Tabla Indian Chinese Thai

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tabla interior

I’m pleased to welcome Tabla to the flog as one of our approved advertisers. (If you’re not familiar with it, here is a link to the SJO Advertiser Policy.)

Tabla was a new Indian restaurant near Universal Orlando in 2008 and it was one of the very first reviews I wrote post Sentinel. But I had not been back since then. So the owners invited me in to see what’s new.

I think I might had said “wow” when I walked in the front door. And I’m sure I said it a couple of times while trying some of the new dishes. To say they’ve made a few changes would be an understatement.

For starters, there is the interior, which was basically gutted and updated with a modern style that includes white stacked brick walls, tufted white leatherlike fabrics, clear glass globe light fixtures, and a wood-pattern ceramic floor. (Just for comparison, I’ve included a photo of the restaurant in 2008 at the bottom of the review.)

Urban Tide

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Urban Tide interior

I have to admit I haven’t been all that excited about Magical Dining Month this year. That’s because most of the restaurants on the list are places I’ve already been. And while most are places I like and wouldn’t mind revisiting, I’m more interested in new experiences. So that’s why Urban Tide was one of my MDM choices.

Technically, Urban Tide isn’t entirely new. It replaced the wrong-coastally named Napa when the hotel it is in was named Peabody Orlando. The new owners, Hyatt Regency Orlando, gave it a much more appropriate name, one that celebrates the seafood potentials of the correct coasts while acknowledging its inland city locale.

Little has been changed in the decor — no changes were really necessary. The space was spiffed up for Napa in 2010 with a contemporary design that emphasized a friendship with the environment (lots of cork tiles, for example).

And Jared Gross, an able and creative culinarian, remains as chef de cuisine.

Cafe Trastevere

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Trastevere interior

It was not the best start to a dining experience.

My companion and I decided, on a whim, while driving up Magnolia Avenue, to stop in to Cafe Trastevere. It had been years since I’d dined there and I thought it would be nice to see how things were going there.

They seemed to be going fine. In fact, there weren’t any tables available in the dining room. Actually, that’s not saying much as there are only about a half dozen tables to begin with. But there was a high-top table in the bar area, so we plopped ourselves down there.

While we looked over the menus, I asked the gentleman who greeted us if I might have a taste of the sangiovese wine. He gladly obliged. But after I took a sip, I told him that the wine was rather warm.

“Well, yes, of course,” replied the man, who I assume was the owner, “it’s a red wine so it’s served at room temperature.”

OK, let’s just stop right there.

Braccia Pizzeria & Ristorante

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Braccia interior

Well, here’s something different in the world of pizza eating.

Braccia Pizzeria & Ristorante is one of new eateries that have stepped in to take over the leases of closed restaurants on Winter Park’s Morse Boulevard. Or as the acronymic name for one of the recent departees indicated, Not On Park Avenue.

Braccia is small but has a certain charm in its glassed in wine cabinet, floor to ceiling blackboards and distressed wood tabletops. The charm does not extend to the Astroturflike greenery that has been applied in freeform to one of the brick walls; that’s just odd.

Not quite as odd as what is attached to those paint-stripped tables. A metal frame is clipped to the outer edge and holds a large Styrofoam cup. It is not, as you may first guess, a spit cup for tasting wine. Instead it is meant to hold the discarded plastic gloves that are supplied for diners to wear to keep their hands clean.

Chicken Salad Chick

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Chicken Salad Chick trio

Now comes Chicken Salad Chick, a restaurant that serves a variety of salads chicken. Why do I keep thinking of the old Saturday Night Live skit where Gilda Radner worked in the Scotch-tape Store at the mall?

CSC is a franchise that started in Auburn, Ala., by Stacy M. Brown, a self-confessed chicken salad junkie and the chick of the name. What started as a business that operated out of her kitchen and moved to a real restaurant after someone turned Brown into the health department has blossomed into a franchise with a few dozen locations, all in the South (and Florida). Orlando’s Chicken Salad Chick is in the Plaza at University at Alafaya Trail across from UCF.

So the concept is that there are 15 or so kinds of tape, I mean chicken salad, from the classic, which for some reason is called the Classic Carol instead of the Standard Stacy, to versions with hot peppers (Jalapeno Holly), apples and grapes (Fruity Fran) and onions (Dixie Chick, also described on the menu as “our most offensive salad”).


Written by Scott Joseph on .

Ravello veal

Veal Milanese is one of my favorite dishes, and I’ve had it many, many times. But I think this is the first time I’ve had one that was deep fried.

This was at Ravello, one of the restaurants at the Four Seasons. I had reviewed the hotel’s Capa, on the top floor, and had a delightful wine dinner featuring Markham Vineyards at Plancha, in the golf course’s clubhouse. But I hadn’t experienced Ravello, which serves breakfast and dinner. Its participation in Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month seemed like a good excuse to give it a try.

Overall, it wasn’t a very pleasant experience, and not just because of the oddly prepared Milanese. The space is cavernous and impersonal, the decor cold and austere. The only warmth in the ambience is from the fire in the pizza oven of the open kitchen.

The deep fryer is in full view, too, which is how I learned about the veal preparation. Perhaps the full immersion is why the breading was hard crusted and a darker brown than the desired golden hue. And while it’s customary to be served with a bit of arugula on top, Ravello’s had a full salad —complete with croutons! — weighing it down. I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be an entree or a first course.

Where To Go, What To Eat When... You're Stuck at the Airport

Written by Scott Joseph on .


Let's say you get to Orlando International Airport with just enough time to get through security, hop on the shuttle and get to your gate, only to find that your flight is delayed for a couple of hours. You could try to snag a stool in one of the bars or grab a bite from one of the fast food restaurants. But I have a better idea. Click on the video above to see it.

Where To Go, What To Eat When... is a collaboration between and our friends at WFTV and Scott Joseph's Orlando Restaurant Guide.

Pop Thai

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Pop Thai Interior

I don’t know why, but every time I hear the name Pop Thai, I think about lemongrass flavored pastries that you heat up in a toaster.

But no, Pop Thai is the name of a new restaurant in the Mills 50 district that replaced the three or so years old Yum-mi Sandwiches shop.

Brunch at North Quarter Tavern

Written by Scott Joseph on .

North Quarter Tavern interior bar

North Quarter Tavern, which opened earlier this summer, has added Sunday brunch to its repertoire. (It’s added lunch, too, but our focus here today is brunch.)

Executive chef Matt Wall has applied the same standards he practices with his dinner menu — everything made from scratch, right on the premises — to the brunch menu. The offerings lean a bit more toward the lunch side of brunch but are made more breakfasty with the addition of an egg. In my world, everything can be made better with a fried egg on top.

Del Frisco's Double Eagle Steak House

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Del Frisco ribeye

Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House has come into the area in a big way, with an emphasis on the big. The new restaurant on International Drive is huge.

Technically, that should read that Del Frisco’s has returned to the area. The restaurant on Orlando’s Lee Road now known as Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster was previously Del Frisco’s Prime Steak & Lobster. Anyone who doesn’t already know the story behind the Del Frisco’s/Christner’s switchover can read about it here.

In my mind, the Double Eagle brand is new to Orlando, so I’m counting it as a newcomer. A welcome one, too.