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The Fifth

fifth burgerThe Fifth, a swanky lounge with a more-than-bar-food menu, opened in downtown Orlando last month. The Fifth is part of The V Group -- Vintage Lounge, Vixen Bar and NV Art Bar -- so the name is apparently a play on the V as a Roman numeral. Or maybe it's a booze reference. Witness protection against self incrimination? Whatever.

The Fifth occupies a small space but the designers managed to pack a lot of cool into it. And they also made it seem deceptively larger than it is. I heard two people remark upon entering that the place was really huge without realizing that they were looking at mirrored walls.

There is a Z-shaped bar and support columns fashioned out of alabaster (or something alabastery) that is backlit. Seating it at a few booths or banquettes with a snakeskin-like fabric. Walls and other surfaces are made of stacked white bricks with uplighting to show off their texture. The flatscreen televisions (it’s now apparently some sort of law that you can’t open a restaurant or bar without a certain number of flatscreens per guest) are mounted to the walls with gilded frames so that they appear to be works of art. Overhead, ceiling coffers showcase ornate, filigreed light boxes.

Like I said -- swanky.

You wouldn’t expect one of the most ambitious items on the menu to be meat loaf.

Actually, I didn’t expect much from the menu at all, given that the place looks like it wants to be thought of more as a bar than a restaurant, not that there’s anything wrong with that. And I certainly didn’t expect the food that I sampled to be as good as it was.

I had the Fifth chopped steak burger, a thick patty that was cooked perfectly to the requested medium-rare, sitting on a toasted bun atop arugula and thickly sliced tomato, with cheddar cheese melted over the meat and some onions caramelized with stout ale. I loved the peppery note the fresh arugula gave it. The burger was accompanied by freshly made, thick-sliced potato chips with what seemed to be house-made ketchup.

My companion had a vegetable flatbread, a crisp crust loaded with sauteed onions, tomatoes and other goodies with melted cheese all over. It was a little too liberally squirted with balsamic vinegar juice. Chefs love to use this stuff for decoration, but often its acetic taste is too much or just downright wrong for the dish.

We also had the grilled Haas avocado with black bean pico de gallo. The beans, tomatoes and onions didn’t offer enough flavor to lift the bland avocado.

But I liked the idea of the grilled avocado. It was the one thing on the menu that conceptually fit the branding of the Fifth. Too much of the menu, regardless of how well it is cooked, belongs in a less tony space.

Burgers are trendy right now, especially gourmet burgers of this type, so the burger can stay. But I’ll be damned if I’m going to eat meatloaf on an alabaster countertop.

The Fifth is at 112 S. Orange Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily, until late every night. Here’s a link to thefifthorlando.com. The phone number is 407-826-1932.

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