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American Gymkhana Brunch

Amgym toast

You go to enough brunches and you start to expect to find certain items on the menu. With luck, and a skillful chef, you might get one or maybe two items that rise above the usual suspects.

At American Gymkhana, which indeed has a skillful chef in Aarthi Sampath, the entire brunch menu is filled with inventive creations that give a nod to classic brunchtime fare but stay true to the Indian theme.

Take the French Toast Gymkhana, for example. Instead of using a white bread, as in a classic French toast recipe, Sampath uses naan. The Indian bread, of course, is not as spongy as a white western bread so the texture is more akin to hardier crepe. But when filled with the cinnamon-raisin mawa, it becomes a sweet treat. A brilliant invention.

Rock & Brews

Rock Brews exterior

You'll be glad to know that Rock & Brews, the restaurant founded by rockers Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, is not exclusively a tribute to their band, Kiss. That is, you'll be glad to know that unless you're diehard Kiss fans, in which case I'm not sure there's anything that can truly make you happy.

Instead, Rock & Brews, or R&B, as it is misleadingly abbreviated, is a paean to rockers of all stripes. Nearly every inch of wall space in the massive space — and there are a lot of inches in the two-story open room — is covered with photos and album cover reproductions of everyone from Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and Bruce Springsteen to The Rolling Stones and, yes, Kiss. (Maybe even Yes.) I should say every inch of wall space that isn't also sporting a big screen tv, most of which are tuned to sports channels, though interspersed among them are screens that play vintage music videos. Not the sound from those videos — that's supplied by a constant stream of rock music played loudly over the restaurant's sound system. And when you have a restaurant that is dedicated to rock music and has partners known for for their heavy metal style, you can't fault the place for the sound level. Expect it to be a tad noisy.

The Central Florida Rock & Brews is the first of the small chain's locations to open east of the Mississippi. According the the website, Oviedo was chosen for its "energized music and restaurant scene."

The menu is...

Wait. What?

The Meatball Shoppe

meatball shoppe

Orlando has a new meatball shop. It's called the Meatball Shoppe.

It's located in a small decidedly unattractive strip of businesses at the corner of Lake Underhill Road and Goldenrod Road (the northwest corner, to be precise, just south of the East-West Expressway). Although the Meatball Shoppe's website refers to it as a restaurant, it's really more of a grab a bite or get something to go kind of place. The seating area is limited and not especially comfy or inviting. There appears to be quite a large kitchen behind the ordering counter, but my guess is that the space doubles as the commissary for the Meatball Shoppe's owners' other business, Isabella's Bella Cucina Catering. It seems to me to be a smart thing for a catering company to do: They can promote the (probably) more profitable catering business while generating income through the sales of meatballs.

Bar Louie UCF

Louie meatballs

It's been a little over two years since the strip mall across from the UCF campus on the corner of University Boulevard and Alafaya Trail was demolished to make way for a student-centric apartment building. The demolition forced the relocation of such eateries as Lazy Moon Pizza and Miss Saigon and the outright closing of others, including Mama Millie's Caribbean and Anmol Indian restaurant. Things turned out just fine for Lazy Moon and Miss Saigon — they're both in better spaces, at least in terms of decor and functionality if not proximity to the student body.

The structure that now stands on that corner looks just fine, though those of us who watched it during its construction know that the solid looking facade is basically just, well, a facade — it hides the ticky-tacky that would go a long way in explaining if any of the new residents happen to hear a neighbor sneeze — two apartments away. (For all I know, the flats are perfectly solid and soundproofed; I suppose it's possible.)

But the new development also brought new retail and restaurant space. As far as I know, none of the businesses that were displaced from the old strip mall hung around to wait for the new construction, but businesses are starting to move in.

I visited one of the first ones, Bar Louie, a while back. You may be familiar with the Bar Louie that opened six years ago at the Rialto on Sand Lake Road.


capa dining roomFour Seasons Resort Orlando

If you required any more proof that the age of fine dining, at least as defined by posh surroundings, fine linens and what it generally referred to as white-glove service, is a thing of the past, you need look no further than the Four Seasons Resort Orlando.

You know the Four Seasons, for surely its reputation precedes it. Its hotels set the standard for luxury properties. Four Seasons hotels are where wealthy people choose to stay just to ensure they won't have to put up with common riffraff.

As if to emphasize that point, the Orlando property, which opened last year, is set inside the gates of Golden Oaks, a residential community where the minimum price for one of the mini mansions is said to be above $2 million. So you might expect the signature restaurant to be ultra elegant, refined and to not only set a standard for excellence in its own service and cuisine but to also expect a certain quality of style from its guests.

Well, you'd be wrong. Oh, the food at Capa, the Spanish steakhouse on the hotel's 17th floor rooftop, is excellent. And service is trained and professional if not white-glove refined. But the decor is decidedly casual, albeit with some killer design elements, which I'll tell you about it moment. And the "resort casual" dress suggestion means that the restaurant will pretty much accept any manner of attire. So get ready for the table next to yours to be full of people in shorts and flip-flops. The wealthy, it would seem, have become their own riffraff.

Monday, 26th January 2015

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