Gochi Japanese Kitchen

Written By Scott Joseph On August 3, 2023

Gochi Japanese Kitchen Winter Garden exterior

When we think about restaurants in Winter Garden we immediately think of Plant Street and the downtown area. And by we I mean me.

That’s very short-sighted, I agree. And I’m bound to expand my thinking after a very pleasant lunch at Gochi Japanese Kitchen, which indeed has a Winter Garden address but resides on Colonial Drive.

It occupies a surprisingly large space in the Winter Garden Regional Shopping Center. It doesn’t open until noon, and while I was waiting for the doors to be unlocked, I watched a man come out and sweep the sidewalk in front, even though it really didn’t look like it needed it. A few moments later I was seated inside and that same man turned out to be our server. (And a gracious and competent one at that.)

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Kabooki Sushi Sand Lake

Written By Scott Joseph On June 1, 2023

Kabooki Sushi

On Monday, June 5, Henry Moso will find out if he becomes the first Central Floridian to win the James Beard Foundation’s Best Chef: South award. He has already made history as the first local chef in the awards’ three-decade history to advance to the final voting round.

Moso, whose full surname is Phimmoso, is the owner and itamae of Kabooki Sushi, the Michelin-recommended restaurant with locations on East Colonial Drive and Restaurant Row. I had visited the original location, oddly situated across from Fashion Square Mall, several years ago and more recently for a takeout review during the pandemic. But I hadn’t been to Kabooki Sand Lake, which is actually on Turkey Lake Road in the Bay HIll Plaza, so I stopped in for dinner recently to gauge Moso’s chances of taking the Beard Award home.

Those chances are good, and not just because the organization’s ethics committee recently disqualified one of Moso’s fellow nominee. His food is creative, of unquestionable high quality and exactingly presented.


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Sushi Pop Winter Park

Written By Scott Joseph On April 28, 2022

Sushipopwp ext

This isn’t my first time visiting Sushi Pop in Winter Park, an off-Park offshoot of the original Oviedo restaurant that opened in 2019. For myriad reasons – please check events from the past two years – that review was never published. But I remember thinking at the time that the Winter Park restaurant was a mere shadow of its Oviedo self, both in terms of the quality of the food and the overall experience.

I still feel that way.

When it opened, in 2011, Sushi Pop really did pop. It was fun, not only for the diners who were enjoying having good quality sushi in a part of town that was still inundated with bland American chain restaurants, but also for the staff, who seemed to delight in wearing costumes and sporting wildly colored hair, all while still offering good service.

There is none of that at the Winter Park SP, and maybe it’s no longer the case in Oviedo, either, but I missed it.


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Soseki Modern Omakase

Written By Scott Joseph On January 27, 2022

Soseki collantes

The Japanese dining experience known as omakase, wherein diners, not presented a menu, turn themselves over to the whim of the chef, is not new to Orlando. It has been an option at sushi restaurants for many years. (This concept isn’t exclusive to sushi restaurants, either – think a degustation or chef’s tasting menu, such as that at Victoria & Albert’s chef’s table.)

What is relatively new to the area is the omakase-only restaurant, offering an exclusive and intimate dining experience. Well, intimate in the sense that you’re among fewer than a dozen customers seated next to each other at a sushi counter but all having the same culinary adventure.

Kadence was the first to present this concept full time to Central Florida, and was awarded the Best Restaurant Overall Foodster Award in 2019. Soseki Modern Omakase came on the scene in March of ’21.

There are several similarities between the two. Both occupy indistinct buildings with little or no signage – walk-in diners aren’t allowed so there’s no need to try to draw people in; there’s also no published phone number. Each has an attractive interior decor and each has limited seating – nine for Kadence and 10 for Soseki – at a sushi-style bar (sans the see-through refrigerated container seen in typical sushi bars) with .

Also, you don’t make a reservation, you buy a ticket, a nonrefundable one. (And an expensive one, too, but more about that in a moment.)

One other similarity: Both are staffed by young, exuberant professionals who are passionate about the quality and creativity of what they present to their guests.


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Wa Sushi

Written By Scott Joseph On October 21, 2021

wa 3way

Wa Sushi, the popular Casselberry restaurant, was closed for almost exactly a year, from February 2020 to February 2021. The reason for closing was not pandemic related – we didn’t start seeing closures until the following month. Instead, according to a post on the restaurant’s Facebook page at the time, there was an issue with drainage at its original location that forced it to close and look for a place to relocate.

But really, if you had to close your restaurant for a year, 2020 was the perfect choice.


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Ootoya Sushi Lounge

Written By Scott Joseph On May 13, 2021

Ootoya sign

Suddenly there’s a surge of new sushi joints popping up around town. One is Ootoya Sushi Lounge, which replaced Shari Sushi in Thornton Park, which closed in October of 2019. Much seems the same about the space, and Ootoya doesn’t present anything that would distinguish it above the other sushi restaurants that are opening or that have established themselves, though what I sampled on a recent visit was enjoyable.


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Written By Scott Joseph On May 6, 2021

Japango sign

There are certainly more attractive restaurants than Japango, a new boxed sushi concept in Mills 50, but it offers a first-rate product for a fair price, although it does have one major but entirely fixable flaw. I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Japango operates out of the Chewy Boba space in a building that fronts Colonial Drive. It looks sort of like a converted one-car garage with black paint the major decor element, although the order counter is unstained piney wood that stands out in the darkness under bright track lighting.

Japango counter

Still classifying itself as in soft opening, Japango offers two sushi boxes, one for $19 and one for $29. Both include a sushi roll and chef’s nigirizushi assortment along with edamame, plantain chips, and a choice of seaweed salad, watermelon “ceviche” or sashimi ceviche. The $29 box gets you an extra roll.


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Boku Sushi & Grill

Written By Scott Joseph On February 18, 2021

Boku sign

During February, Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide is featuring restaurants that are Black-owned or that have Black chefs in observance of Black History Month.

Albert Eugene DeSue, formerly chef at the now defunct Yuki Hana, has taken over kitchen duties at Boku Sushi & Grill, one of several restaurants at the new Maitland City Centre.

Maitland City Centre (which I’m pretty sure is pronounced SAHN-tray, is a big new multi-use complex that is now the hamlet’s de facto downtown. The Centre’s website reads, “You might feel as though you’ve been transported to a dynamic, open-air plaza straight out of your favorite European escape.”

Um, no.

But you might feel like you’re not in Maitland anymore.


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Kabooki Sushi

Written By Scott Joseph On January 5, 2021

Kabooki exterior

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.


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Takeout from Kadence

Written By Scott Joseph On July 23, 2020

Kadencetogo plated

When I reviewed Kadence, nearly a year ago, I said that the omakase sushi bar was perhaps one of the best restaurants in Orlando, even though – or maybe because – it did not match the criteria for what we consider a restaurant to be.

One doesn’t make a reservation but rather purchases a (nonrefundable) ticket for a specified time to sit at one of nine seats. There is no menu; customers are served what the chef prepares, all receiving each dish at the same time.

But the experience itself was unique, and the quality of the food exceptional.

One particular thing that made the meal so enjoyable was watching the chefs work, especially Mark Berdin and his skillful one-hand method of shaping the pads of rice for the nigirizushi.

That, of course, can’t be experienced when getting takeout from Kadence, which currently is all that is being offered. But the quality of the sushi and other selections is unquestionably the same. And for once you can make your own selections.


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