1921 by Norman Van Aken
Address142 E. 4th Ave.
CityMount Dora
Phone352-385-1921
Price$$$$
Scott's Review
This highly anticipated restaurant from one of Florida’s most celebrated chefs is, to be a bit trite, a feast for the senses. The restaurant occupies an old house, built circa 1921, across the street from the Modernism Museum in the quaint downtown. In partnership with the museum and Main Street Leasing, which is listed as the “presenter” of the museum, 1921 becomes part of the artistic complex that also includes the museum’s shop (every museum has to have a shop), which shares an adjoining patio with the restaurant.... Read more
Bice
AddressPortofino Bay
5601 Universal Blvd.
CityOrlando
Phone407-503-1415
Price$$$$
Scott's Review

Dinner at Bice is not an inexpensive night out. But when you consider cost vs. quality, you’ll find that Bice is not overpriced.

Just consider the restaurant’s signature dish, ravioli stuffed with beef short ribs and spinach. The pasta was delicately thin and tender, and the braised meat inside had a rich, fatty mouthfeel that blossomed with the sauce of mushrooms and Marsala wine. Absolute heaven.

Or another from the list of primi piatti, big, fat tortellini filled with spinach and ricotta and dressed with a sauce of butter and sage.

From the secondi my companion had the scalloppine di vitello, flattened medallions of veal sauteed with a darkly rich mushroom sauce and served with a timbale of potatoes similar to a potatoes Anna dish.

I chose a special of the evening that featured sea bass in parchment. Enclosed inside the envelope with zucchini, yellow squash, red and green peppers, and a few salty olives, the fish took on all the vegetable flavors while maintaining a fresh and moist texture. The taste was buttery and absolutely delicious.

Desserts are worth lingering over.

... Read more
Braccia Pizzeria & Ristorante
Address153 E Morse Blvd
CityWinter Park
Phone407-636-9918
Price$$
Scott's Review
Braccia is small but has a certain charm in its glassed in wine cabinet, floor to ceiling blackboards and distressed wood tabletops. The charm does not extend to the Astroturflike greenery that has been applied in freeform to one of the brick walls; that’s just odd. Pizza, thin-crusted and well-topped, is good, but so are the pasta dishes.... Read more
California Grill
Address4600 N. World Drive
CityLake Buena Vista
Phone407-939-3463
Price$$$$
Scott's Review

After more than a dozen years at the top, literally and figuratively, California Grill is still one the Central Florida’s best restaurants. Much of the concept of California Grill has not changed over the years, and the menu still features, as it has for much of the time, flatbreads and sushi as well as more traditional appetizers. The menu supposedly changes daily, though with three weeks separating my two most recent visits, I noticed most of the changes were in the wording and ranking of ingredients rather than completely different entries.

Service is impeccable and exemplary of the best that Disney can offer. The wine list focuses, as it should, on California and other American cuvees.

The pork tenderloin remains a favorite, but the filet mignon is a contender for best entrée. Sushi from master chef Yoshi is a treat.

Of course the best feature remains the view through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom. And at the appropriate hour the lights dim slightly and the music that accompanies the Magic Kingdom's fireworks display plays in the restaurant. It’s one of the best shows in town.

... Read more
Capa at the Four Seasons
Address10100 Dream Tree Blvd.
CityLake Buena Vista
Phone407-313-7777
Price$$$$
Scott's Review
Despite the Four Seasons Resort location, this signature restaurant is not white-glove elegant, another indication that type of fine dining is fading. But the food here is excellent, and the surroundings are stylishly artistic. Out on the balcony you you watch fireworks every night.... Read more
Chatham’s Place
Address7575 Dr. Phillips Blvd.
CityOrlando
Phone407-345-2992
Price$$$$
Scott's Review

Chatham's Place has gone through some changes, and much more than the fact that there are no members of the Chatham family involved in the restaurant. That's not an issue; Louis Chatham, who served as executive chef, and his mother, Bettye, who ran the dining room in those first years, sold the operation years ago to Chatham's sous chef, Tony Lopez, the maitre d', Maurice Colindres, and a hostess, Carol Conwell. The three of them kept it going as strong as ever, perhaps stronger. It was clear that this was an operation of love for the three of them, and they worked together to make it a continued success.

Many of the dishes that became signatures back in Louis Chatham's days remain on the menu, including the Florida black grouper, which has been one of my favorite Central Florida entrees for many years. It features a fresh fillet, thick and white, lightly sauteed and topped with pecan butter and scallions, dusted with just a soupcon of cayenne pepper. The pecan butter places the dish firmly in the south and the pepper points it towards New Orleans. But with the use of Florida black grouper I think we can just claim this one as one of our native dishes, don't you?

... Read more
Chef's Table at the Edgewater
Address99 W. Plant St.
CityWinter Garden
Phone407-230-4837
Price$$$

This place is an absolute delight. The small dining room is so close to the open kitchen that you might as well be sitting in it. The menu is creative and changes frequently, but you can’t go wrong with whatever you order. The dining area is a bit rustic, but crisp white tablecloths pretty it up a bit.

Owners Kevin and Laurie Tarter are both service alumni of California Grill, and Kevin has cooked at Victoria & Albert's, as well as kitchens in his native New Orleans, including Arnaud's.

The chef's table concept works nicely here. The eight or nine tables are within view -- and earshot -- of the open kitchen, making it an intimate setting.

Don't confuse open kitchen with show kitchen; this is a working facility with exposed pipes and ducts, stacks of pans, propped-up surfaces and racks of supplies, all under harsh, unflattering lighting. It's not a pretty space. But the dishes that come out of that kitchen are beautiful works of art.

... Read more
Chez Vincent
Address533 W. New England Ave.
CityWinter Park
Phone407-599-2929
Price$$$
Scott's Review

Chez Vincent continues to serve classic French dishes in pleasant, if slightly worn, surroundings. Chef/owner Vincent Gagliano is a master with soup, and the coquille St. Jacques is one of the better seafood entrees. Steak au poivre is a good choice for a meat dish.

Chez Vincent’s waiters are mature and professional. I mention the maturity because it’s a welcome change from the working-my-way-through-college servers who seem to dominate the Winter Park restaurant scene. The waiters here allow the guests to dictate the pace of the meal.

If Chez Vincent has survived over the years it’s because there is an appreciation among Central Florida diners for a quiet place to enjoy a good, classically prepared meal.

If that’s true, there’s hope for aspiring restaurateurs out there, and, not incidentally, for all of us who will support them.

... Read more
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