- Aldrin Capulong
901 S. Orlando Ave.,
You can’t talk about the swanky new RanGetsu in Maitland without talking about the original blue-tiled behemoth that stood like an emperor’s retreat for nearly a quarter-century on I-Drive. RanGetsu of Tokyo, as it was then called, lured moneyed tourists to its sprawling compound of garden bridges and koi ponds, but behind the Shogun movie set frontage was the closest thing Orlando had to authentic Japanese cuisine, and it quickly became a favored destination for locals as well. That is, until prices climbed, quality declined, and the recession all but forced RanGetsu’s owner, Masaaki Konaka, to sell the lot and close shop on March 31, 2010.
One year and one rebranding later, the restaurant reopened, eschewing tradition in favor of a little J-Pop glamour. Stepping into the new RanGetsu is like stepping into a sexy Ginza supper club – everything exudes swank. Along with Dragonfly Sushi on Sand Lake Road and SushiPop in Oviedo, this is the latest in a string of Japanese new-wave dining hotspots scattered about the city. The plan was to transform into a nightclub after 10 p.m. (there’s a DJ booth near the entrance), but this being the bedroom community of Maitland, the party people never really showed up. So RanGetsu is primarily a restaurant for now, and that’s good news.
Still helming the kitchen is chef Yuichiro Yamanaka, whose menu veers from the trad-itional to a mix of traditional Japanese fare, robata items, fusion dishes and, of course, superb sushi. Disappointed by the absence of otoro, the most sublime cut from the bluefin, we switched our focus to the next best thing – two exaltedly plush cuts of buttery chutoro sashimi ($8) and a negitoro roll ($8), with scallions mixed in with the fatty tuna. Apart from its poor construction, we thoroughly enjoyed the powerful spider roll ($11) crunchy with tempura soft-shell crab, avocado and eel sauce. It being happy hour (5:30-7 p.m. daily), we coupled the negitoro roll with the spider roll for $13.99. Our server, it should be noted, was more than happy to heed our request for imported wasabi, and didn’t charge us for it.
Next we ordered the shabu- shabu ($28), sukiyaki’s more savory cousin. We cooked thin slices of Meyer Ranch sirloin along with Napa cabbage, cellophane noodles, shiitake and enoki mushrooms and tofu in the simmering kelp-flavored broth, then took turns dipping the boiled ingredients into ponzu (citrus) and goma (sesame) sauces.
What really wowed us were two skewers of premium wagyu Kobe beef ($16) cooked on the robata – the beef was so soft, it almost required no chewing. Mild shishito peppers ($6), also grilled on the robata and served with a sauce of caramelized soy and heavy cream, were perfect on the side. The only real miscue of the evening was how long it took for a green tea crème brûlée ($7) and a bowl of azuki bean ice cream to hit the table, but once they did, we downed both promptly.
Behind the scenes RanGetsu seems in good hands, and chef Yamanaka clearly has a vision and direction for his kitchen. For the dining public, that course leads north to Maitland.