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.

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Capital Grille
AddressPointe Orlando
9101 International Drive
CityOrlando
Phone407-370-4392
Price$$$$
Scott's Review

One of Darden Restaurants’ most recent acquisitions, and easily their most upscale. The steaks here are very good, and the service is attentive if not downright solicitous. I had the Delmonico, basically a bone-in ribeye, that was had a flavorful, well-seasoned crust and beautiful red center. The higher fat content of the cut made it juicy and tender.
My companion chose the Kansas City sirloin, offered as a special on the night I visited. Also a bone-in cut, the steak had a characteristically coarser texture but was cooked just as perfectly as the other and was every bit as flavorful.

Atmosphere is clubby and posh.

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Confisco Grille
AddressIslands of Adventure
Universal Studios
CityOrlando
Phone407-224-4012
Price$$
Confisco Grille serves an ambitious menu of soups, salads, sandwiches and burgers, plus full dinners of meats and seafood. I had the ``fully loaded'' baked potato soup, which featured a potato puree broth surrounding a mound of mashed potatoes, which held up a potato skin boat filled with cheese and bacon bits. There wasn't much in the way of soup, and it was all rather heavy for a first course.

For the entree, I had a pork chop, a big, thick and ultimately tasty chop. It was a lot of food, and it was more creative than I was expecting for the drab atmosphere.

The ambience at Confisco Grille is a little dark and depressing. There are a couple of windows to the walkway out front, but for the most part, you'd never know you were in a theme park. And I've come to realize there are a lot of parkgoers who look for just that sort of environment so they can avoid sensory overload. Whatever.

Unless you really want to just sit down and have someone wait on you - and there's a lot to be said for that - you can find pretty good food at the concession stands around the park. One of my favorites was the Enchanted Oak Tavern in the L... Read more
Cuba Libre
AddressPointe Orlando
9101 International Drive
CityOrlando
Phone407-226-1600
Price$$$
Scott's Review

It's big and splashy, but early indications are that more effort was put into the ambience than into the food, which is under the direction of James Beard Award-winning chef Guillermo Pernot. It would seem the vibrant flavors of Cuban cuisine have been dumbed down for the tourist trade. Even the drinks are disappointing. It's bad enough that they can't seem to make a decent mojito, but you'd think they could at least have a stellar Cuba Libre.

We started with a salad of watercress with crumbles of Cabrales, the tangy blue cheese of Spain. Fresh, but indistinguished.

A fish course followed comprised of sea bass a la plancha a Chino-Cubano. Yes, a Chinese version of a Cuban dish, complete with fried rice and a sesame sauce. I found it rather strange, although the quality of the fish was good.

The meat course had grilled skirt steak on a sugar cane skewer paired with roast pork stuffed mofongo -- not an ingredient in the bunch that I don't love. Yet it was all almost flavorless, without any seasoning. It looks like this will be another Latin restaurant that's afraid of offending the delicate palates of tourists. That's a shame.

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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

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Finnegan's Bar and Grill
AddressUniversal Studios
CityOrlando
Phone407-224-3613
Price$$
An Irish-American pub, the kind you might find on the streets of New York, which is why you will find this restaurant on the Streets of New York set of Universal Studios theme park. The menu has the usual Irish fare (and some British items): potato and leek soup; bangers and mash; Irish stew; shepherd's pie; corned beef and cabbage. Nothing is wonderful, but this is one of only two, with Lombard's Seafood Grill, full-service restaurants, so it tends to get crowded with people who don't feel like standing in another line just to get their food.... Read more
Hanamizuki
Address8255 International Drive
CityOrlando
Phone407-363-7200
Price$$$
Scott's Review

Hanamizuki's menu features Kyoto style cooking, which tends to be more elegant and formal than many of the dishes served in most American Japanese restaurants. It also focuses more on fresh vegetables and seafood other than sushi, although that is also a part of it and is available at Hanamizuki.

Don't be suprised to find a predominantly Japanese clientele here. No small wonder when the restuarant's Web site is written in Japanese (you can opt in to a translation).

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Hard Rock Café
AddressUniversal’s CityWalk
CityOrlando
Phone407-351-7625
Price$$$
Scott's Review

Orlando is the home of the corporate headquarters for HRC, so you’d expect the restaurant here to be superlative. And it is. It’s a massive structure, and I doubt the music plays any louder at another location. The food is basic, but more than passable.

Texas chili was a good chili, but I would hate to be there when it was served to a real Texan and he or she discovers beans in it. You can find chili in Texas with beans in it, but you'll probably also find the cook strung up out back.

Then there is the Tuscan chicken salad, which could just as easily have been named Tallahassee chicken salad, or Berlin chicken salad, or even world-class chicken salad because there certainly wasn't anything remotely Tuscan about it. OK, there were some slivers of salami and provolone cheese (which mostly comes from northern Italy, by the way) mixed in with mesclun greens, red peppers, mushrooms and asparagus. The greens were topped with cubes of grilled chicken and tossed with a red wine vinaigrette. Despite its geographical misplacement, it was a good salad.

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