Delicious Disney Offered After-Hours Feast at Cinderella's Castle

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Magic Kingdom map menu

The Walt Disney World Resort culinary team reignited Delicious Disney: A Chef Series in a spectacular way last month with an exclusive after-hours dinner at Cinderella’s Royal Table.

While many special events end with fireworks, the Delicious Disney dinner started with them, with guests gathered on the raised platform at the top of Main Street with a clear view of the castle at the other end. And we sipped cocktails during the show. Yes, real cocktails with actual alcohol in them. Very civilized.

MK DD fireworks

After the show, we were led to the castle through a backstage side passageway — no need to “salmon” our way upstream through the exiting throng. We gathered for a reception where we sipped on Dom Perignon and Ruinart Rose.

And what goes best with Dom Perignon? Why Spam of course.

Zora Grille

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Zora dining room

I’ve written a few times about the sixth sense that a critic develops over time, that feeling that you get when you walk into an unfamiliar restaurant and a voice in the back of your mind that says — no, screams — run!

But there’s a diametrical feeling — a seventh sense? — where you enter a restaurant and you know immediately that you’re going to like it. That’s the feeling I got when I walked into Zora Grille in Altamonte Springs recently. Just for a moment, I had that niggling feeling that something might be off. Perhaps it was the fact that the place had no customers even though it was the height of the lunch hour.

But the aromas of the charcoal grill in the back of the open kitchen soon enveloped me. And almost as immediately a young man stepped forward with a warm and genuine welcome. I took a seat.

Mia Supermarket

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Mia Market

This may be one of the best things to ever happen to a Winn-Dixie.

The W-D that had occupied the corner of East Colonial Drive and North Bumby Avenue was closed and has been taken over by an Asian food store called Mia Supermarket. It’s a fascinating place to wander about.

I first visited it when I decided I wanted to make kimchi. There were certain ingredients — kochakaru (Korean red pepper powder) and saeujeot (Korean salted shrimp) — that you just can’t find at your local Winn-Dixie. Or Publix for that matter.

I couldn’t even find those items at a couple of the older Asian markets in the Mills 50 district. So I gave Mia a try, and I’m glad I did.

Not only did they have the kochakaru and saeujeot I needed for my recipe, they also had a trove of fresh produce (including the daikon that the kimchi also called for) and aisle after aisle of exotic ingredients (at least to a typical Westerner) that had me thinking about trying other Asian recipes.

The Pie

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Thepie top

The Pie is the simplistic name for a new pizza joint in College Park. But the pizza here is different from your average pie.

It’s pizza al taglio (say TAH-lee-oh), which, according to a large sign on the wall inside the restaurant, is “Italian for pizza by the slice or ‘by the cut.’” The word taglio translates to shear, so sort of a cut.

It’s also made in rectangular pans and sold by the slice. This is a common type of pizza that you’d find in Rome and is sometimes sold by weight.

Luckily that’s not the case with The Pie because given the toppings that were on the slice I had I would have paid extra euros.

Luke's Kitchen and Bar

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Lukes kitchen dining room

Luke’s Kitchen and Bar has opened in the Maitland building that most recently, and ever so briefly, was occupied by Blackfin, though its provenance was a Steak & Ale. This opening has been anxiously anticipated — not that any restaurant opening that isn’t a Steak & Ale wouldn’t be — primarily because of the pedigree of the people involved.

That would be the team from Luma on Park and Prato, especially the duo of chef Brandon McGlamery and general manager Tim Noelke who have made their Park Avenue posts so popular.

This is their first off-Avenue project. (Slate, the Sand Lake Road restaurant, is often mistaken as a sister restaurant, but while it shares some ownership, it is not related.)

If you had managed to visit Blackfin during the five weeks of its existence, you’ll be surprised at the transformation of the space. The redesign, by the Johnson Studio at Cooper Carry, an Atlanta firm, has opened the first floor up so expansively that it causes one to wonder what’s holding the second floor up. The ceiling over the main dining area is made to feel lower with the addition of slatted beams. It is dark, with the exception of the glare from the open kitchen. And on that subject, it’s curious that the dishwashing station should be so easily seen as part of the show kitchen.

Supper Club Redux (and Farewell): Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen

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Chroma sign

We had a terrific time recently at our Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen Supper Club, the very last of our Supper Clubs (but more on that in a moment).

Chroma, of course, is the hot new restaurant in Lake Nona from the folks at Tavistock. It’s a small-plate restaurant where sharing is the style, and that’s how our dinner was served up. Except the plates were large.

Paramount

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Paramount falafel

Paramount Fine Foods is such a grand name for what is essentially a fast food restaurant. Quick serve at most.

Actually, I’m not sure that’s the name. I’ve also seen it refer to itself in various places at Paramount Middle Eastern Cuisine and Paramount Lebanese Kitchen.

Whatever, Paramount is a Middle Eastern eatery out of Ontario, Canada, that has recently moved into the United States with its U.S. headquarters on International Drive. A location there has been open for a while, but I stopped in to the newest store near UCF to give it a try.

China Palace Restaurant

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China Palace streetGoogle Maps

This place has scared the hell out of me for nearly 29 years.

That’s how long I’ve been driving past it, usually as I turn left onto South Orange Blossom Trail from Michigan Street heading for the on-ramp to Interstate-4. It’s a route I’ve taken probably thousands of times. And most of those times I’ve been conscious of glancing at the freestanding boxy building with the yellow plastic sign across the top, just over the windows clad with metal bars, with the name China Palace Restaurant and a couple of Chinese characters.

Who goes there? I wondered. What must it look like inside? Do people really eat there? And then I’d turn my attention to the traffic ahead and gird myself for the only thing scarier, a drive on the moving hell that is I-4.

But like I said, I’ve been passing China Palace for almost 29 years, ever since I moved to Central Florida to begin reviewing restaurants. Nearly three decades in a town of fickle diners. A new question began to needle me: How has it lasted so long?

We’re in the midst of the Lunar New Year festival, which began on Saturday. And since this is designated the Year of the Rooster, I decided to stop being so chicken.

So this time I made the left hand turn from Michigan Street onto Orange Blossom Trail and then veered right into one of the parking spaces directly in front of China Palace.

Jack's Place with Guest Critics

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Jacs Place interior

We have a couple of guest critics for today’s review. John and Rita Lowndes were the successful bidders on a silent auction item to have dinner with me and to contribute to the review. The dinner was provided by the generous folks at Rosen Plaza and Jack’s Place, with chef Michael McMullen, and benefitted Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Partnership with UCF.

Since the last time we reviewed Jack’s Place, the intimate dining room has undergone a sprucing up. The dozens of celebrity caricatures, drawn by hotelier Harris Rosen’s father, Jack, when he was employed by the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan, are still the main decor element.

But the room now seems somewhat softer, more elegant. It’s a lovely oasis in the large convention hotel, a quiet escape for a pleasant meal.

Domu

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Domu ramen

On my third visit to Domu I was finally granted a seat. On one visit the restaurant, which does not accept reservations, had a wait of an hour and a half. Nope.

On the second visit, middle of the week, there were dozens of open seats, but the hostess said I would have to wait a while because there were only two waiters on that evening and if she were to seat me I might not be greeted right away. So, the logic was, stand here and wait instead of being seated and wait. Nope.

But that proverbially charming third time worked. I was shown an ideal seat at the food bar — there is a bar-bar, too, but they won’t serve ramen there; I would have asked for an explanation of the logic in that but…see above.

Ah, yes, ramen. That is Domu’s raison d’etre, or dearu koto ni kiin shimasu in Japanese. The noodley soups have been enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and Domu does them nicely.