Cask & Larder MCO

Written by Scott Joseph on .

CL interiorPhoto: Gary Bogdon

A recent trip had me flying out of Terminal 2 at Orlando International Airport, so I made a point of leaving a little earlier so I could check out the Cask & Larder that opened there a couple of months ago.

All I can say is that if this was the Cask & Larder that opened in Winter Park four years ago, the Ravenous Pig wouldn’t be opening there today.

bartaco

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Bartaco logo

There’s a new taco bar in town. It’s called bartaco.

It’s one of the brands of a restaurant group called Barteca, which also has Barcelona Wine Bar and Restaurant and specializes in the flavors of Spain, Uruguay, Brazil and Southern California. So of course it is based in South Norwalk, Conn.

Bartaco interior

Located in the Marketplace at Dr. Phillips, bartaco, which insists on being lowercased, offers light bites and “upscale street food” in what it calls a beachy atmosphere, if photo collages of Arnold Palmer and other golfers make you think of catching some waves.

Here’s how it works. The menu is a tiny little pamphlet with minimal descriptions. You don’t simply tell a waiter your selection. Instead, you use a small pencil — just like the golfers use! — to mark a little card with your choices and the number of each item. Sort of like at a sushi bar. Then when you’ve made your choices, you place the order card in a tabletop card holder to signal to a server that you are ready to order. Because God forbid the servers should have to pay enough attention to their tables to know that.

Lazy Moon Downtown

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Lazy Moon tables

I don’t know, I sorta miss the grunge of the original Lazy Moon.

I don’t mean the one at 11551 University Blvd., which would qualify as the first Lazy Moon when considering the second one opened recently on Colonial Drive in the Mills 50 district.

I’m referring to the one that preceded it. The original Moon was in the more than slightly rundown strip center on the corner of University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail, just across the street from the UCF campus. It had a real College Town pizza joint feel to it, a lived-in look with decals that had been slapped on the hoods over the stoves and an ordering system that involved sliding tickets to the cooks on a wire strung the length of the place.

Bulla Gastrobar

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Bulla sign

I must say I like the look and feel of Bulla Gastrobar very much. The restaurant, in the newly opened but curiously named Lakeside Crossing development, can be at once bustlingly busy and intimately comfortable.

Sitting across Orlando Avenue from Hillstone and Trader Joe’s, Bulla’s central bar sits inside the front door and next to doors open to an outdoor patio. It also serves as a buffer from the streetscape for the dining room, which is decorated in rough wood tones, wrought iron grill work, slate blackboards, vintage black and white photos and an open kitchen. (If you can finagle one, get a padded booth or banquette— they’re luxuriously comfy.) There is an essential feel of a Madrid tapas bar, though on a decidedly larger scale than you’d find in Spain.

Bulla bar

I wish I could also say that the kitchen was turning out food to match the decor. Unfortunately it’s not, at least not with the consistency that should be in place after nearly two months open, and not for what is the third location for an established South Florida restaurant company.

Eleven

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Eleven deck

Things are looking up for area restaurants, at least in a physical sense.

There seems to be a renewed interest for top-floor dining. Recently, Hemisphere returned to the top of the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport. At the Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World Resort Capa, um, resorted to the highest space. They join California Grill at the Contemporary Resort, and sometime next year, Circo will open on the top deck of an International Drive parking garage.

And there’s the subject of today’s review, Eleven, the restaurant at the Reunion Grande whose name indicates its position at the 11-story hotel.

Colibri Mexican Cuisine Sodo

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Colibri interior

I never think about Colibri when I think about Baldwin Park restaurants. Part of the reason is that the Mexican restaurant sits at the end of New Broad Street, apart from most of the other businesses. But it also doesn’t come to mind because its cuisine and the general dining experience are so forgettable.

Unfortunately, Colibri’s new location, in Orlando’s Sodo district, is just as unmemorable. It’s a lovely space — it took over the Egg & I and made it a bright, colorful and comfortable place. But the food just doesn’t excite; it’s remarkably bland. And service on a recent visit was inexplicably slow, even in a mostly empty restaurant.

And what Mexican restaurant worth its salsa runs out of pork before 7 p.m.?

But that sort of thing happens. A better question: Why would anyone put ceviche on top of a tostada?

Jimotti's

Written by Scott Joseph on .

 IMG 6590

Jimotti’s is a bit of an odd place. Odd name, too, at least to my ears, which want to hear something Italian.

But Jimotti’s is Japanese and has a surprisingly substantial menu of kitchen foods and a more compact roster of sushi, sashimi and specialty rolls.

I was in the mood for ramen when I stopped in and ordered the Tonkatsu Ramen from the list of seven or more choices. But I thought I would get a piece of nigirizushi to nibble on while I waited, and I was impressed enough to want to come back for a full sushi complement sometime.

La Fiesta Mexican Grill

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Lafiesta sign

For those who said they’d never cross the street to eat at La Fiesta Grill, there’s news: it has crossed the street so you don’t have to.

It took a little over a year for the move to occur, but the Mexican restaurant has finally taken over the space that previously was Southern Moon (Holy Smoke barbecue before that and an Eckerd Drug Store in the beginning). The announcement was first made when Ocean Sun Brewing announced it would begin making beer in an adjoining space. Ocean Sun opened in March.

Gaviota

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Gaviota interior

Among the three troubled restaurant spaces that came with the opening of the Sanctuary condominium complex, nine or so years ago, the middle one seemed to be the troubledest.

It started as Fifi’s Patisserie, a French style cafe that had a very short life, then became Sanctuary Diner, and Nick’s Italian Cafe after that. In the time since Nick’s closed — more than three years ago — there have been at least three concepts announced that never came to fruition. They were Honey, Pagne and Wallace Grill. People talk about certain spaces that are cursed because restaurants close so soon after opening. What does it say about one where so many don’t even open?

Now comes Gaviota, a Peruvian restaurant. It is unlike any of the other restaurants that have been here — for one thing, it has opened! It’s also a fine dining restaurant, literally a white tablecloth operation with servers in white shir. Set among the many casual nearby eateries, including fellow Sanctuary occupants, Oudom Thai & Sushi and the Stubborn Mule, Gaviota is unique in that respect.

Unique, too, in that it is the only restaurant in the downtown area to offer Peruvian food, a cuisine that is enjoying a surge in popularity.

Supper Club Redux: Another Great Dinner at Hamilton's Kitchen

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HamiltonSC table

We had our second Supper Club at Hamilton’s Kitchen at the Alfond Inn recently but the first one under the new chef, Jason Klingensmith. It was a chance for us to check out his cooking style, and he impressed us all.

We began the evening with a reception on the hotel’s courtyard patio enjoying some passed hors d’oeuvres and some wine. The weather was absolutely gorgeous so we were all a little disappointed when the staff invited us to go inside. But then we discovered that the doors of our private dining room had been flung open so we were able to enjoy the night air.

HamiltonSC reception