The first time I reviewed Tommy Bahama’s Restaurant and Bar, back in January 2007, the culinary arm of the island themed clothier had just opened at Pointe Orlando. (It also was called Tommy Bahama Tropical Cafe, but apparently that name has been dropped.)
I recall being impressed with the service, and in particular the way the wait staff and management deftly and quickly dealt with problems produced in the kitchen. The thing was, there were too many of those problems and my review was less than positive. I felt the company should apply the same standards of high quality to its restaurant that it does to its clothing line.
So when I saw that Tommy B was participating in Orlando Magical Dining Month, the September-long promotion that had restaurants all over town offering three-course dinners for $30. I saw it as an opportunity to go back and check up on the restaurant as it approaches its three-year anniversary. And having been gifted with a certificate made it a no-brainer.
My gift certificate was for the Magical Dining Month menu specifically. But when I presented it to the server when we were greeted -- always a good practice so as not to cause confusion at the end of the meal -- I was told my guests and I needn’t feel restricted to the MagDngMo menu. And in fact, Tommy B’s has its own three-course menu that is offered even when the month isn’t magical -- like ridiculously hot Octobers. And even better, one of those tasting menus is a buck cheaper.
So I chose the $29 Tommy Bahama Tasting Menu (which, in fact, has some of the same choices that were available on the Magical Dining menu). I started with the unnecessarily named crab Calloway, which also comes with the loki-loki tuna poke, so it’s like getting two appetizers in one. Two good appetizers, too. The lump crabmeat was plentiful and fresh-tasting, with just a touch of coconut on the crust and a delightful chili-mustard sauce to complement the sweet taste.
The poke was sort of like tuna tartare and was accompanied by a dollop of fresh guacamole and crisp flatbread to serve as a conveyance.
One of my guests chose the Big Island goat cheese, which was paired with Little Cayman lollipops. (Big and little, get it? Neither did I.) This was another winning pair, the goat cheese with its wonderful astringency, tempered with a crust of rich macadamia nuts, and the lollipops, which turned out to be chicken drummies sweetened with a mango barbecue glaze.
Less satisfying were the coconut shrimp, billed on the menu as “Tommy’s World Famous.” These would only add to infamy. The shrimp had been under fried and so the breading had a mealy texture. All the more disappointing because these were from a different menu that, though still prix fixe, was fixe’d at $35.
All the entrees were quite good. My friend who got the unfortunate shrimp had a much better main course in the Trinidad tuna, a thick fillet that had a smooth texture throughout. (Too often such a thick piece of tuna will have an unpleasant coarseness.) It was lightly pan-seared and finishes with a sweet chili sauce and a cilantro oil drizzle.
I had the Shoal Bay snapper, a Pacific snapper with a macadamia nut crust and accompanied by wasabi soy butter. It was served with fresh broccolini, grilled only long enough to take a chill off.
The Freeport flat iron was a black angus steak, wonderfully tender, topped with a three-peppercorn sauce, served with sauteed spinach and whipped chive potatoes.
Desserts faltered a bit. Blackbeard’s butterscotch tasted neither of butter nor scotch, even though it was supposed to contain both. The Key lime pie lacked the appropriate tartness.
As you might expect, tropical drinks are a forte here. (The mojitos are very good.) But there is also a respectable wine list. And those prix fixe menus offer a $20 wine pairing option that you may want to consider.
As I was in 2007, I continue to be impressed with the level of service. But this time the staff and managers didn’t have to concentrate on correcting things. Now, it seems, Tommy Bahama has found its footing on the sand -- in very expensive sandals, I’m sure -- and I’m happy to recommend it to you.
Tommy Bahama Restaurant is at Pointe Orlando, 9101 International Drive. It is open for dinner nightly. When I dined, the restaurant was not participating in the complimentary valet parking service, but I was told they were reconsidering. Still, parking was only $5, and it’s a better deal and more convenient than using the Pointe’s garage. Tommy Bahama’s phone number is 407-281-5888.