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Fil-Am-owned Japanese restaurants in Orlando receive Michelin star

Paul Garilao | TFC News Florida

Posted at Jul 25 2022 12:48 PM

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For almost a hundred years, the French tire company Michelin has been recognizing the top-of-the-line restaurants around the world, and for the first time, it recently awarded a one-star rating to 14 restaurants in Southern Florida for the quality of their menu and the mastery of flavor in their cooking techniques.

Two of these restaurants are owned by Filipino American chefs. These are Soseki and Kadence, both Japanese sushi restaurants located in Orlando. These restaurants prepare their meals by way of a Japanese term called 'omakase,' wherein diners are offered dishes selected by the chef.

Soseki chef and owner Michael Collantes admitted that he was surprised to receive the one-Michelin-star rating since he just launched his restaurant in March of 2021.

"For me personally getting Michelin star is a culmination of many years of hard work in this industry," Collantes said. "It’s really just the right mix of the right people involved. Everyone’s passion and talents coming together and really focusing on the experience, and on what the guest is experiencing day in and day out."

Collantes added that Soseki is not a typical restaurant because its menu changes monthly so guests likely experience a new culinary theme every time they visit.

"When we started Soseki we wanted that to be a culmination of past, present, future. We definitely uprooted in Japanese. Soseki meaning foundation or cornerstone, but also utilizing our own culture."

Aside from Soseki, Collantes also founded two other restaurants at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. They are Taglish, which is a combination of Filipino and American food, and Kamayan Super Clubs.  

"I have never cooked professional Filipino (food). I kinda lost touch to my Filipino roots and I feel like when we opened Taglish, it was very fast casual... It was a connecting point to Filipino Americans, especially the second generation," he said.

Collantes however noted that operating restaurants amid the pandemic was not without challenges.

"It was very scary. We limited the amount of seats. We are really cautious with it. To have this amazing team at this caliber, you really have to have people with a lot of skills. The cost to do ten seats is quite immense but we really find joy and passion in doing this."

For Kadence owner Mark Berdin, the Filipino hospitality played a key role in their selection for the Michelin rating.

"I always play like karaoke music basically. Because I was stuck in the era, being with your uncle seeing karaoke all the time. For me a restaurant is a joyous and happy place wherein you come in, you start singing with people. You start talking to people that you don’t normally talk to," Berdin said.

The Michelin guide says Kadence offers free-spirited food yet manages to honor the classic method.

Prior to opening Kadence, Berdin and his wife Jennifer gained experience at Japanese sushi restaurants in New York and London.

"So, when we came down here [in Florida] we just want to implement the same training we have gotten from there to do what Kadence is gonna be... We started a sushi place called Apo First. That was our introduction to the Orlando restaurant scene. That eventually led to us to have our stand-alone restaurant Kadence," Berdin said.

Berdin also shared how he was able to overcome struggles during the pandemic.

"We have an ordering system. They pick it up and we just take them out to their car that was our system and it worked out well."

Even if both Soseki and Kadence serve Japanese food, the owners said they still include a touch of Filipino ingredients in their delicacies.

"We do have a lot of Filipino ingredients anything from coconut, vinegars, and utilizing some of our soy sauces to making something that is very Japanese but with fresh calamansi," Collantes said.

For his part, Berdin said "we use interesting things like lukot. It's basically like a seaweed that fish eats. Fish poops it out. It’s a delicacy in the Bohol area."

Both of their restaurants can only accommodate less than ten customers, so interested guests are advised to make a reservation at least one month before their visit.

Meanwhile, Collantes and Berdin are looking forward to one day sharing their best practices with chefs in the Philippines.