Universal Dining: The Cowfish in Universal CityWalk

by on January 5, 2015 5 Comments

Filed under: Adults, Beyond the Parks, Dining, Drinking, Universal Orlando Resort

The Cowfish was the final piece of Universal CityWalk‘s year long renovation that brought eight new dining venues to the resort. Cowfish joins Red Oven Pizza Bakery, Antojitos, Hot Dog Hall of Fame, Bread Box, Vivo Italian Kitchen, Cold Stone Creamery, and Menchie’s Frozen Yogurt as the new kids on the block, joining longtime CityWalk restaurants such as Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville and the Hard Rock Cafe. Cowfish is located in the former home of Starbucks, who moved downstairs to the main strip of CityWalk, next to Cold Stone Creamery.

While Cowfish arrived last, it was possibly the most anticipated of CityWalk’s new locations from the minute they were all announced back in 2013. A one-of-kind dining concept that melds pan-Asian cuisine with the good ol’ American burger, Cowfish was bringing something completely unique to the table. While many were expecting a mouth watering and innovative menu, what no one saw coming was the amount of humor and interactivity that debuted with Cowfish, including its photo-op outside the restaurant that allows guests to saddle up and ride a cowfish.

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The Cowfish. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Outside photo-op of The Cowfish. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

After several weeks of a soft open, Cowfish had it’s official grand opening on December 10, 2014. We were able to visit the venue several times during softs, as well as being invited to the media preview on the grand opening night. It can definitely be said that there is no other restaurant like Cowfish on Universal property, or Disney for that matter. I was personally nervous about the fusion of a burger joint and a sushi place at first, because it just seemed too out there. My mind was put at ease even before ordering my first meal though because of the self-referential humor throughout the restaurant (including the bathroom signs.) I absolutely love the fact that Cowfish will take your cell phone number when you check in, allowing them to text you when your table is ready. This is one of those ideas that makes you wonder why it’s not everywhere.

Another great thing Cowfish has going for it – especially if you dine with young children in your party – are the distractions throughout the restaurant. These include touch screen games and a make-your-own-fish app, which you can then watch swim in a virtual aquarium. While Vivo goes for the understated look in its decor, Cowfish takes it up to 11 with original art and larger-than-life displays (including one featuring Universal icon King Kong.)

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Create your own virtual fish while you wait. Perfect for the creative types, children of all ages, and introverts happy they don’t have to talk to the rest of their party.

Aside from table seating (both indoors and outdoors), there are multiple bars at Cowfish.

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Seating inside The Cowfish. (photo by Seth Kubersky)

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There is an actual cowfish swimming around in this oversized fishbowl. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Cowfish decor. (photo by Seth Kubersky)

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Cowfish decor. (photo by Seth Kubersky)

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Taps at Cowfish’s outdoor bar. (photo by Seth Kubersky)

 

Alright, let’s look at some of the food. One thing to note is the serving size of just about everything is extremely generous. Even the appetizers can be enough to share, so bring your appetite.

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PARMESAN TRUFFLE FRIES – House fries with truffle and parmesan cheeses, applewood bacon and chives. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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WHAT’S SHAKIN’ TUNA BACON SANDWICH – Seared rare blackened yellowfin tuna, applewood bacon, iceberg, jalapeños, tomato salsa, slaw and spicy mayo, served between grilled spring roll wrapper “buns” filled with kani and sushi rice. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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SWEET & SPICY THAI CUCUMBERS. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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THE HIGH CLASS HILLBILLY – SOUTHERN STYLE BAR-B-Q-SHI – Pulled pork, caramelized onion and BBQ sauce, potato wrapped and flash fried. Topped with housemade bacon coleslaw and chives. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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FUSION SPECIALTY BENTO BOX -A combo meal featuring both burger and sushi, including a mini-burger with American cheese, pickles and chopped red onion, sweet potato fries, Thai cucumbers, edamame and choice of a 4 piece Fusion Specialty roll or 3 pieces of mixed nigiri. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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BLACKENED TUNA NACHOS – Wonton chips with Crab Rangoon Dip, avocado salsa, tomatoes, seared rare blackened yellowfin tuna and microgreens. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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If you are a fan of burgers you are going to LOSE YOUR MIND at Cowfish.

 

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“THE PRIME TIME” FILET & LOBSTER ROLL – Lobster and cucumbers inside, topped with seared rare seasoned filet mignon, pan-fried portabella mushroom slices tossed in truffle oil, green onions and spicy mayo. Served with a side of pounded ginger sauce. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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BUFFALOOOO–SHI ROLL – Sautéed chipotle bison, fried green tomato, grilled onions, feta cheese inside, coated with tempura flakes. Topped with fresh green tomato, chipotle aioli, diced tomato, red onion, jalapeño pepper. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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tempura roll

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TROPICAL STORM ROLL – Kani, avocado and cucumber inside, topped with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, Japanese mayo, sweet eel sauce, sriracha and tobiko. Served with wasabi yuzu dipping sauce. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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FIRECRACKER ROLL – Shrimp tempura, kani inside coated with tempura flakes, topped with yellowtail, salmon, spicy mayo, masago, tobiko and scallions. Served with ponzu dipping sauce. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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A selection of Cowfish’s Hosomaki – Fish and rice rolled inside of seaweed wrapper. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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THE PRIME TIME” FILET & LOBSTER ROLL – Lobster and cucumbers inside, topped with seared rare seasoned filet mignon, pan-fried portabella mushroom slices tossed in truffle oil, green onions and spicy mayo. Served with a side of pounded ginger sauce. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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Salmon nigiri. (photo by Trygve Nelson)

 

THE DRINKS. Besides having one of the best food menus of any place on property, the drink menu at Cowfish is worth going out of your way to check out, with a huge variety of unique cocktails and imported beers. First up is a drink which made our 25 Drinks of Christmas List, the Buffalos and Bacon cocktail.

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BUFFALOS AND BACON – Buffalo Trace bourbon, cherry liqueur, angostura and orange bitters, honey, candied bacon (photo by Brandon Glover)

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RISING SUN MARGARITA – Corazon Blanco tequila, fresh lime juice, orange juice, blood orange syrup. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

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BLUEBERRY BOTTOM – Veev Açai liqueur, blueberry puree, lemonade, lime juice, fresh blueberries and the BEES KNEES – Miller’s gin, lemon and lime juice, honey, soda. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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HOKKAIDO NIGHTS – 44 North Nectarine vodka, lemongrass syrup, fresh basil and mint, cucumber. (photo by Brandon Glover)

Who knows how you are going to have room for them, but the dessert menu at Cowfish is absolutely fantastic. (I know, you’re shocked.)

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YUMMY ROLL – Pastry cream, gummy strips rolled with sponge cake and sweet almond wrap. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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COOKIES AND MILK. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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EAST WEST – Key lime and mandarin cheesecake. Oreo crust and vanilla ice cream. (photo by Brandon Glover)

 

However, the true highlight of Cowfish may be their hand-spun milkshakes and their spiked shakes. Our favorites? The Marshmallow Crisp (pictured below), the P “Double B” & J (peanut butter, banana, and jelly with vanilla ice cream), and the King Lives spiked shake (Cruzan rum, 99 Bananas liqueur, vanilla ice cream, banana, and peanut butter cups.)

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THE MARSHMALLOW CRISP – Rice Krispies and mallow cream with vanilla ice cream. Topped with crispy toasted marshmallows. (photo by Brandon Glover)

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View from The Cowfish’s outdoor deck. (photo by Seth Kubersky)

OVERALL THOUGHTS: The Cowfish has quickly become one of my favorite dining venues in Orlando. The menu is creative, the flavors are fantastic, and the drinks are worth going out of your way to try. I love the overall atmosphere, and the only improvement that needs to be made is how long a dinner service can take. While every server and bartender I have interacted with at Cowfish has been tremendous, the time that it takes for a meal to come out can be inexplicably long. Time is our most valuable commodity in a theme park resort, and while I don’t want to feel rushed during a meal, I also don’t want to repeatedly wonder if the kitchen forgot to make our food. The Cowfish is still new, though, and hopefully these are just kinks in the process that need to be worked out.

The Cowfish is one of the rare restaurants where, after every meal, there are four or five things that I’m dying to try on my next visit. At most theme park restaurants I go to there are one or two things I know I like and I stick to them, but Cowfish makes me want to explore the menu. If you’re not hitting up Cowfish after a day of touring the parks, you’re doing it wrong.

Other Universal Dining Articles:

Emeril’s Tchoup Chop at the Royal Pacific Resort

Jake’s American Bar at the Royal Pacific Resort

Character Breakfast at Jake’s American Bar 

Backwater Bar at Islands of Adventure

Antojitos Authentic Mexican Food at CityWalk

Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville at CityWalk

Special thanks to Brandon Glover, Trygve Nelsen, and Megan Stump for their invaluable assistance with this article. To see more of Brandon’s photos, check out his Flickr page. For more of Trygve, be sure to check out his amazing Around the Universe photo reports at OrlandoUnited.com. As for Meg, when she’s not educating the future of this country, she can be seen entertaining us all via The Twitter Machine (where you can also find Your Humble Author).

Posted on January 5, 2015

5 Responses to “Universal Dining: The Cowfish in Universal CityWalk”

  • Thanks for this — I’ve been psyched about this place since I first heard about it and I’m hoping to hit it up when we’re there in a couple of weeks. Only wrinkle is that we’re going to have some vegan folks along with us — any idea if the veggie-centric things on the menu are good and plentiful enough that they’ll be able to cobble together a meal?

  • Holy Moly!! I’ve been putting off trying Cowfish because I keep hearing about how slow the service is – but this is worth waiting for!! Yum! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Wow – didn’t know the food there at Cowfish looked that good. I figured it was mostly chain fare, will certainly try it next time I am there at Universal.

    Captain Mike

  • I was concerned that a non-seafood eater like me would have no reason to go into a place like this (I know, burgers, but still). I have to say, that High class hillbilly looks amazing!

  • I spy Craig and Cory from the Dis in the background in one of the bar photos. 🙂