While an ever-rotating lineup of trendy restaurants are vying for audience and acclaim in the saturated Metro Orlando market, savvy business owners Chef Chau and Matthew Howell walked away from the downtown scene, opting to open their bold and highly creative concept restaurant, Sushi Pop, in a strip mall in unassuming Oviedo. But there is nothing unassuming about what Chau and Howell have created; part visual spectacle, part culinary sensation, and part rebel yell, Sushi Pop is an enthralling multi-sensory experience as well as a delightfully unconventional dining destination. And Central Florida residents are flocking to it, finding the slight drive outside their neighborhoods and “the norm” well worth the effort.
Entering Sushi Pop is visually stunning. The restaurant’s inventive Japanese pop culture-inspired décor melds vibrant shades of pink, yellow, and dark colors; glowing whimsical light fixtures; and striking anime art. The friendly and highly knowledgeable staff is also part of the visual experience, dressed with style straight from the streets of Harajuku (a town in Japan famous for its rebellious, counter-culture attitude and fashion.) “The food here is mind-blowing,” says Tracy Brandt, who happily made a 20-minute drive to Sushi Pop from her home in Lake Nona. “But the décor alone is worth the visit. It’s like anime, meets Anthropologie, meets Burning Man in here. I’ve never seen a vibe like this in any restaurant before, let alone one in Oviedo.”
Though the décor certainly captivates, it’s the food that really wows. Sourcing products and ingredients (including rare seasonal items) from Tokyo’s famed Tsukiji Fish Market, Chef Chau showcases his modern style of sushi with dishes that are skillfully prepared and artistically presented with unexpected flavors and textures that are guaranteed to surprise and delight.
A great place to begin when selecting from the plentiful and humorously named menu options is with appetizers from both the hot and cold tastings sections. Try the playfully presented Hamachi Pops ($14, cold): the evening’s featured fish dressed in avocado puree, purple shiso, toasted garlic, and kimchi vinaigrette served on slim wooden sticks, lollipop-style. The Octopus Prime ($16, hot) is also impressive, with surprisingly graceful texture: braised octopus, lemon confit vinaigrette, shichimi pepper, seared prime sirloin, and potato espuma.
The Roll Out sushi choices are wittily named (Hot Mess, Mofo, Low Rider, Drama Queen, etc.) with equally inventive ingredient pairings. Try the Ceviche ($14) for a palette pleasing combination of hamachi with avocado, fried shallots and chipotle lime sauce, topped with seasonal white fish, sriracha hot sauce, micro cilantro, Hawaiian pink salt, and a wedge of lime. And be sure to leave room for one (or two) of Sushi Pop’s delectable desserts. While the P.M.S. is their most popular, consider giving their Apple Fritters ($8) a try: Chinese 5 Spiced apple fritters, cinnamon whipped cream cheese, maple ginger ice cream, and candied bacon. It’s oishii (delicious)!