When Universal Orlando released the plans for CityWalk’s massive update, one of the most exciting and anticipated announcements was the addition of a burger and sushi bar known as The Cowfish. The Cowfish was already a popular restaurant in North Carolina, but the owners were eager to expand into new markets and a partnership with Universal made a ton of sense. After nearly a year of construction, The Cowfish is finally open and it lives up to the hype surrounding its name.
The Cowfish bills itself as a Burger Sushi Bar based off of their menu which features gourmet burgers, tons of sushi, lots of specialty cocktails and their staple fusion creation, Burgushi, a fusion mixture of burger and sushi elements. This variety may seem strange and it is. The idea for the restaurant was formed when one owner wanted to start a burger joint and the other wanted to start a sushi restaurant, but space was limited. They combined forces to build a place where anyone can find something they want on the menu. My fiancée Kylie and I went to try it out for a date night and found out that The Cowfish completely succeeded.The entrance to The Cowfish Orlando is between Red Oven Pizza Bakery and Vivo Italian Kitchen. After entering the restaurant, you’ll notice a few things. First, there are paper menus hanging up that you can tear off the wall giving you a chance to decide what you want before you are seated. Second, there are three interactive video screens where you can design your own fish that will appear on screens throughout the restaurant. Finally, there is no seating on the ground floor so you either have to walk up stairs or take an elevator up to the second floor, which is really considered the “first” floor.
The Cowfish has a ton of seating on two different floors, but if you don’t want to wait for a table, there are several options including two full service bars on the first and second floor of the restaurant, a full service bar on the outside patio with tailgate games and sushi bar seating. We were seated on the second floor, which provided some excellent people watching opportunities on the first floor with decent views out to CityWalk and both Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida.I started the dinner with a specialty cocktail. Some of the options include the ‘Bees Knees’, ‘Backyard Brew’ and ‘Not Your Average Float’. I chose ‘Buffalos and Bacon’, because everything is better with bacon. The drink was made from Buffalo Trace bourbon, cherry liqueur, angostura and orange bitters, honey, candied bacon and a cherry. The honey and cherry liqueur completely overpowered the taste of the bitters and bourbon making an overly sweet drink. The cocktail was good, but the highlight was the candied bacon wrapped around a cherry as a garnish.
We only ordered one appetizer off the actual starter menu, the fried pickles. The fried pickles were served with ranch and a spicy, zesty sauce. They were perfectly cooked, crispy and not a trace of sogginess even towards the bottom of the plate.
I ordered an entrée sushi roll as my appetizer, because I was planning on trying some form of Burgushi for my main entrée. I chose ‘Mark’s Famous Roll’ – fresh tuna, jalapeño, cream cheese, kani, scallions inside, coated with panko and flash fried; topped with Japanese may and sriracha; served with ponzu dipping sauce. The roll was served in 9 pieces and I can definitely say this was a solid entrée roll. The flavors all blended together wonderfully and the use of cream cheese did not take away anything from the fish. After having a couple pieces of fried pickles and the entire roll, I was full and satisfied, but I couldn’t quit before the main course.
For her main course, Kylie ordered The Cowfish Bento Box – a combo meal featuring both burger and sushi, including a mini-burger with cheddar cheese, pickles and chopped red onion, sweet potato fries, Thai cucumbers, edamame and choice of a 4 piece sushi roll (California, Spicy Tuna, Vegetarian or Philly Roll), which she chose the Spicy Tuna Roll. For 14 dollars, the Bento Box is a great deal. It showed off how good their sushi and burgers are without making you decide between the two and it is a great option for someone who will only have the opportunity to dine there once.
I chose to be a little more adventurous with my main course and went with The Pittsburgoo-shi Sandwich – seared rare seasoned filet mignon topped with navel pastrami and french fries, melted Provolone and truffle cheeses, red onions, lettuce, and creamy Dijon; served on grilled spring roll wrapper “buns” filled with kani and sushi rice and came with my choice of side, which I chose french fries. This type of Burgushi takes burger-type items and serves them in a sushi-style bun. The other type of Burgushi, like The Buffaloooo-shi Roll, takes burger-type items and serves them inside sushi rolls as if they were sushi.
I am very excited to try The Buffalooo-shi Roll and similar Burgushi rolls, but I had to try The Pittsburgoo-shi Sandwich for my first time to pay homage to the city I spent most of my life near and the famous Primanti Bros. sandwich, which is the model for this Burgushi item. The best way I can describe it is incredible. Of course the filet mignon and pastrami were succulent and wonderful, but the highlight for me actually was the spring roll wrapper “buns”. At first sight, the buns almost looked like a tortilla. Once you bite in and taste the rice and Kani crab, everything immediately becomes okay and you realize that you should’ve been mixing crab, filet mignon and pastrami your entire life. I would say the french fries are definitely better than average, but like any Primanti Bros. sandwich, it’s hard to actually want to finish extra fries beyond the ones that are already on your sandwich.
I was disgustingly full at this point, but Kylie wanted dessert, so I gave in with just a little bit of a fight. The current dessert menu features a Yummy Roll (a pastry/gummy/cake roll), Fresh Berry Shortcake, East West (key lime and mandarin cheesecake) and Cookies and Milk. Kylie chose the Fresh Berry Shortcake – Lemon pound cake, berries, crispy cinnamon sugar wontons and vanilla ice cream, because it was the only thing on the menu that didn’t contain nuts, which she is extremely allergic to. The dessert was definitely prepared with fresh ingredients and I can’t think of any complaints. It was a bit pricey at 7 dollars, but the portion size was definitely inline with the price in the same way that everything else was during this meal.
Overall, The Cowfish is an absolute hit at CityWalk. I am positive that it will become one of the busiest restaurants at Universal and will have huge draw for locals and maybe even some Disney vacationers that have heard about it. From a restaurant standpoint, I can’t fault it at all. The food was delicious, portions were large, service was paced well, team members were friendly and the atmosphere was relaxing and family-friendly. There are enough options on the menu to have a unique meal for at least 20 visits and plenty of different options on where to sit. I know Kylie and I will enjoy many meals at The Cowfish in the future whether we are eating light at the sushi bar, hanging out on the patio with some appetizers and beer, or having another nice meal alone. It is absolutely one of my new favorite restaurants, period, and a great place for a date or fun with friends and family.