It’s been a busy year. Here are the highlights. Links go to the original review or article where available.
Top New Restaurants of 2015
Urbain 40: Excellent cuisine from chef Jean-Stephane Poinard in an atmosphere that is classically French at the Dellagio Plaza on Restaurant Row.
Tabla Indian Chinese Thai: Not so much new as it is a revitalization, presented a new menu in a much more stylish atmosphere.
North Quarter Tavern: They may not tell you, but chef Matt Wall and crew make almost everything served in this pub from scratch.
Two Chefs Seafood Oyster Bar: A bit of the Big Easy in an odd North Quarter space.
Tapa Toro: A fun tapas concept from the Taverna Opa folks.
Osprey Tavern: Can it be that Baldwin Park finally has a decent restaurant?
The Whiskey: Surprisingly good food, including a killer burger, at the Restaurant Rower.
Other Notable Openings
MOOR— Terrific rebranding of a Gaylord Palms venue.
The Parkview — New ownership of Eola Wine Company location with a stepped up menu to go with the terrific wine list.
Baoery: Greg Richie and TPRG brought the bao craze to Thornton Park.
Market on South: Earnest vegan food from a culinary consortium.
Smiling Bison Sanford: Now with real napkins!
Outpost Neighborhood Kitchen: College Park's new and very comfortable place to meet and eat.
Bistro Le Coq Au Vin Dr. Phillips: A Restaurant Row outpost for one of Orlando’s longtime favorites.
Morimoto Asia: A huge and beautiful new restaurant from the Patina Group at Disney Springs.
Slate: An American bistro that is starting to find its way.
DeVine Wine & Grill: Something unchainy for the Oviedo crowd.
Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House: Big, very big.
Urban Tide: Really just a renaming for the former Napa at the renamed Hyatt Regency Orlando (Peabody Orlando).
Metro Diner: Food Network favorite from Jacksonville takes Altamonte Springs by storm.
Daya: Upscale plant-based cusine.
Swine & Sons Provisions: A grab-and-go sort of place from the Cask & Larder folks.
Shish.Co Mezze & Grill: Sort of like a food truck but without wheels.
American Gymkhana: Upscale Indian from a Michelin-starred Manhattan restaurateur that was doomed by investor interference; now Fusion 360 (unreviewed to date).
Cityfish: Downtown fisher owned by TPRG closed to make way for that group’s new Baoery (see above).
American Q: Barbecue meets churrascaria, from renowned New York restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow.
Brown’s New York Deli: Maitland loses its matzos.
Bistro CloClo: Now the home of Bistro Le Coq, etc.
Funky Monkey Mills 50: The original FM; only the Pointe Orlando location remains as the company attempts to reorganize.
Cafe 118: The area’s first raw food restaurant had a good run but wasn’t hot enough.
South + York: Winter Springers didn’t support this farm to table concept.
Mi Tomatina: Winter Park paella cafe is now a basic Tex-Mexer.
My Most Memorable Meals of 2015
Lunch at the newly relocated Guy Savoy in Paris
Dinner at Chez les Ploucs in Bordeaux, where, as we stood outside on the cobblestones of the side street, the manager finally just grabbed a table from inside — tablecloth, place settings and all — set them it front of us where we stood and invited us to have a seat. That’s service!
Chef’s Table at Victoria & Albert’s, still the ultimate dining experience in the Southeastern United States and one of the top meals anywhere in the country.
The fish & chips at the pub behind Kevin Dundon’s resort in Ireland’s County Wexford, and then, the next day, catching a fish in the Irish Sea and cleaning, cooking and eating it at Dundon’s cooking school. (Read Raglan Road Trip Part One and Part Two.)
A private dinner at New York’s Le Bernadin cooked by Arnaud Lallement of Reims (and Disney Cruise Line) with each course paired with Dom Perignon.
Looking forward to 2016
Norman’s 1921 — Norman Van Aken’s newest will open in Mount Dora.
STK — Next big restaurant slated for Disney Springs.
Flying Fish Cafe — Closing in January then reopening late summer with a new interior.
Dovecote — Clayton Miller, James and Julie Petrakis, and Gene Zimmerman team up for what may be downtown Orlando’s most promising new restaurant.
Lazy Moon — Mills 50 location for a UCF favorite.
Canvas — American eatery in restaurant-starved Lake Nona.
Cask & Larder OIA — The Petrakises open an outpost at Orlando International Airport.
Wahlburgers — The December opening has been pushed back, but the Wahlberg boys are still expected to be at the grand opening, probably in January, unless it isn’t.
Better Than Sex — Maybe, maybe not, but dessert is involved.