ORLANDO, Fla., Oct. 16, 2015 - Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar at City Walk, Universal Studios, Florida, is one of those places that takes you by complete surprise, so much that one visit turned into two in one week; it was just that good.
The Cowfish signature fusion is shown throughout the art, the décor and, oddly, the bathrooms, where someone has brilliantly created a loop of Asian phrases followed by down-home boy Southern twang English translations.
The most fun is listening to young millennial 20-something girls trying to figure out exactly what is going on there – so don’t tell them.
Cowfish is a unique concept, something hard to pull off in the day when everyone’s a foodie. As the name implies, Cowfish is the fusion of a burger joint and a sushi palace.
Which seems odd — however, this tiny North Carolina-based chain has something figured out – beyond the desires of daters who seek two of the most seemingly divergent foods on the planet – savory beef burgers and sushi.
But the ubiquitous surf and turf is a traditional “big dining” experience favorite – so maybe it’s not that planetary of an idea – just one no one else has thought of like this before.
Mixed in with exotic sounding menu items are “good ol’ diner favorites” that nod to the restaurant’s Southern heritage with a twist – like parmesan truffled fries laden with cheese and fried pickles with two sauces – a spicy buttermilk ranch and horseradish aioli.
Hearty enough for an entrée dish is the Tuna & Avocado-Tini – something ordered not once, but twice because it was hard to believe anything could consistently taste that good. And they both passed the test being consistently wonderful: large firm cubes of fresh tuna tossed with chunks of avocado in an ginger dressing.
It is served in a pilsner glass, and you really do want to turn it upside on a plate in order to savor the tart seaweed salad at the bottom.
Showing that there is more to sashimi that just raw fish, Big Al’s yellow tail sets hearty slices of the freshest yellow tail with the thinnest slices of jalapeño and a dish of sweet and salty ponzu dipping sauce.
Confession time: I am not a fan of heat, particularly jalapeño as the hot so often masks flavors. But not here. Chef Ryan slices the hot pepper wafer thin, removing the seed, and, I want to guess, soaking it in a bath of milk or salted water because there is no burn, just a warm flavor next to the healthy fats in the yellow fin.
Again, as in the Tuna & Avocado-Tini, we have that marriage of tart and acidic with the heart-healthy fats of the fish, and it is a combination pleasing to the tongue and to the body.
Each giving that warm, ummmm, that really good feeling you get after the perfect bite.
But it’s not all sushi, though we should, and will, get back to the rolls.
Cowfish Burgers are thick, totally juicy, soft but not mushy (mushy often being the result of too much fat and inferior meat) creating a different kind of fusion. Charred to perfection, but not burnt, perfectly warm pink in the center and creatively finished, the burgers are to die for.
With names like the Dynamic Duo, pairing burger with short rib, or the Big Squeal, a burger with pulled pork, smoked gouda cheese, onion strings, signature coleslaw, BBQ sauce, what have to be kitchen-made-they-are-so-good pickles, all piled onto a fresher than fresh sweet brioche bun – well, I am not sure why you would buy a burger elsewhere if you could get one of these.
Adding a bit of Asian flair to the burger is the refreshing Sweet & Spicy Thai Cucumbers, crisp cucumber in a sweet vinegar with the flair of allspice.
Our burger choice, the Rise & Swine Burger, means I will never serve a burger without crisp applewood bacon, grilled Black Forest ham and a sunny-side-egg again.
The perfect breakfast, lunch or dinner burger, this delight is finished with grilled onions and Cowfish sauce (don’t ask, it’s a secret) on a fresh onion bun.
Adding sweet potato fries to the plate makes this the perfect savory dish for those who like to eat with their fingers.