1921 by Norman Van Aken
Address142 E. 4th Ave.
CityMount Dora
Phone352-385-1921
Price$$$$
Scott's Review
This highly anticipated restaurant from one of Florida’s most celebrated chefs is, to be a bit trite, a feast for the senses. The restaurant occupies an old house, built circa 1921, across the street from the Modernism Museum in the quaint downtown. In partnership with the museum and Main Street Leasing, which is listed as the “presenter” of the museum, 1921 becomes part of the artistic complex that also includes the museum’s shop (every museum has to have a shop), which shares an adjoining patio with the restaurant.... Read more
Boheme
Address325 S. Orange Ave.
Grand Bohemian Hotel
CityOrlando
Phone407-581-4700
Price$$$$
Scott's Review

The Boheme has grown into a more consistent fine dining experience but now is trying to position itself as more accessible. Try the Kessler calamari, a silly name for a delicious appetizer, and follow with the lamb duet or the Chilean sea bass. The kitchen also has a way with scallops.

A special treat about dinner here is that most nights there is entertainment in the rotunda just outside the dining room, and the music easily wafts in. If you arrive early, have a seat in the lounge, listen to the music, and enjoy the stories of the affable bartenders.

It should also be noted that the Boheme (and by the way it's pronounced boh-HEEM and not like the name of the Puccini opera) also serves a very nice Sunday jazz brunch.

... Read more
Bull & Bear
AddressWaldorf Astoria Orlando
14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane
CityOrlando
Phone407-597-5500
Price$$$$

The first Waldorf Astoria to be built outside of Manhattan also features a steakhouse called Bull & Bear, just like New York. Well, not exactly like New York. The decor here is less dark and clubby, it's actually quite an attractive room with windows overlooking the resort's pool area (and Disney fireworks in the distance). The menu features steak, of course, but also does some fine fish, including a lovely Dover sole filleted tableside. Also performed tableside is a traditional Caesar salad. Curiously, there is no Waldorf salad. And the veal Oscar (another invention of the New York hotel's) is a stylized version.

B&B had a rocky start. But now that it has found its stride, and readjusted service and quality to be more in line with what you'd expect from a Waldorf Astoria, Bull & Bear is ready to compete for a place on the top 10 list of best restaurants in Central Florida.

... Read more
Cafe Margaux
Address220 Brevard Ave.
CityCocoa
Phone321-639-8343
Price$$$

Cafe Margaux, a French restaurant in Cocoa, is an odd little place with delicious food. It wants to be an elegant restaurant, but it isn't, at least not one along the lines of a Victoria & Albert's or a Venetian Room. Let's just say its chic on a shoestring. But if the decor is a bit florid, the food is decidedly upscale, not really classic French, but with French tones that enhance a creative style. The best of the entrees was the melange of fresh fish, offered each evening as a sampler of the three fish specials. When I visited, the chef had prepared poached salmon, snapper with a potato crust and blackened dolphin. My guest liked the dolphin best because the blackening seasonings were perfectly balanced with the mild taste of the fish, giving just a bit of cayenne spiciness. I liked the crispiness of the shredded potato crust on the snapper. This is the sister restaurant to Ulysses' Steakhouse, also wonderful.

... Read more
Cala Bella
AddressRosen Shingle Creek Resort
9939 Universal Blvd.
CityOrlando
Phone407-996-9939
Price$$$$
Scott's Review

The food here is deliciously good, and the atmosphere is grandiloquent. But the prices are a bit steep, apparently geared toward the expense-accounted business traveler.

Seafood pescatore features a saffron seasoned fish stock tinged with tomato, with an abundance of seafood, including an Australian lobster tail, two impressively plump scallops, shrimp, clams and mussels. Under it all was a nest of fresh pappardelle pasta.

The al dente ribbons were part of my companion’s entrée of pappardelle ai bistecche, which was listed under the menu’s pasta heading, though in truth this was a steak dish. It featured 10 ounces of New York strip from Harris Ranch, cooked to a perfect medium-rare and sliced, the noodles piled on top with a sauce of mushrooms and tomato ragout. Quite nice.

We had started our meal with the mozzarella stuffed Bella meatballs, three bocce ball-sized orbs of moist ground meat braised in Barolo wine. The meatballs were more enjoyable than the calamari fritte, which was a little too damp.

Service was exceptional.

... Read more
DoveCote
Address390 N. Orange Avenue
CityOrlando
Phone407-930-1700
Price$$$
Scott's Review
Much has already been said about the impressive pedigrees of the partners in the venture. They include executive chef Clay Miller, whose resume includes stints at the estimable French Laundry and who was the opening executive chef and pastry chef at Norman’s at the Ritz Carlton; and Gene Zimmerman, owner of the downtown craft cocktail lounge The Courtesy, who oversees the front of the house operations for DoveCote, including its beverage program. The two of them are the co-owners, but Ravenous Pig’s James and Julie Petrakis are involved as advisers and investors. But one of the most impressive things about the new restaurant is the space itself. It has undergone a transformation that is, well, transformative. Occupying a corner of the imposing Bank of America building, the restaurant space has held many tenants over the years, all of which kept the same basic decor dominated by the cold, gray sandstone walls. That look and feel is fine for the bank across the lobby but hardly made for a comfortable dining atmosphere. The attached review has been updated.... Read more
Everglades
Address9840 International Drive
Rosen Centre Hotel
CityOrlando
Phone407-996-9840
Price$$$$
Scott's Review

One of the area’s most under appreciated restaurants, Everglades continues to offer high-quality fare. The Alligator Bay chowder is a terrific starter soup, and the swordfish is a southern inspiration

... Read more
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar Sand Lake Road
Address8030 Via Dellagio Way
CityOrlando
Phone407-352-5706
Price$$$$
The Restaurant Row Fleming's does a nice job with its steaks, but it has a big following for its happy hour, which includes a terrific burger at a killer price. Wines are a forte here, so spend a little of what you save on the bar snacks for something special from the grape.... Read more
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