Hanamizuki Japanese Restaurant – International Drive – Orlando
Journey down to the land of tourists and conventioneers to discover the hidden culinary delights of authentic Japan. Central Florida may be abound with “modern” Japanese restaurants suited and updated for the American palate, but I find quiet comfort in the nostalgic, down-home style feeling of Hanamizuki, a restaurant renown for its Kyoto-style cuisine and some of the freshest sushi this side of the Pacific.
Located off of International Drive just south of Sand Lake Road, Hanamizuki sits in an old plaza neighboring the Sleuth Mystery Dinner Show of Orlando and The Crab House. Its odd to find this gem juxtaposed next to a cheesy dinner show and overpriced chains that abound along I-drive.
On my first of many visits, I am joined with my old friend Cuong. We are sat by Yoko, a charming and friendly waitress who has grown kinder with the years, with a certain wit to her as well. She’s probably one of my favorite waitresses there at Hanamizuki but they all provide great service. Looking around, we notice that we are the only non-Japanese customers in the place, a fortuitous omen for the restaurant.
The decor of Hanimizuki is simple: shades of light green walls framed by terraced roofs, silhouetting an image of a Japanese temple. With the sounds of the shamisen playing in the background, the ambiance is serene and tranquil. A perfect place to go for a meal with a friend and chat away the afternoon.
What sets Hanamizuki apart from the rest is its authentic Japanese cuisine. The chef at Hanamizuki prides himself on the quality and taste of his offerings from the fresh sashimi to the delicious noodle bowls and more.
At Hanamizuki and most other restaurants in Japan there are hardly any “special” rolls, despite what we may be led to believe with the confluence of super-crunchy-crazy-ninja-bonsai-sushi-rolls drenched in mayo and drizzled with sweet syrups or other crazy toppings stateside. The maki (rolls) at hanamizuki are simple and fresh, a taste of the divine.
We begin with one of the few special rolls at Hanamizuki, “The Hanamizuki Roll” is a roll made with cooked salmon, eel, egg and flying fish roe topped with baked sesame seeds. The roll is one of the best I have ever tasted despite being simple and devoid of any special spicy mayo volcano sauces. It is indeed a remarkable roll.
Noodles! on their Lunch Menu
I also order the Shio Butter Ramen ($7.50) and if there are any better ramen bowls found in Orlando I have yet to find it. Get out of your mind the prejudices of those 29cent instant nissen ramen noodles that fed you through college, this ramen is the real thing the imitation could never hold a light to. The broth is deeply flavorful with the taste of butter and salt, the noodles are made fresh and tasty. The boiled egg, the bamboo shoots, chashu pork slices, scallions and everything else melt together in a sea of deliciousness. I could come back again and again just for this dish. (And I do just that over the past few weeks…)
In addition to the shio butter ramen, we ordered a half order of their fried rice. Fried rice is a very simple dish and is often preconceived as greasy and all in all just ok. The fried rice at Hanamizuki however, to phrase a friend, is like crack. The rice is fresh, cooked with slivers of scallions and eggs and topped with slices of red ginger, and is among the best fried rice dishes I have ever tasted in my life. Its important to note though that the ramen and the fried rice is offered only during lunch time which ends at 2PM daily.
The Fried rice at Hanamizuki
Fried Rice at Hanamizuki
According to the book “Art of Sushi”, hundreds of years ago ramen and other noodle shops were popular for lunch and dinner in Japan. However a huge fire that burnt down half the capital started by the noodle shops’ hot stoves caused the government to put a ban to selling these noodle soups during dinner. This event catapulted the little street food that didn’t need any fire to popularity: sushi.
Alaska Roll at Hanamizuki
Sushi at Hanamizuki!
Delicious Sushi at Hanamizuki
On a separate trip to Hanamizuki, I was also able to sample some of my partner’s nabeyaki udon noodle soup and I must admit again it was the best udon noodle soup I have tasted in Orlando, with a flavorful broth unrivaled by any.
Nebayaki Udon noodle soup
Hanamizuki’s Fried Chicken
Onigiri Rice balls
Shoyu Ramen (soy sauce based)
Its the simplest things that are the hardest to do well. Simplicity and perfection. Nirvana is found in every bite here at Hanamizuki. Itadakimasu!
Tasty Chomps Rating!!!
5 out of 5 Tasty Chomps
8255 International Dr # 136
Orlando, FL 32819-9350