or hamachi belly slicked in whiskey barrel-aged soy sauce and fiery kosho. You may get a tasting of (Mexican) bluefin tuna or, if you're lucky, a piece of otoro topped with Japanese uni, Siberian sturgeon caviar and 24-karat gold leaf (bling! bling! bling!).
There are cold tastings – wild Alaskan halibut ($18) cured in kombu, rolled in nori and served atop an incredible sauce of aji amarillo, or a Filipino ceviche of fluke ($17) in coconut milk and coconut vinegar. Both are absolute treats. There are hot tastings fashioned by chef de cuisine Mike Evans – a hefty seared U10 scallop ($18) fabulously foiled by a puree of roasted kabocha squash and sage, dinosaur kale chips and bluefoot mushrooms, or the "miso corny" ($18), sous-vide octopus splattered with a squid ink soubise (it's an onion sauce) and textured with charred corn and marcona almonds. And since you're splurging, go ahead and splurge a bit more on now-ubiquitous A5 Miyazaki beef ($25 per ounce).
There's a serious cocktail program led by bar manager Evan Sewell (the Woods, RavPig), and her "Springtime Blues," concocted with Hayman's gin, taro, coconut, Peychaud's, nigori sake and flowery Rosolio di Bergamotto, will make a fool of the hardcore tippler.
- Photo by Rob Bartlett
Desserts can get a bit art-for-art's-sake: carrot cake ($12) dolled up with flowers, sherry raisins and walnut "sand"; goat cheese panna cotta ($10) with beet cake and black pepper almonds; devil's food cake ($10) with chocolate sesame oil, whipped yuzu crème fraîche and red miso caramel. The flourishes are heavy, but they're master strokes nonetheless.
And, yes, there are a handful (or a handful and three fingers' worth) of rolls, none of which you'll find at your average sushi joint. Evidently some jokers walk in demanding to be served shrimp tempura rolls, much to the irritation of the chefs who, inevitably, acquiesce while biting their collective tongues. Even in the face of such annoyances they know that, at Kabooki, the show must go on.
This story is from the Aug. 7, 2019, print issue of Orlando Weekly. Stay on top of Central Florida news and views with our weekly Headlines newsletter.