Don Julio's Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar
It would seem that the place to be on a Friday night if you live in the area of Chickasaw Trail and Lake Underhill Road is Don Julio’s Mexican Kitchen and Tequila Bar. At least it seemed that way the Friday evening my companion and I stopped in. The restaurant in the aptly named Rio Pina Plaza was jumping like veritable frijoles saltarines.
It was so crowded that people waiting for tables were standing around on the sidewalk outside the strip plaza storefront. The only seats available, the young woman at the host stand told us, were at either of the bars, the tequila bar in the title or the ceviche bar on the other side of the room.
That suited us just fine because it was the ceviche bar that drew my attention to this particular D. Julio’s over the one in Lake Mary or the other location in Waterford Lakes....
|Address||551 S. Chickasaw Trail|
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....
|Address||390 N. Orange Avenue|
Dragonfly Robata Grill & Sushi
It's big and modern and offers so much more than sushi, although the sushi is some of the best of what it does, especially the deftly executed nigirizushi. Dragonfly also features robata grilling, a popular cooking method in Japan but still fairly uncommon in the U.S. A robata grill uses special charcoal that heats to one thousand degrees (oh, how I wish I could do that on my Weber). The intense heat sears the skewered meats that are leaned against it, which results in tender, juicy bites. We tried the chicken, and it was impressively tender. We also tried the braised short ribs, served with pickled carrots, shiitake and tamago. They weren’t the most tender short ribs I’ve had -- and a bit difficult to pick apart with chopsticks -- but the flavor was very nice....
|Address||7972 Via Dellagio Way|
Earl of Sandwich
There's more to the name here than just a play on a historical figure. John Montagu, the 11th Earl of Sandwich, is involved in the business, although the project was started by his son Orlando, who is not in line to inherit the title. There's another Earl involved: Robert Earl, founder of Planet Hollywood. Legend has it, of course, that it was the fourth Earl of Sandwich who came up with the idea of slapping meat between some bread. The usual story is that he was a gambler and didn't want to put down his cards, but Lord Sandwich, the current one, told me over sherries in the House of Parliament a few years ago, that his ancestor was also a womanizer and it may have been a lady in his other hand. Whatever, the sandwiches here are very good and impressively thick. You may actually need both hands. The 4th Earl would not approve....
|Address||1750 E. Buena Vista Drive|
|City||Lake Buena Vista|
This latest addition to the Darden collection of premium brands is sometimes said to be the seafood equivalent of that company's Capital Grille steakhouses. But that's not exactly right because Eddie V's, which does indeed to excellent seafood, also does a pretty good steak. In fact, Eddie V's serves prime beef while Capital Grille serves USDA choice. The atmosphere is elegant, like an old-timey Manhattan supper club. It's pricy, though, so be prepared to pay dearly for the quality....
|Address||7488 Sand Lake Road|
eXile Restaurant and Lounge
The menu is, at first glance, rather mundane and predictable: burgers, wings and pizza are the items that stand out. But look a little closer and you’ll find some special treats.
Such as pastichio, the Greek style lasagna. It featured pasta layered with ground beef and sliced ham and a creamy, full-flavored bechamel, topped with melted cheese. It was a large brick of a portion and I intended to take half of it home, but I soon found myself forking up the last bite right there. The owners seem genuinely happy to have you there....
|Address||1319 Florida Mall Ave.|