Thursday, March 31, 2011

Review: Cowfish - Redefining Sushi and Burgers

Cowfish. Where to start? That’s both Cowfish's basic problem and best feature.  There is no good place to begin. The menu is much too long. Page after page swarm in front of you reading like Homer’s Odyssey. Do you start with an appetizer? A salad? Some sushi?

Once you’ve made a decision on the appetizer, you consider your main course, hoping for some guidance, but between the sushi rolls, the burgers, the “Burgushi” (more on that later), and all the various entrees, combos, and other items, not to mention the make-your-own everything, you find yourself sitting in a daze. Trying to take it all in is rather like trying to understand the scale of the Grand Canyon.

But that’s ok, you’ll have time to decide. With many tables, few staff, and a huge wait, Cowfish seems a little overwhelmed. On the phone, they told us that don’t make many reservations, and on a normal wait runs an hour. We opted to get there at an early dinner hour, six o’clock, and still managed to wait 20-30 minutes before being seated. The staff was unbelievably friendly, considering the pressure of so many people and so many menu items. They were responsive (when available) and eager to please. Our server seemed genuinely happy to be there.

Now, finally, let us move on to the food. We chose to split one of the (in)famous “burgushi” as an appetizer, the “South of the Border” roll, to be exact. One does not expect to be eating ground beef, pimento cheese, guacamole and tomato salsa rolled like a sushi roll and topped with a mango salsa. But somehow, the mix works. Additionally, it, along with every dish we ate or saw, was beautifully presented.

The indecision and menu choices drove me to order the Fusion Specialty Bento Box, which showcased both the mini-burger of the day and a mini version of their outrageous specialty rolls. It comes with sweet potato fries, Thai cucumbers, and edamame. To tell you the truth, the burger was somewhat forgettable (Upon reflection, I received the regular mini-burger rather than the special, my friend enjoyed her own burger). I chose the Mark’s roll, tuna, jalapeno, cream cheese, kani (crab), and scallions, flashed fried with panko crumbs. It was quite good. I also sampled a companion’s burgushi roll, the “Taste Explosion,” with beef, bacon, jalapeno and cream sauce in a sushi roll and topped with roma tomato and pepper jack. Though good, it did not have the same punch as our makeshift appetizer.

Of the sides, the edamame was my least favorite; save it for a traditional sushi restaurant. The sweet potato fries were perfection. Finally, the thai cucumbers were a breath of fresh air amidst all of the heavier food, but vegetables are not Cowfish’s specialty. I also ordered unagi (eel) nigiri (large slices of fish on rice) my baseline for all good sushi.

I discovered that at Cowfish it is better to stick with one of the 36 specialty rolls, rather than traditional sushi (for that, go to New Zealand Café or Wild East (review coming)). Cowfish's specialty is putting unique tastes together: the unusual reigns supreme.

After spending quite a bit of time digesting the main course, it was time for dessert. We settled on a dessert called “The Moose is Loose,” brownies (yes, more than one) stacked with chocolate and vanilla moose. I enjoyed every bite, because I am a sucker for brownies with large chunks of chocolate, and moose of any variety. This did not disappoint.

But there was so much I missed! How could I miss the Mad Mango roll, the Real Deal Electric Eel Roll, the Capicola High Rolla Roll, any of the 15 burger options, the seven entrée options, the 13 appetizers not included in the bento box, the three soups, the eight salads, the 16 shakes (eight spiked, and eight virgin), or any of the other myriad options.

I absolutely recommend this friendly, fun restaurant, and will be going back soon. Once you have chosen your meal, you will not regret it, though it may take a while to figure out what you want.

*UPDATE: Cowfish does indeed take reservations over the phone, and since the writing of this article I have not had a problem making reservations for dinner.  They have been more than willing to accommodate my family, and I highly suggest reservations here.  Additionally, much of the service problems that I mention here have been addressed.  Finally, since then, I've had several opportunities to order from the kids menu, which is a great option for the little ones.


The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar
4310 Sharon Road
Charlotte, NC 28211

The Cowfish Sushi Burger Bar on Urbanspoon


  1. My husband and I have dined at Cowfish 4 times in the last month. Because there's so much variety, amazingly delicious and beautifully prepared, we can't stay away. It's as if one is tasting food for the first time - that is how unique and exciting the experience is. We ate there tonight, and already I am contemplating what I will try next time.

  2. Thank you for the comment! I agree, I think it's a very exciting place to eat, and I often take out of town visitors there because 1) there is something for everyone and 2) it's very unique. Having said that, a complex menu like that can be very difficult at times, and some people find it overwhelming. It took me several visits to figure out what I was doing, but rest assured, I highly recommend checking it out (more than once!)!