TAMPA — A new high-end omakase restaurant is coming to Tampa Heights this winter.
Kosen, a modern Japanese restaurant from the team behind the Bento empire, will open in late 2022 or early 2023 at 307 W Palm Ave.
The new restaurant takes over the space formerly home to Mexican restaurant Xochitl, on the ground floor of the Pearl Apartments building, near fine-dining restaurant Rocca and across from Armature Works.
Orlando-based Omei Restaurant Group owners Johnny and Jimmy Tung started the successful Bento restaurant chain 20 years ago in Gainesville and now have 25 locations throughout the state, including several in the Tampa Bay area. They also own several Orlando restaurants, including the Vietnamese- and French-inspired Camille and Doshi, a modern Korean-American restaurant in Winter Park.
Kosen will be their first fine-dining restaurant in Tampa. The group is also working on several other future food and dining concepts in the area, Johnny Tung said.
Tung, 42, said he’s always wanted to open a restaurant in Tampa, and in particular, the burgeoning Tampa Heights neighborhood.
“We really love the neighborhood,” Tung said. “There’s so much growth and so much going on.”
Once open, Kosen will be among the priciest fine-dining experiences in the city. The tasting menu-only restaurant will offer both an 18-course omakase menu at $250 per person and a 10-course tasting menu for $150. Traditional Japanese omakase experiences typically feature a multicourse meal made up of collection of seasonal dishes, often including a chef’s choice selection of nigiri and sushi. (Kosen’s 18-course menu will include 12 pieces of nigiri.)
What’s more, the group is bringing in chef Wei Chen, who spent the last six years working at New York City’s acclaimed Japanese restaurant Masa — a three Michelin starred spot where the omakase menu currently runs $750 per person. Chen, who trained in Japan, also worked at multiple other New York restaurants over the course of his 16-year career, including Sushi Nakazawa, Sushi Ann, Zuma and Sushi Samba.
Of course, Kosen won’t be Tampa’s only high-end Japanese restaurant: Koya, which serves a tasting menu to just eight guests a night for $295 per person, opened in August 2020 on W Platt Street. The owners recently reopened their lauded modern Japanese restaurant Noble Rice at Tampa’s Water Street development.
Can Tampa sustain more than one wildly expensive omakase restaurant?
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Tung is betting on it.
“We feel like Tampa is a world-class city and it deserves a world-class Japanese restaurant,” he said.
The Kosen restaurant space will undergo extensive renovations before it opens, and will include a 10-seat sushi bar for omakase guests that faces the area where Chen will work. A separate dining area will feature booth seating for approximately 25 diners, which is where the more moderately priced $150 tasting menu will be served. The restaurant will be reservation-only and likely won’t accommodate walk-ins, Tung said.
“It’s not to try to be pretentious — it’s more of a controlled environment,” he said.
A beverage program will include a full liquor bar, sake and wine pairings, and a few beers.
Right now, Tung said his team is eyeing December or January for an opening, depending on how the renovations and permitting process goes.
“We want to take our time to make sure that all the details are right and we don’t rush it.”