Thursday, February 17, 2011

Cowfish Decoded

Bento box!
The Food bottom line:
  • My feeble attempt to explain/demystify the enigma that is Cowfish. 
  • Delicious identity crisis (meat or sushi?) solved! 
  • Casual and funky atmosphere with plenty of surprises inside; spacious patio outside. 
I decided to enjoy the nice weather last weekend, and went to Cowfish with the hubs to dine al fresco.  This was our second time at Cowfish, and it was even better than the first time we tried it.  I think its one of those places that you need to patronize a few times to “get the hang of”.  I know that sounds a bit strenuous, but the massive menu and unique concepts (e.g., “Burgushi”) can be a bit daunting at first.  However, once you get over the initial information overload of the 10 page menu, the payoff is absolutely worth it.  

On this glorious Sunday afternoon, we decided to sit on the expansive patio.  Given the amazing weather, the sunny seats on the patio were packed.  We were fortunate to snag one of the last available tables.  While the gorgeous patio was perfect on this day, we had to take a few moments to admire the funky décor inside.  The space is dominated by a massive bar with a fairly impressive salt-water aquarium, and the red walls are adorned with some very unique pop/modern art.  You will also be a bit surprised when you visit the restrooms – rather than music, they play really strange English to Japanese (I think) foreign language tapes.  I was amused as the translations for phrases such as “I am hungover today” played over the audio system.  I was also reminded that there is a first time for everything.

Once seated, we started with a couple of local wheat beers – the Mother Earth Weeping Willow Belgian Style Wit from Kinston, NC.  The beer was light and refreshing – a very nice warm-weather brew.  We selected the Blackened Ahi Tuna Nachos as a starter, and they were delicious.  Slices of blackened Ahi tuna, seared rare, were nestled on crispy wonton chips and topped with the Cowfish Crab Rangoon Dip, spring mix, pico de gallo and avocado.  I was a bit concerned that there would be too much going on in each bite, but the flavors worked really well together.  The tuna was perfectly seared and the slight kick from the pico balanced nicely with the creamy avocado.  The plate comes with five “nachos”, so it is great for sharing. 

I admittedly struggled with my entrée choice – unsure of whether to go the sushi route or the burger route.  Fortunately for this indecisive diner, Cowfish has a number of “Burgushi” items that combine the best of both worlds.  I selected the Fusion Specialty Bento Box, which has the mini-burger of the week, sweet potato fries, Thai cucumber salad, edamame and your choice of a 4 piece specialty roll (Mark’s, Rainbow or Shrimp Tempura) or 3 pieces of mixed nigiri (tuna, salmon and shrimp).  The burger of the week  was the “Green Monster”, which had pepper jack cheese, flash fried jalapeno, sliced avocado, Dijon mustard, Anaheim green chile sauce and English cucumbers on a Kaiser wheat bun.  Phew.  That was a mouthful.  Despite having about a million components, the mini burger was a tasty and full of flavors that made perfect sense together.  The quality of the beef was also apparent – Cowfish only uses natural, vegetarian-fed Meyer Angus beef.  Thumbs up on the mini burger.   I chose the Mark’s roll as my sushi component, which was tuna, jalapeno, cream cheese, kani and scallions all rolled up and coated with panko breadcrumbs then flash fried.  It was topped with their Japanese cream sauce and sriracha, with a side of ponzu for dipping.  The sushi roll had a nice crunch and the flavors rocked.  I sometimes shy away with sushi rolls containing cream cheese (because often that’s all you end up tasting), but in this case it wasn’t overpowering.  Another winner.  The sides on the bento box were also tasty.  The cucumber salad was sweet and tangy with a hint of spice, and the cukes themselves had a nice crunch.  The sweet potato fries were to die for – very crispy and nicely seasoned.   All in all, this dish gave me something I didn’t really know I was looking for – a meaty burger + delicious sushi, all in one dish. 

Mediterranean burger + fried pickles
My husband Elliot selected the Mediterranean Lamb Burger with fried pickles as his side.  The massive lamb burger was topped with tzatziki sauce and flash fried feta cheese (?!?), and served on brioche bread with lettuce, tomato and cucumbers.  We were a bit skeptical about the feta cheese, as that is another ingredient that can be overpowering if not used properly.  I’m not sure how or why they fry it, but we were glad they did.  The fried feta seemed to pick up an almost smoky flavor, while still retaining the bite you would expect.  It paired very well with the tzatziki sauce and the lamb.  To be frank, the fried pickles were nothing special.  The batter was a little clumpy and soggy, and the pickles were cut a bit thick for our liking.  Just not our style.  The lack of delectable side hardly mattered though, given Elliot could barely finish the massive, mouthwatering burger (and he is not a light eater).  Elliot mentioned that he would definitely go with the sweet potato fries or one of the other side choices next time.  We were jealously eyeing the onion rings on some of the neighboring tables, so perhaps those will be on the roster!

I encourage you to check out Cowfish – while the concept seemed very strange to me at first, I get it now and I’m a believer.  I will definitely be back for the funky fusion food.  Also not to be glossed over is the interesting décor, casual vibe and great service.  I think it is best described by one of our favorite blogs, Restaurant Traffic. They described Cowfish as the “Charlotte restaurant answer to the question nobody thought to ask.”  Well said. 

- Brianna

The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. The last 4 times I have visited my son in NODA we have ended up at Cowfish for dinner. We love everything about it!

  2. Bri, i love your blogs but i just was wondering why you came ALL the way over to my side of town to eat burgers when there are 3 awesome burger place within 2 miles of your house? And how could you not say anything about the touchscreens that you order from at the sushi bar and all the games you can place while you wait on your food?!? If you ever want someone from Charlotte to help you find good "hole in the wall" type places to eat just let me know and with a name like "food baby" you really don't talk about poop as much as i thought you would. Love the blog, keep up the good eating!

  3. *all the games you can PLAY. Not place

  4. Great post. Love the blog, keep it up!