Ever since the SoDo complex with its SuperTarget anchor opened on South Orange Avenue, small, casual eateries have been cropping up. Over the last several months we’ve seen Rockin’ Joe Coffee House & Bistro, Jason’s Deli, Flippers Pizzeria and Olv Cafe.
Now comes Twist, which bills itself as “Asian Fusion Hibachi & Bar.” Along with Olv, Twist is one of the more ambitious independently owned restaurants in the development, at least in terms of decor. But, also like Olv, it falls short in some areas.
First, let’s review what constitutes fusion cuisine. We’ve been through this before, but some folks still don’t get it. Simply putting moo goo gai pan and pad Thai on the same menu doesn’t make you a fusion cuisine restaurant. Pan Asian, perhaps, but not fusion. However, offer a dish called moo goo pad Thai? Now we’re talking fusion.
But there are no such creations on Twist’s menu, which is sectioned mainly among sushi, Thai and hibachi offerings.
I stopped in with a friend for lunch recently. We ordered from the reasonably priced lunch menu, which offers a nice selection of the main menu’s highlights. We decide to share a couple of sushi rolls (you get two for $8.99 or three for $10.99 from a limited selection), and the lunch version of the hibachi sirloin steak.
The sushi was a disappointment, The “coins” were smallish and were quite cold, almost as though they had been pre-made and then refrigerated. And there wasn’t anything remotely spicy about the spicy tuna roll. The best thing about the sushi rolls was the pickled ginger that came with them.
The sirloin steak, however, was quite good. The meat, cut into chopstickable pieces, was tender and cooked to the requested medium-rare. The $12 lunch portion included a choice of miso soup or ginger salad (had the salad, yawn), mixed vegetables and fried rice. The veggies -- broccoli, carrots, snow peas -- were delightfully al dente, but the fried rice had no character at all.
Twist strives for elegance in its decor and has some nice touches that, fortunately, stop just short of gaudy. (The chandeliers may have crossed the line.) A golden Buddha greets guests in the foyer, the dining room visible through lattice behind the statue. The bar is ornate and features full liquor -- that just might make it unique among its SoDo neighbors. The hibachi room with teppanyaki tables is separate from the main room, behind a glass wall. Those tables were not in use during lunch.
Service was adequate, at least up until the time the waiter plopped the check down, midway through our meal.
I’d like to see more ambitious restaurants open in this area. They would be a nice counterpoint to the fast-foodie kinds of places that dominate. But some of the ambition has to move beyond the decor and into the kitchen before this SoDo becomes a dining destination.
Twist is at 45 Crystal Lake St., Orlando. It is open for lunch and dinner daily. Full bar. Click here to visit twistasianfusion.com.