Land of the Rising Fun
In its new Maitland location, RanGetsu dazzles with its showy Japanese cuisine and cool late-night ambience.
The original Ran-Getsu of Tokyo (ran-getsu means “orchid moon”) sat like an Imperial palace on International Drive for 24 years, specializing in very traditional Japanese dishes, such as gyoza dumplings and shabu-shabu, and was known for serving some of the best sushi in the area. That blue tile-roofed building was a slice of rural Japan, temple-like with water gardens, koi ponds and a daily procession of Taiko drummers, the sounds of thundering percussion shaking the wooden rafters. It closed in 2010, a victim of the recession.
The new RanGetsu (notice the interCap) opened in May in the Village at Lake Lily, a mixed-used development in Maitland. The Konaka family still owns the restaurant, with the latest incarnation run by a second generation. The space, running to more than 6,000 square feet including the outdoor patio, is more downtown Ginza district than peaceful country temple.
The very hip room features banks of fiber-optic lighting accenting the marble tile walls and light panels high in the ceiling—even the bar and the restroom sinks have tiny pinpoints of light. All in all, it’s a massively expensive construction; as general manager Takashi Kikuchi told me, “We spent a lot of money.”
What I find most interesting is that the same chef who presented such quintessentially traditional food on I-Drive, Yuichiro Yamanaka, now crafts very modern interpretations in Maitland. What remains the same is his attention to detail, what the Japanese call kaiseki, a balance of taste, color and texture that is as exacting as the finest French haute cuisine.
It’s been said that sushi isn’t really cooking, just shopping. The skill is in the preparation and presentation, and RanGetsu gets high marks. An artfully piled conch ceviche ($8), combining raw seafood marinated in lime and diced pepper, tomato and onion with a tartly sweet apple geleé, is a pleasing starter, as is the spider roll ($11), crispy tempura soft-shell crab with cucumber, creamy avocado and sweet eel sauce in a lovely arrangement.
The best items on the menu are both the very traditional, and ones that stray from classic Japanese. Conch chowder ($6) isn’t a specialty in Tokyo, even when mixed with white miso and cream, but this slightly sweet, very rich and somewhat chewy soup may have been my favorite dish of the night. Raw hamachi carpaccio ($11), while it may sound like sushi, is yellowtail (what we know as amberjack in Florida), sliced thin and served with savory green seaweed and a garlic, citrus and olive oil dressing in a very Italian, and very pleasing, style.
Delightfully classic is the shrimp tempura ($18), skewered then coated in the thinnest of batters and quickly deep-fried. The crunch of perfect batter, the snap of moist shrimp cooked exactly right—it’s a treat.
RanGetsu has added robata —food cooked on a high-temperature charcoal grill—to the menu. I was looking forward to sampling this cuisine—you can order vegetable, fish or chicken samplers—but I found the skewers of salmon, scallop, tuna and shrimp ($15 for one of each), while nicely cooked, lacking any hint of grilling flavor.
Beef, of the Wagyu and Angus varieties, is big on the menu. The pampered, hand-massaged Wagyu cattle called Kobe turn up as steaks brought to the table atop a sizzling lava rock in the style called ishiyaki ($85 for 10 ounces), and all-natural Meyer Angus beef is sliced thin and cooked tableside, fondue-style, in a soy-laced broth for sukiyaki ($28). Impeccable dishes if you’re up for the expense.
Late-night weekends find RanGetsu turned into a DJ-fueled nightclub, and those banks of lights come into full effect. I like the backlit globe of wine glasses at the bar, looking like an after-hours Star Wars party.
Some may question the success of a tricked-out restaurant in this location. Will diners—and after-hour partiers—come to the bedroom community of Maitland? The ever-popular Antonio’s has drawn people to the other side of Lake Lily for more than 20 years; the perennial Copper Rocket nightclub just a block away and the success of Eden Bar at the Enzian prove that casual late-nighters come to, and even live in, Maitland. If they need another reason to leave the house, RanGetsu offers a fresh contemporary take on Japanese food that is worth a night out.
ADDRESS 901 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland
MENU ITEMS $12-$85