Chuan Lu exterior

Remember the Broadway musical “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark”? Besides having music and lyrics by U2’s Bono and The Edge, it’s most known for the trouble it had opening. It was technically complex with special effects that included actors flying on harnesses over the heads of the audience.

It is also known for having the longest preview period in the history of Broadway, 182 performances. One of the reasons the previews went on for so long was to deal with the technical problems. But the producers also knew that as long as the show was in previews, the critics would consider it off limits. But after six months, the critics decided enough was enough and one by one started attending and reviewing.

Soft opening is the restaurant equivalent of a Broadway preview. Chuan Lu Gardens is having a soft opening almost as epic as Spider-Man.

I first visited the new eastside location for Chuan Lu Gardens, whose original restaurant is in downtown Orlando’s Mills 50 district, in mid March. Even then the restaurant had been open for about three weeks. But a handwritten note taped to the door said “Soft Opening.” I went in anyway, knowing that I wouldn’t be writing a review from that visit. Indeed, the restaurant was in need of more rehearsal time, and it didn’t even involve servers flying overhead.

I checked back after two weeks and the sign was still taped to the door. It was still there two weeks after that. And still there when I stopped by this week.

Enough, I thought, time for this show to open.

icflorida petrakis

James Petrakis of the Swine empire (Pigs Ravenous and Polite) will be representing Central Florida in the annual Fish to Fork competition at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort, May 20. Petrakis will be aided by his RavPig chef de cuisine, Nick Sierputowski.

The event takes eight James Beard Award nominated chefs and sends them out to sea in ships to catch some fish. Whatever they catch, they must cook. And just to make things interesting, they will be given a secret ingredient that must be incorporated into the dish.

Guests at the event, who also have the opportunity to go out fishing, will choose the winner by popular vote at the end of the meal.

I spoke with Petrakis and host executive chef Daven Wardynski for icFlorida. Check out the video here 

Tickets for the fourth annual Fish to Fork are $125 per person. The event is from 6 to 10 p.m. the Omni is offering weekend stay packages. Details and tickets here.

Sushigami booths

Sushigami might be considered Japanese fast food.

How fast?

I’m guessing a couple of miles an hour.

Sushigami is a sushi bar with a twist. Or more precisely, a twirl. Guests sit at a sushi counter or at one of the booths and plates of sushi rolls roll by on a tiny conveyor belt that snakes along a winding path. If you see something that you like or that looks good to you, you lift the dome-covered plate from the belt and enjoy.

This is not a new concept. It’s not even new to Orlando, and Sushigami has been at its location in Florida Mall for a while.

Muddy ext

EXCLUSIVE -- You have only one more chance to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at Mucho, the Mexican restaurant and bar in downtown Orlando. Two days later, on Sunday, May 7, the “Tequila and Tacos” joint will close.

Muddy logoIf all goes according to schedule, Muddy Waters, A Two Chefs Restaurant, will open in its place by the end of the month.

It will be a partnership among Mucho’s current owners, Mark Angelo and Todd Ulmer of Beacon Hill Group, and Bernard Carmouche and Larry Sinibaldi, the two chefs of Two Chefs Seafood Oyster Bar in the North Quarter.

At Mucho Monday afternoon, Carmouche, Ulmer and Angelo discussed the new restaurant. Carmouche said that while it will be different than the one he and Sinibaldi serve at Two Chefs, the menu at Muddy Waters will also feature specialities of New Orleans.

The space, at 101 S. Eola Drive, will undergo a mostly cosmetic redecoration process, no more Mexican hats on the walls, for instance, and the flaming red motif over the backbar will be replaced with chalk boards. An oyster bar will be prominently displayed up front next to the liquor bar, as they are in New Orleans. Smoked Trout Beignets, Gumbo with duck, sausage and okra, and Grilled Redfish will also be served. Carmouche said he’s planning to feature jazz brunch on weekends.

Angelo and Ulmer said they wanted to change the concept because of the glut of Mexican restaurants and taquerias that have been opening. They had met Carmouche when he was working with Emeril Lagasse’s restaurants and Beacon owned Cigarz at CityWalk. Carmouche often stopped by with friends after work. They all became friends and discussed the possibility of doing a project together someday.

Mucho opened in late 2009. Before that, the restaurant group had the Beacon directly across the street in the corner space that is now the Stubborn Mule. They own and operate several other businesses, including Frosty’s Christmastime Lounge and Stardust Lounge.

Carmouche and Sinibaldi opened Two Chefs in an office building space at 743 N. Magnolia Ave. in April of 2015. They will continue to operate Two Chefs, dividing duties between the two restaurants, although Carmouche said Muddy Waters will get most of he attention when it first opens.

Muddy trioFrom left, Todd Ulmer, Bernard Carmouche and Mark Angelo.

Ulmer and Angelo said that many of the current staff members will be asked to stay on and will undergo training on the new menu and concept. Additional staff will also be hired, approximately 30 servers and 10 bartenders, plus four full-time oyster shuckers. The restaurant will seat approximately 180 people inside and on the wraparound patio, where Carmouche plans to have traditional Louisiana seafood boils from time to time.

David Ramirez chocolates sign

It’s been fun to watch David Ramirez Chocolates grow, both literally and figuratively. The business, by award-winning pastry chef Ramirez and his wife, Nicole, is kept busy making high-end confections for both retail sales and corporate clients. Recently, they broke through an adjoining wall in their small South Orlando strip mall — with the landlord’s permission — and just about tripled the size.

David Ramirez chocolates counter2

The added space now features an entrance that faces Central Florida Parkway; the old front door was down a side passage. There’s more retail space and a large, granite-topped bar where visitors can enjoy a cup of coffee, maybe some gelato (a new offering) or watch a demonstration on the making of macarons or how Ramirez turns his chocolates into morsels that look like they should be displayed in a jewelry case.

You can walk into the chocolate factory and buy an assortment of candies or macarons. They’re also available in Plant Street Market in Winter Garden.

But you may also have tasted his wares without even knowing it. Enjoyed a colorful macaron sold by a large entertainment entity in town? It’s pretty likely it was made here in the Central Florida Parkway kitchen by Ramirez and his team for buyer to present as its own.