It’s no secret that Asian fusion is my go to, my security blanket, but I’m very picky when it comes to Japanese food. I’m not quite sure why I’ve had the worst luck with Japanese establishments in Central FL but it’s exhausting.
Habachi doesn’t wow me, I’ve always felt like you’re paying for a show and mediocre food. Teriyaki is so played out and don’t get me started on the quality of sushi. I’ve only eaten sashimi in two Orlando restaurants and Umi is one of them.
Umi on Park Ave opened in May of 2015. There was so much buzz during the grand opening, local magazines, food critics and bloggers were raving about Winter Park’s new sushi bar. I was pleasantly surprised when Fio and I were invited to a media tasting shortly after they opened.
My experience at the tasting was so wonderful that I’ve actually been back for happy hour and lunch. Fio even hosted an event with The Skimm this past fall. It’s been one of my favorite spots for girl’s night, date night and day drinking (it’s Park Ave, let’s be real.).
I have to admit, as many times as I’ve been to Umi, I’ve stuck to the same things because they’re SO good:
Pineapple Infused Sake
I’ve never been a sake fan, but this is light, fruity and perfect for happy hour.
Robata Grilled pork belly, bacon wrapped cherry tomatoes, and ribeye
I make faces when I explain how amazing these dishes are. They use Binchotan charcoal which is made from White Oak. The charcoal in imported from Asia and. It is as natural as can be, no chemicals. It burns odorless and smokeless and burns at over 1000 degrees Celsius. Instantly sears what they cook over it and locks in the juices. Umi cooks meats, seafood and vegetables on it and they implement these items cooked from the robata into the sushi rolls and the plated menu items.
Picture of the coals, courtesy of Umi Winter Park
Umi was kind enough to invite us girls to lunch and try something new!
We started off with this delicious miso soup.
Sea Salt Edamame
Umi’s twist on the Bento Box
I ordered the Raw Bento Box du jour (raw)
Sashimi: Yellowtail Hamachi & Tuna.
Nigiri: Japanese Red Snapper & Salmon
The quality was top notch. The sushi chef is very particular with the seafood that he purchases and will not accept anything that does not meet his standards. He buys the whole fish and prepares it himself. Deliveries up to 3 times a week in order to maintain freshness to their guests.
Their sushi rice stands out. The rice is made using the highest grade rice grains and it’s prepared in traditional methods using a large wooden rice mixing tub called a Hangiri.
The Mini Korean Chirashi Bowl was to die for.
I would pick bento trays over the traditional bento boxes any day. The presentation looks chic and if for whatever reason you’re not happy with an item, they can just switch out the plate. It makes sense and way more hygienic, in my opinion.
Let’s take a moment to admire this Kimchi Croquette.
I would have never ordered this croquette on my own. The explosion of flavor and textures made me a fan. Crunchy, chewy, spicy, and sweet. I can’t believe I’ve missed out on this side dish for so long!
Fio ordered the Cooked Bento Box du jour
Cured salmon over vegetables with balsamic teriyaki sauce.
Look at that gorgeous spread! Oh, and Fio ordered the Fresh Suika cocktail which is Soju, fresh muddled watermelon and lemon juice.
I ordered the Very Berry Mojito
Soju, club soda, lime, fresh muddled raspberry, blueberry, blackberry and mint leaves
Which is probably my new fave this season. You know this Miami girl is always down for a Mojito!
Spicy Jalapeño Roll
Shrimp tempura, cream cheese, jalapeño, wrapped with spicy tuna, sliced jalapeño, spicy mayo drizzle, side of spicy kobachi sauce.
You cook your own steak on a Ishiyaki hot stone.
It was quite the experience.
What sets Umi apart from the rest is their pride with making everything from scratch. All sauces at Umi are homemade, even the soy sauce (which is called “Tsukuri”) is modified to create a smokey flavor. It’s made with Mirin which is a rice wine, sake and bonito flakes. You can taste the difference. They even served freshly grated wasabi with the steak. It was out of this world. I’ve never had it fresh before, only the paste.
I wish I took pictures inside the restaurant. The decor is period antique artwork from Japan ranging from the 16th to 19th centuries. Definitely a must see! Stop by, enjoy yourselves and tell them we sent you. A special thanks to Susie Lorin and her amazing staff for always taking care of me.
Umi was kind enough to let me check out new items on their menu. As usual, I promise to give my honest opinion.