Blackfin is back.
For those of you who have moved here since 2005, Blackfin was a popular restaurant in Winter Park Village that occupied the space currently held by Mitchell's Fish Market. (Beluga, a sort of precursor to Big Fin Seafood Kitchen, was also a tenant for a time.) Blackfin had good food, but it was also known as a fun gathering spot for young professionals. There were a lot of sad people when it closed, almost exactly nine years ago this month.
There were also a lot of hopeful people. At the time, owner Eric Kovar had plans in the works to open other Blackfin locations, including one on Park Avenue (where Panera's is now) and one in MetroWest. But neither occurred.
Now Kovar has taken over the Maitland space that most recently held SoNapa, the ill-fated restaurant from New Smyrna Beach. The building, a former Steak and Ale, if my memory serves, had been upgraded by the SoNapa group, and Kovar's crew has done even more. It's a comfortable and pleasant place to dine, and I think it will draw a lot of the old Blackfin fans back and make some new ones as well.
And I was surprised to find that John Tan has been brought on as chef. you'll remember Tan was the chef at Park Plaza Gardens until recently, and just a couple of weeks ago his name came up in my review of Bistro CloClo, where he was a consulting chef. I've always liked Tan's cooking, and I'm glad to see him here.
I met up with a group of friends for a dinner shortly after Blackfin opened. We sampled a number of items from the menu, which, despite the restaurant's name, is not exclusively seafood oriented. But it does seafood quite well. There is an impressive Blackfin crab cake that's mostly crab, served with a tangy mustard sauce. And both the seafood gumbo and the lobster bisque were very good.
Corvina was one of the fresh fish offerings on one of my visits. It was a beautifully pan-seared fillet sitting atop cauliflower puree, which had a touch of anise. Sitting atop the delicate fish was a slaw fashioned out of carrots, apples and scallions. A bright yellow mustard and pineapple coulis dotted the plate. Quite tasty all.
I sampled a lovely piece of mahi, which had a pleasantly spicy seasoned char. And also had a taste of the ribeye steak, which was cooked to a perfect medium-rare and served with roasted potatoes and slender stalks of asparagus.
One of my dining companions had the shrimp and grits, the dish that has somehow become ubiquitous on local menus. This one is as good a version as you'll find.
For dessert there was bread pudding, creme brulee and mixed berries.
The staff is still finding its way in the new surroundings, but they show that training is ongoing.
Besides the dining room, which has its own bar, there is a separate bar and lounge area called Victoria. On one of my visits a combo played in the corner and guests lined the granite-topped bar. Nice place to hang out, I'm thinking. Even if you're just stopping by Victoria, try one of the flatbreads. I especially liked the one with chicken, gouda and bacon, because, you know, bacon (applewood smoked, at that).
Blackfin is at 640 S. Orlando Ave., Maitland. It is open for dinner Tuesday through Sunday and plans to begin lunch service on July 15 and add a Sunday brunch beginning July 22. More information on that later. The online menu does not include prices; fresh fish selections range from the mid $20s to the mid $30s. Flatbreads are mid teens. The shrimp and grits selection was $24.