Izziban Sushi and BBQ

Written by Scott Joseph on .

 Izziban interior

This is undoubtedly the largest sushi restaurant I’ve ever seen. Izziban Sushi & BBQ occupies a warehouse sized building on the shore of Lake Barton, which lies between Semoran Boulevard and Orlando Executive Airport. There have been a few failed businesses here, including a gay bar.

There is an immense indoor dining area and a couple of very large sushi bars, including one that is shaped like the bow of a big boat. There is also a large covered patio, screened in but with nice views of the lake and planes taking off from the airport. Its rusticity is more suitable for the type of fried foods you’d find at fish camps, but it isn’t inappropriate for sushi to be associated with a waterfront locale.

Fresh Made Kitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Fresh Made omelet

The guy at the next booth, a Realtor, apparently, with no secrets, has a booming voice, so I shouldn't be surprised that I'm sitting in a place that used to be called Loudmouth Grill. That place was short lived. In fact, I didn't get around to visiting it before it closed. From what I had heard from others, I didn't miss much.

Now it's a business called Fresh Made Kitchen, which sounds more like a slogan than a name. It's embracing all of the current buzzwords and phrases: Chef driven, food focused, hormone free, free range. I think most of us have become inured to these terms.

Although it is a multipage thing (with pictures; my goodness the pictures!), the menu is fairly straightforward. All-day breakfast items, sandwiches, flatbreads, meat, poultry and fish. Several of the entrees sounded intriguing, and I wish I had chosen one of those instead of the omelet I got.

Merguez

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Merguez tagine

The Uzbeks have ceded to the Moroccans. At least in south Orlando on what in this case is the aptly named International Drive.

The last time I visited this space it was a full-service restaurant called Atlas House, which specialized in the cuisine of Uzbekistan. Atlas closed, one presumes with a shrug. Now it is a fast casual restaurant called Merguez, with foods of Moroccan descent.

I was delighted to see that Merguez (big M) specializes in tagine cooking and that merguez (little m) was one of the choices. A tagine gets its name from the dish it is cooked in, which is a round plate topped with a dome that chimneys the heat and smoke while the food is cooking. Merguez (here meant to be a small m but it’s starting off the sentence so its big) is a type of sausage that is common in North African cooking. Merguez (merguezes?) are small, almost smoky link-like.

The Parkview

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Parkview interior

Today we welcome The Parkview to the site. (Welcome, Parkview!) The Parkview is the wine bar and restaurant on Park Avenue that used to be Eola Wine Company. EWC’s Scott Schrope sold the Winter Park location to his longtime manager, Matt Coltrin last year in an amicable transaction. (Schrope continues to own and operate the Orlando Eola Wine Company, which is actually across Lake Eola Park.)

Did you notice above that I referred to the Parkview as a wine bar and restaurant? That’s because Coltrin and his chef, A.J. Haines, have really stepped up the food here, offering a more substantial bill of fare to go with the already impressive bill of imbibes. They invited me to stop by recently and sample what’s coming out of the kitchen. I liked what I tasted.

Southern Smoke Fish & Ribs

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Southern Smoke plate

A little place called Southern Smoke Fish & Ribs quietly opened on West Colonial Drive about four months ago. It’s in the same spot that held Italian Beefstro, which quietly closed some time before that.

SSF&R is a neat and tidy place. Guests order their food at the counter and then have a seat at one of the (not very comfy) booths in the compact dining area or at a picnic table outside.

Because of the restaurant’s name, I chose the combo platter that would get me both ribs and fish. For the fish, I had my choice of catfish, tilapia or smelt, and because you don’t often see smelt on a menu, I went with that.

The Whiskey

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Whiskey Burger

The space that held Cricketers Arms didn’t sit empty too long after that British pub closed. It’s now called The Whiskey, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that any place with such a name is more about the drink than about the food. But based on my recent visit, that isn’t the case at all.

Oh, it’s very serious about the drink part, especially with cocktails featuring the eponymous liquid. There is an interesting craft cocktail menu with some intriguing entries. I chose the one called the Devereaux, which had Woodford Reserve bourbon, elderflower, fresh lemon juice and a splash of sparkling wine. Sort of like a French 75 but with bourbon instead of gin (a Kentucky 75?) The sparkling wine and elderflower took some of the edginess off of the bourbon, which usually is not one of my call liquors.

Whisper Creek Farms: The Kitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Chefs Station

The folks at the JW Marriott recently opened two new entities, Whisper Creek Farm: The Kitchen and Whisper Creek Farm: The Brewery.

You’ll notice The Kitchen as soon as you walk through the front door of the hotel. It’s just off the lobby, to the right. The Brewery is a little harder to spot. In fact, you’d need a staff person to escort you through the warren of corridors and passageways to the kitchen office where the vats, tanks and necessary gauges have been set up in a corner. It’s definitely not a show brewery such as the one at Cask & Larder.

But the Kitchen is on full display, and what it’s churning out is surprisingly ambitious. I say surprisingly because when it was first announced it was downplayed somewhat, as though it would be more of a bar-menu venue.

But while portions are meant to be more of the small plate size — or, reasonable portions, as I like to think of them — the items are well above the ranks of bar snacks.

Neighborhood Eatery

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Neighborhood Eatery

Hey, downtown, there’s a new eatery in the neighborhood. It’s called Neighborhood Eatery.

OK, so not a real inventive name, but there’s a bit of creativity in the compact menu. That’s because owner Jon Lee, a second generation Korean-American, has fused the cuisines of his heritages into simple but tasty offerings. Think more along the lines of Tako Cheeno.

Two Chefs Seafood & Oyster Bar

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Two Chefs Poboy

It’s an odd location, I’ll grant you that.

Two Chefs Seafood & Oyster Bar, the very good new restaurant, occupies a space in a small office building in Orlando’s North Quarter district. Actually, it occupies several spaces. There is the main dining area next to the open kitchen; a bar, located across the way from the main room; and an upstairs dining room for private dining and spillover that overlooks the bar area, accessible through the waiting room of a doctor’s practice.

It’s an odd setup, but the food is excellent, as you would expect it to be from the two chefs of the title. That would be Bernard Carmouche, formerly corporate chef for Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants, and Larry Sinibaldi, who left his job as executive chef at Palm Restaurant to start this new venture.

The menu, which reflects Carmouche’s ties to New Orleans, is simple and straightforward, but has several items worth trying.

R.W. Blue

Written by Scott Joseph on .

RWBlue burger

R.W. Blue bills itself as an “American Grill & Bar.” In fact, I’m guessing by the color scheme of the logo that the R and W stand for Red and White. And you’ll find such flag-waving favorites as pot roast, Philly cheesesteak and something called the Southernmost that features Key West shrimp.

But you’ll also find such things as fish & chips, gyro and a sandwich called the French Onion. So, we are the world.

When I asked my server what the restaurant wants to be known for — it’s too new to be known for much yet — she said the wings and burgers were their signature items.