Trend watch: If the voices in my head can be trusted, you will soon hear the word ‘izakaya’ being tossed liberally about by Orlando foodies. For the uninitiated, an izakaya is a laid-back Japanese pub: think tapas powered by a robata and some sushi knives. The concept has been loosely brought to life over the years and in various ways by American restaurateurs with the central theme being booze and sharable nibbles in stripped down, casual digs. Zero wrong with that.

A lifetime ago, I frequently frequented an izakaya in Fort Lauderdale called Marumi. Located in a dingy strip mall and open until 2AM every night, it catered largely to the local Japanese community, including restaurant workers exhausted from rolling cream cheese rolls elsewhere. Marumi was powered by a beer swilling kitchen, a specials board loaded with fresh local fish and an ever-changing array of grilled odds and ends. It quickly became my go-to hideaway from the SoFla helter skelter. It was where I first ate fugu, slurped shiokara, and fell in love with the hyper casual side of Japanese dining.

Orlando now appears to be dipping its big toe in the izakaya waters with two new venues; recently opened Susuru and Tori Tori, which is set to open in early 2019. As Marumi remains a 4-hour drive from my door, I’m beyond eager to see if they stack up to my South Florida go-to.

Susuru Japanese Restaurant in Orlando
Photo courtesy of Susuru Instagram (@susuruorl)

Susuru is located in Vista Centre Shoppes at 8548 Palm Parkway in Lake Buena Vista, appears heavily themed, and is the brainchild of Lewis Lin of Jade Sushi & New Asian and managing partner Kenny Ly. Not that we are in need of any more ramen venues, but there is ramen. Susuru is currently in the midst of its soft open. If you’ve taken it for a spin, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Send us a note below.

Tori Tori Japanese Restaurant in Orlando

Tori Tori is still in-the-works and being developed by the fine folks at Audubon Park’s Domu. With its recent expansion into East Orlando, Domu seems intent on becoming an – eek – big restaurant group. In various quotes, ownership has bandied about phrases like ‘Domu Dynasty’ and ‘Double-D Group.” Just keep serving good food and we’ll keep throwing money at you.

Tori Tori will be located at 720 N. Mills Ave (next to King Bao) where a significant design overhaul to the property is underway. When it opens, we imagine it will be quite the scene, adding to Mills 50’s embarrassment of culinary riches. Watch this space for more.