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Royal Indian Cuisine

Royal INdian exterior

I'm always glad to see a new Indian restaurant open in the area. Especially since I lost my go-to favorite, Memories of India on Turkey Lake Road in the Restaurant Row district.

The newest, Royal Indian Cuisine, is a long way from the Bay Hill Plaza area — it opened recently in Casselberry — and it may not fill the figurative space left by Memories, but its food is good, and the staff is exceptionally welcoming and accommodating.

As with most area Indian restaurants, Royal, rather than focusing on the cuisine of one region, features dishes throughout the vast country. So there are tandoor dishes, biriyanis, meat entrees as well as vegetarian, and seafood specialties from the coastal region.

Highball & Harvest

HH DiningRoom

The Ritz-Carlton at Grande Lakes Orlando recently opened its newest restaurant, Highball & Harvest, which takes the place of the Vineyard Grill. Besides getting a new name — which we'll discuss in a moment — the space was also completely remodeled and redecorated, which means that somewhere there's a closet full of tacky plastic grapevines and wooden trellises.

The new restaurant, on the lower level of the luxury hotel, downstairs from the main lobby, is vast, yet features multiple spaces for more intimate dining, plus a lounge area for solo or communal dining. In addition, there's a chef's table area that resembles a country kitchen.

HH Chef Mark JeffersChef Mark Jeffers of Highball & Harvest

Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa

Pig Floyd patio

There's a lot to like about Pig Floyd's, the self described Urban Barbakoa, beginning with the whimsical name. I also like what they've done to the place. The tiny freestanding building at 1326 N. Mills Ave. has never looked better. It was essentially gutted and bears little resemblence to the restaurant that used to be home to Atilla's Steak & Salad (simply Steak & Salad before that), Friends Restaurant, and Kim Long.

Pig Floyd interior

The decor befits the urban designation, with whitewashed brick walls, bare floor, metal chairs and whirligig light fixtures. An open kitchen and a bar to sit and eat at were nice touches, too. And although some of the previous tenants had tables outside, they didn't have the built-out patio that Floyd's owners installed, adding a wall to shield some of the unattractive traffic from Mills Avenue.

Mingos East Orlando, or Something Like That

MingosEast interior

I'm confused. And I don't think I'm the only one.

We have Mingos, which took over the space in the Sanctuary condominium building that was Lotus and, before that, Prickly Pear. (Before that it was Graze, and before that it was a vacant lot.) Mingos has been in existence less than a year. When I reviewed it, in January, I found that it had made some improvements over Lotus, but then the only way to go was up. It was better, but it had a long way to go before I could declare it something I'd like to see have multiple locations.

But multiple locations it now has, with others planned. But are they really multiple locations, or are they just using the same name? I'm not sure even the people involved know.

Notice I said the same name and not the same brand. Those are not synonyms. Branding is a complicated matter and it involves many aspects beyond just the name. Though, surely, the name is a part of it.

So let's discuss that name.

Notes from the Festival: Party for the Senses, Marketplace Recommendations

epcot2014 party

I was invited to attend Party for the Senses on Saturday, the first of this year's Saturday evening events that are a highlight of the Epcot International Food and Wine Festival each year. The event fills the massive World Showplace with food and wine stations, plus a stage big enough to handle to acrobatic talents of members of Cirque du Soleil's La Nouba. I've been fortunate to attend many of these parties, and I think Saturday's may have been one of the better ones.

It seems that in the past few years I had only one, maybe two, favorite food items. This year there were at least four solid contenders for Best of PftS, and I had great fun trying to narrow it down to a single winner.

epcot2014 porkbelly

Early in the evening I came across Capa Restaurant, which is set to open later this month at the Four seasons Hotel and Spa at Walt Disney World. Chef Tim Dacey and his crew were serving a beer-brined pork belly with apples and Marcona almond. Frankly, I didn't notice the apples or the almonds, but that pork belly with its crisped exterior and wonderfully fatty meatiness was stellar. I had two; I stopped counting how many my companion had after four.

Monday, 20th October 2014

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