click to enlarge bartlettimage-jimotti_s-7655.jpg

Rob Bartlett

Jimotti's is the izakaya your neighborhood wishes it had 

A yen for more

Junichi Takazoe is as confident a culinarian as they come, and with good reason. Stints at such restaurants as Nobu in Tokyo and Hamasaku in L.A. not only afforded plenty of opportunity for chop-honing, but also caught the notice of a certain ponytailed Iron Chef who snagged him for head sushi chef duties at Morimoto Asia. But when I ask him why he left his lofty position at the fancy Disney Springs joint, his back straightens, his lips purse and in a very unhumorous and severe tone he says, "Personal reasons."

Hey, Disney's loss is Sanford's gain as far as I'm concerned, even if his new izakaya venture – Jimotti's Restaurant – is situated in a gritty swath of the city (far from the oft-visited "historic district") inside a lingering architectural vestige from 1962 with an A-frame roof and long covered patio. Things don't get any more contemporary on the inside, either – certainly not with the menu, which only serves to minimize visual distractions.

There is a small bar from which Hitachino Nest beers flow to accompany trad renditions of "Japanese-style tapas," like deftly fried chicken kara-age ($8), which had my name on it (literally). Just as comforting: intensely flavored Kurobuta sausages and more delicate Sakura sausages served over a mustard sauce with pea tendrils and a beet slice. Simple, yes, but the dishes also exemplify Takazoe's focus on quality ingredients and technical precision. When we ordered grilled yellowtail ($16), he made it a point to tell us the fish is from Japan and, carbon footprint be damned, it was one of the most succulent I've had. Like ever.

If you ask for a signature item on the menu, Takazoe will tell you, in cocksure fashion, "all of them." Like I said, the man is as confident in his skills as he is with his ingredients. Just pop nigiri of silvery-skinned (and seriously fishy) gizzard shad ($4.50) into your mouth, or sashimi of toro ($9), or albacore dressed with sesame and ponzu and topped with crispy wonton skins ($14), and you'll likely be convinced. Even pedestrian spicy tuna rolls ($8) are carefully anointed with piquant sesame oil and layered with smelt roe and a secret blend of various chili peppers. Wasabi, by the way, is real and freshly grated (a privilege that'll cost you $10 at Morimoto Asia), and this in Sanford, I say. Sanford!

Another in a string of delights: cha soba ($12.95). The buckwheat noodles are infused with the essence of green tea and come with tempura-fried potato, yam, zucchini, eggplant and shrimp, but the broth, which imparted a genteel sweetness to the gossamer-green noodles, was an absolute standout.

click to enlarge ROB BARTLETT
  • Rob Bartlett

Desserts aren't a priority here (there's no pastry chef), so if needs must, a scoop of black sesame ice cream with whipped cream will have to do the trick. If not, savor another glass of Hitachino Nest Anbai Ale ($8.50) and contemplate your return visit.

I have to say, I don't envy Takazoe trying to make a go of it alone on this less-than-desirable strip, and in a space currently up for sale, but I sure as hell respect his willingness and determination to elevate, diversify and expand the palates of the good folks of Sanford. "Jimotti," after all, is Japanese slang for "local people."

We welcome readers to submit letters regarding articles and content in Orlando Weekly. Letters should be a minimum of 150 words, refer to content that has appeared on Orlando Weekly, and must include the writer's full name, address, and phone number for verification purposes. No attachments will be considered. Writers of letters selected for publication will be notified via email. Letters may be edited and shortened for space.

Email us at

Orlando Weekly works for you, and your support is essential.

Our small but mighty local team works tirelessly to bring you high-quality, uncensored news and cultural coverage of Central Florida.

Unlike many newspapers, ours is free – and we'd like to keep it that way, because we believe, now more than ever, everyone deserves access to accurate, independent coverage of their community.

Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing pledge, your support helps keep Orlando’s true free press free.


Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Read the Digital Print Issue

April 7, 2021

View more issues


© 2021 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation