This is the first of a new series of video reviews in partnership with WFTV and Inside Central Florida. Vidoegraphy by Zack Schwartz; still photos by Shelly Caran. For more, visit icFlorida.com.
Tapa Toro, the Spanish restaurant under ICON Orlando, or whatever the Ferris wheel is being called these days, is now three years old. Wendy Lopez, who opened the restaurant as its executive chef, left late last year to accept a job to lead the kitchen at Reyes Mezcalaria. Frank Galeano was named to replace her. I returned to Tapa Toro recently to see what changes Galeano has put in place.
His menu tweaks include lighter and more healthful entries and a focus on more regional Spanish dishes. Watch the video or continue reading.
Pub food is hard to do right. Most pubs recognize the need to offer some food, some sustenance beyond chips or peanuts and an olive garnish to prevent patrons from sloshing out of the bar. Food can act as a (temporary) sponge.
But most pubs don’t have a proper kitchen or the necessary equipment to do more than a rudimentary menu. And that’s fine. Sandwiches with big doughy buns are appropriate fare. But when a bar tries to overreach and offer more than it’s capable of delivering, the results are usually disappointing.
That seems to be the issue with Roque Pub, an otherwise fun neighborhood bar in the emerging Curry Ford West district.
The restaurant formerly known as 1921 by Norman Van Aken has appointed Josh Oakley executive chef. Oakley was one of the founders of the Smiling Bison, which first opened in Orlando then Sanford. He sold his interest in the Bison in October.
Van Aken ended his association with 1921 in November, prompting the restaurant to change its name to 1921 Mount Dora. Van Aken was the restaurant’s executive chef, though Camilo Velasco ran day to day operations as chef de cuisine. Velasco parted with 1921 in December to take a position with Winter Park’s Ravenous Pig. Pastry chef Gloriann Rivera also left 1921 to join the Pig Rusty Spoon.
Just to tie all of this together, Oakley was also with the Ravenous Pig before opening Smiling Bison on Bennett Road in Orlando in 2013. A Sanford outpost of the Smiling Bison opened in November of 2015 and the original Orlando SB closed a year later.
Without a celebrity chef overseeing his work, Oakley should have free rein to make menu changes at 1921 Mount Dora. We’ll look forward to seeing what he does with the place.
Urbain 40, the restaurant with the French spelling that wants to be known as an American brasserie, is looking for a new chef again. Tim Keating, Urbain’s director of culinary operations, has left the Dellagio Plaza restaurant after a little more than two years. I have one side of the story of why the split took place but cannot share it without speaking to the other side. Keating did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Urbain’s principal, Rashid Choufani, said that he has sold shares to two men who have worked with him in the past, including opening the restaurants at Epcot’s Morocco pavilion. Hassan “Sam” Erroudani and Tony Kostali have taken over day to day operations, Choufani said. Choufani did say that Keating was offered a position as consultant with the company but, “He said he’d rather keep doing what he loves the best.” Keating had previously been chef de cuisine for Flying Fish Cafe at Disney’s BoardWalk but that relationship ended while the seafooder was closed for renovations that included cutting the cafe off of the name.
Choufani also owns Paradiso 37 at Disney Springs, one of the holdover restaurants from the Downtown Disney and Pleasure Island days. He said that after 10 years the restaurant, which is named for the 37 cuisines of the countries of the Americas, is ready for expansion. Expect an announcement of a new location soon.
If you’re someone who observes Lent, I hope you haven’t pledged to give up festivals, because the next in Epcot’s rotating roster of special events is the International Flower & Garden Festival, beginning the day after Mardi Gras, which this year falls on a Tuesday.
The EIF&GF, which runs from March 6 through June 3, is dedicated to all things that grow. That of course includes a lot of food.
I tiptoed through a media preview of the upcoming fest and sampled some of the dishes that will be available this year.
The restaurants listed here are the finalists for Best French in our Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants.
Please vote for your favorite French restaurant by clicking the circle next to its name and then the VOTE button at the bottom of the poll.
Note: Even if you voted in the nominating phase, you must vote again for a finalist — no votes were carried over from the preliminary poll.
After you place your vote, leave a comment explaining why you voted the way you did. Be sure to mention the name of the restaurant in your comment or we won’t know which restaurant you’re referring to. We may use your comment when we announce the winners.
Voting will continue through March 13 and the winners will be announced on March 14.