Sushi is one of my favorite foods, but I rarely eat it because you pay for quality, and that means decent sushi isn’t cheap, and next-level sushi is expensive. Plus, it takes so much sushi to fill me up, it isn’t a cost-effective meal for me (excluding my beloved all-you-can-eat Mikado in Altamonte Springs, which I still contend is one of the best bangs for your buck anywhere).
A few weeks ago, my wife and I agreed that sushi sounded good for dinner, and I asked her to choose one of three sushi restaurants near us to order takeout from: two we hadn’t been to, and one we hadn’t been to in a few years. She looked at all three menus online and chose one of the new ones that opened earlier this year, not far from us: Kombu Sushi Ramen (https://www.facebook.com/KombuSushiRamen/) on Aloma Avenue in a less-traveled part of Winter Park. We went a little bit nuts with ordering, but the sushi ended up being just what we dreamed of for far too long. (The last time I had sushi was earlier this year, while we both spent 30 days together in the hospital. That sushi was one of the best things I ate from the hospital cafeteria, but I was looking forward to something far better, in more pleasant surroundings.)
Kombu is in a little building that looks like a house, and it probably used to be a house a long time ago. Once I arrived, I only had to wait a few more minutes for my takeout order to be ready. The dining room was very nice, modern, and clean. It was busy on an early weekend evening, always a good sign. The sushi chefs were definitely hustling behind the sushi bar, and the hostess was kind enough to offer me a glass of water while I waited. It was a nice place I would like to see succeed.
Always health-conscious, my wife gravitates toward sashimi, thin slices of fresh, raw seafood without the usual rice, to avoid some carbs (or preferably, to save the carbs for dessert). She ordered this sashimi dinner ($24.95), with 20 assorted pieces of fresh fish and shellfish slices selected by the chef. This lovely arrangement included tuna, salmon, escolar (AKA white tuna or butterfish), surimi (AKA “krab,” white fish processed to look and taste like crab), and one of her favorite seafoods, tako (AKA octopus, at the 12:00 position). She really loves octopus, whether it is grilled, fried, or served like this (not raw but actually cooked; thanks to a sharp-eyed Saboscrivnerino for correcting me on this).
Below on the left, you can see my order of mackerel sashimi ($4.50 for the three shimmering silver pieces of fish). I always love saba (mackerel) because it tastes like pickled herring, with a little bit of sweetness and a light, vinegary tang. Next to that, in the back, is my wife’s extra escolar sashimi ($5 for the three white pieces), and our bagel roll ($5.95), a favorite of mine, with smoked salmon, cream cheese, and avocado.
Here are two more rolls we shared, a crunch roll ($5.50) and a crunchy spicy salmon roll ($6.95). The crunch roll (left) included krab, spicy mayo, avocado, and tempura “chips” on the top, and it is drizzled with kabayaki sauce, a sweet soy-based glaze, similar to eel sauce.
The crunchy spicy salmon roll (right) was a delicious blend of strong flavors and interesting textures, with spicy salmon, tempura chips on the inside, and drizzled with one of my favorite condiments (and not just for sushi, but especially for sushi), spicy mayo.
And this is one of my favorites anywhere, the volcano roll ($12.95). This majestic mountain was built around a sushi roll containing tuna and cream cheese, topped with avocado, “baked krab special,” tempura chips, spicy mayo, kabayaki sauce, and tobiko, the tiny, salty, delicate orange pearls that are flying fish roe. My wife liked this too, but I had been craving sushi for so long, it hit the spot so perfectly.
Here’s another angle of the volcano roll, so you can see the rolls themselves. All sushi is painstakingly prepared, with a lot of effort that goes into a beautiful presentation.
The artful presentation is part of the price of admission right there, but I thought the prices at Kombu were all very reasonable for the good quality of this sushi and sashimi. There are definitely fancier sushi places that are also more “authentic,” with less krab, less spicy mayo, fewer rolls in general. There’s a time and a place for those upscale and authentic restaurants, at least for some, but this is the kind of sushi I know the best and love the most. I’d consider Kombu more of an “everyday luxury,” and I mean that in the best possible way. It isn’t exclusive or precious or snooty — it’s wonderful, fresh food made with precision and care, that you can enjoy whenever you want to do something really nice for yourself. For me, believe it or not, that isn’t often enough.
Because Kombu has sushi and ramen in its title, I felt like I had to sample the ramen too, in order to write a worthy review. I defaulted to my old favorite, tonkotsu ramen, but chose the mayu tonkotsu ramen here ($13.50) and asked them to hold the kikurage, those skinny little alien-looking mushrooms. Note the noodles, two chashu pork slices, two ajitama egg halves, menma (AKA seasoned bamboo shoots), green onions, and lots of crunchy fried diced garlic. The fried garlic and black garlic oil are what makes the mayu tonkotsu different from the regular tonkotsu, which comes with shredded red ginger instead. As any restaurant packing up soup in a takeout order should, they packaged the tonkotsu broth in a separate container so the noodles wouldn’t get soggy on my way home.
Here is the mayu tonkotsu ramen with the broth added. It was delicious, because you can’t ever go wrong with tonkotsu ramen (unless of course you’re a vegetarian or strictly kosher or halal, due to the broth being made from pork bones simmering for days). My only issue with this takeout feast from Kombu is that the broth wasn’t the rich, creamy, opaque pork bone broth I’m used to from tonkotsu ramen. This was more of a watery broth than I was expecting. It was still tasty, salty, and porky, but not thick or creamy like I’ve gotten spoiled by.
So that’s my long-overdue review of Kombu Sushi Ramen. I would happily return anytime for the sushi, but for ramen, tonkotsu or otherwise, I would probably sooner return to Ramen Takagi, just five minutes east on Aloma, still my favorite ramen spot. Hey, that would be a great double feature dinner right there!