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.
Like the Beer & Sake Garlic Butter Mussels, a big bowl of mollusks in a golden-tinged broth that I found myself slurping up with a spoon. (It was also good sopped up with the garlic toast.) And the mussels, too, were meaty and delicious.
The mussels were a choice in the list of second course options. Everyone is given a bowl of miso soup to begin.
My companion had the Cobia Crudo, which featured cool slices of the fish wrapped in watermelon daikon, topped with hackleback caviar and drizzled with a kyurizuke and ume truffle vinaigrette. As pretty as it was tasty.
I chose the Japanese Chirashi for my third course, a large serving of vinegared rice dotted with orange fish roe and topped with so many slices of raw fish, including tuna, salmon and escolar (one of my favorites). Pickled onions, cucumber, daikon and ginger accompanied, and freshly grated wasabi, too, not the usual green paste that most places pass off as wasabi.
My friend went with the third-course option that allows two signature sushi rolls from a list of six. She chose the Crunchy Hako and the Spitfire, which did not have spit but did involve fire, a torch to be precise. It featured spicy kosho crawfish tail and asparagus wrapped with whitefish. It’s brushed with mayo seasoned with kuro shichimi, then seared with a torch. That helped give it a delightful texture.
The Crunchy Hako roll gets its name from the Hako or Osaka style of sushi that’s sometimes called box style. It’s similar to nigirizushi in that the fish — spicy tuna here — is placed on top of the rice instead of rolled with it. Rice cracker provided the crunch, and pickles, scallions and micro greens made it all pretty. And pretty delicious.
We were worn out by the time we had to make our fourth-course choice. I had the Matcha Bread Pudding, seasoned with tea and topped with powdered Nutella and house-made marshmallow.
My companion chose the Lemon cream Shortbread Cookie, sweet and tart and served with a dollop of house-made ice cream.
Service was first-rate, and Umi’s atmosphere is tony but casual.
Magical Dining Month was scheduled to end this weekend but has been extended through Oct. 12 to make up for the days lost during Hurricane Irma. But even with the added days, don’t wait too long to try Umi’s menu. I haven’t seen any other participating restaurant offer so many choices for the $35 promotion — and make it so good.
Umi Japanese Restaurant is at 525 S. Park Ave., Winter Park. They’re open for lunch and dinner daily with the MagDinMo menu offered in the evenings and all day weekends. The phone number is 407-960-3993.