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Shula room

Shula’s Steak House made quite an impression when it first opened at the Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin Resort in late 1995. High-end steakhouses featuring huge hunks of USDA prime meat were, um, rare. Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster, which was originally known as Del Frisco’s, was a couple of years old. But Morton’s — then called Morton’s of Chicago — wouldn’t open an Orlando location until 1996, and Ruth’s Chris Steak House didn’t enter the area until 2000.

I liked Shula’s immediately. It was classy, service was first rate, and the food, though pricey, was excellent. In 2000, I even awarded it my Critic’s Choice Foodie Award for Best Restaurant Overall.

The upscale brand was founded, of course, by Don Shula, the legendary coach of the Miami Dolphins. (It has always been easy to remember which hotel the steakhouse is in because why would anyone put Shula’s into the Swan hotel?)

The first Shula’s was in Miami Lakes and the second, if I remember correctly, opened in Tampa. Orlando’s was third. Even after all these years, the company, Shula’s Restaurant Group, has only eight steakhouses, though it also operates other more casual brands, including Shula’s 347 Grill, which has a location in Lake Mary.

The company, now based in Ft. Lauderdale, has a new CEO, Bill Freeman, who previously ran the MINA Group of restaurants. So it may be that the brand is ready to take on the Ruths and Dels and Mortons of the world. Perhaps that’s the reason Shula’s Steak Houses are undergoing a brand-wide overhaul with a refreshed decor and a revamped menu from new corporate culinary director, Demetrio Zavala.

Orlando’s Shula’s is the first to be redesigned. I was invited to a media opening and then was asked to join a small group to have dinner with Don Shula and his wife, Mary Anne, who was the previous CEO and is the current chair of the board.

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Scallops Agrodolce

When I returned recently to the newly renovated Fiorenzo at the Hyatt Regency Orlando, one of my favorite dishes was the Scallops Agrodolce. Chef Jared Gross uses huge scallops and tops them with an agrodolce sauce -- agrodolce is Italian for sour and sweet -- and serves them on a frissee salad. It's a light appetizer, and it's perfect for a hot summer day.

I asked Gross to share the recipe, which he was happy to do. In this segment of Compliments of the Chef, he shows you some cooking tips so you can try the recipe yourself. Or head to the Hyatt Regency Orlando and he'll cook up a batch for you.

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Sous Chef Challenge 2019

In the hierarchy of the professional kitchen, it’s the executive chef and chef de cuisine at the top. But often running the show, especially when the top chef is absent, is the sous chef. If you’re a sous, this event is for you.

The second annual Scott Joseph’s Sous Chef Challenge: The Next Big Thing, part of the ACF Central Florida Chapter’s Culinary Arts Competitions, will be held Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019, as part of the Florida Restaurant & Lodging Show at the Orange County Convention Center.

The event allows the region’s sous chefs to step to the front and demonstrate their culinary creativity. They’re challenged with coming up with “the next big thing” — the dish, ingredient or preparation that might become a trend. And for each sous to show why he or she is the chef to present it.

The winner selected by the judges will be awarded a prize of $1000.

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Eola General exterior

Eola General sounds like it should be the title of a soap opera, doesn’t it?

Instead, it is the name of a business in a residential area of downtown orlando that is part restaurant and part market. It opened in April, so you may find it confusing, as did I, that the logo states, “Est. 1938.” That apparently is the provenance of the building it occupies. By that reasoning I should be able to state that I was born the year that my house was built. Unfortunately it only shaves two years off my age, but I might consider moving to one of those condos that were built 20 years ago.

The previous tenant of Eola General’s building was Handy Pantry, which would be a lousy name for a soap opera. It closed in Sept. 2018.

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Kabooki logo

The readers of Scott Joseph’s Orlando Restaurant Guide have voted Kabooki Sushi first place in the 2019 Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants — Best Sushi.

Seito Sushi came in second place and Kadence was third.

“Kabooki has delicious, fresh sushi,” wrote Stephanie Wood regarding her vote. “The menu is an innovate take on sushi and the daily special offerings are unique. Excellent service with knowledgeable servers. We love dining at Kabooki!”

Michele Butler wrote: “Kadence, hands down! Best, most authentic, creative sushi experience I’ve ever had. Nothing even compares.” (Watch for a review of Kadence soon.) Kadence was a winner of the 2018 Best Overall Foodster Award.

Kabooki, which opened about six years ago to near universal acclaim, recently opened a second location in Bay Hill Plaza at 7705 Turkey Lake Road. The original location remains at 3122 E. Colonial Drive, Orlando.

Seito Sushi also has a location on Turkey Lake Road, at 8031, as well as one in Baldwin Park at 4898 New Broad Street.

Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to everyone who voted.