Kasai & Koori fuses traditional Asian desserts with American flavors


By: Marisa Herman
Associate Editor

Business partners and friends Lee Goldberg and Taylor Levy were on an adventure to learn about Asian street food for an international food hall concept they had in the works.

But when plans for the food hall imploded, they kept the inspiration for bringing the interactive street food they encountered abroad back to South Florida.

After three years of planning, Kasai & Koori debuted with four locations, West Boynton Beach, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Pembroke Pines.

Kasai & Koori is translated from Japanese into fire and ice. It is representative of both the savory, hot menu items and the cold desserts offered.

Menu items offer traditional desserts with some American flavors.

“We wanted the brand to pay homage to their [Asian] culture while bringing an American twist the menu,” co-founder Lee Goldberg said.

The goal is to create an interactive experience like the ones the business partners encountered themselves while traveling in Asia.

Levy said they would watch locals form long lines to order Kakigori, a Japanese dessert made from shaved blocks of ice garnished with flavors and toppings.

“In Japan, we have watched locals form lines each and every day around the block just to taste these desserts, often ordering two or more at a time,” Levy said.

On the menu so far, six different varieties of the shaved ice, which historically was reserved for Japanese royalty. Flavors include Sleeping Dragon, a matcha flavor with Auzki bean, whipped cream, dragon milk and golden powder; Miyako Moon, a mango flavor with dragon milk, whipped cream and Belgian butter cookie. Kakigori sizes are regular for $7.88 or sumo for $12.88.

Shaved ice is made before your eyes with a hand crank. The experience and final creation is Instagram worthy.

“We want people to leave with a smile,” Levy said.

The partners agree that they want Americans to experience the same happiness they witnessed and enjoyed themselves in Asia.

“It’s about fun,” Goldberg said.

Their Asia tour continued with the discovery of ribbon ice, a thin-shaved snow ice infused with flavors and then finished off with toppings. Selections of ribbon ice include Island on Ice, a coconut flavor with dulce de leche and whipped cream and The Timid Tanuki, which translates to “Japanese Raccoon” a cookies and cream creation with caramel sauce, chocolate sauce and Oreos. Ribbon ice sizes cost $8.88 for regular and $13.88 for sumo.

Taiyaki, a handheld treat found at street markets and festivals, is a fish-shaped waffle cone stuffed with either savory or sweet fillings. The savory hot sandwiches like The Break Fish, egg, sausage and cheese or The Laughing Fish, with cheddar, mozzarella, tomato are the right size for grab-and-go breakfasts. The waffle cone pastry is known in Japanese mythology as the “lucky fish” and snacks have been made in its shape since the Meiji period. There are also sweet, hot taiyakis like the Cherry-oki filled with chocolate and cherry.

The waffle cone can also be filled with frozen ice cream and toppings that are whipped into the cream rather than served on top. Guests can choose from already created flavors or make their own. A cone is $7.88 and a cup is $5.88.

And while the kids indulge, adults can, too, with a Spiked Dragon Beard, infused with an alcoholic spirit.

To order, you must be over 21 because the infused flavor ice is the equivalent of one alcoholic beverage. Morgan’s Spiced Rumble is your grandma’s coffee cake spiked with rum, Bananas on Bourbon features a blast of bourbon infused into the salted caramel milk ice and topped with caramelized bananas, toasted almonds, caramel sauce served in a warm fish taiyaki waffle. The spiked desserts are $12.88 and are large enough to share.

There is also artisan made mochi, creamy ice cream wrapped in a layer of Japanese mochi rice dough on the menu.