Shaan pakora

I’ve had enough negative experiences with Lake Mary Indian restaurants that having a mediocre one seems a move in the right direction.

A recent meal at Shaan was no more nor less than that. It manages somehow to take one of the world’s most complicated cuisines, one that is characterized by myriad spices, multilayered and complex, and turn it into an offering so bland that Darden could market it to the masses.

My guest and I started with an appetizer of the mixed pakora, assorted vegetables frittered and fried using chickpea flour and, according to the menu, “cholesterol free oil.” I’d have been willing to take the responsibility of having my cholesterol spike a point or two in exchange for some flavor. We did have fun, though, trying to identify the vegetables under the breading.


Divas Chipotle Corn

Introducing a sizzlin' hot side to perfectly complement fajitas, tacos or a thick, juicy steak hot off the grill. The divas are taking our beloved fresh corn off the roasted cob, the caramelized sweet kernels kicking flavor over the top.

A creamy chipotle reduction simmers while the ears roast, adding a mix of creamy, smoky sweetness to the corn, with a topping of nutty grated parmesan. You could stop right there and await a well-deserved standing ovation, or add a sprinkle or freshly minced cilantro. Pass with juicy lime wedges for added sparkle.



TOULOUSE - It’s hot in Toulouse.

Temperatures in this southern France city have been regularly hitting the upper 80s and even into the 90s. (That’s Fahrenheit, of course, even though folks in this part of the world prefer Celsius, which, granted, sounds a bit cooler when you hear it.)

But whether you’re talking 88 F or 31 C, we can agree that it is, in the words of Cole Porter, too darned hot.

I think we can also agree that on sultry evenings, one does not usually seek out dishes that are associated with wintery nights. Cassoulet would be among them.


Caobana Counter

I was driving down Semoran Boulevard the other day and passed a nice looking place called Cafe Caobana, so I made a u-ey and headed back to check it out.

It was nice looking on the inside, too, and in fact was bigger than I expected it to be with a spacious and tidy dining area in the back of the place. (Actually, it looked bigger because it’s well mirrored, but there were still more seats than I thought there’d be.

I arrived at just a few minutes before closing time, so not wanting to be one of “those” people, I placed my order to go. I got a tamal for an appetizer and the shredded fried beef for my entree, with white rice, black beans and tostados.


Kokino interior

Just when you thought that every possible niche and gimmick had been exploited in the restaurant world, along comes Kokino, a new restaurant in the Bay Hill Plaza in the Restaurant Row district.

Just going by the name, I was expecting maybe a sushi bar or other type of Asian restaurant. I may be misremembering it, but I think my waiter might have used the term Asianified. However, on its Facebook page, Kokino is described as new American. It also places itself in the tapas bar category. Apparently there was no box to tick off that lists its true intended specialty: tartare bar.

Yes, that’s right. Kokino’s owners are hoping that the thing diners have been craving is a varied selection of tartare preparations. Not just the standard steak tartare, but also other meats and seafood. It might remind you — it did me — of the trend of a few years ago to do riffs on eggs Benedict.