Is it perfect? No. There were choices made that had me scratching my head. But there is enough about SNK to recommend, and I do so enthusiastically.
One of the limitations of this building, which started its life as a neighborhood market, is that it has a small, almost makeshift kitchen that has relegated most of the previous occupants to offering little more than easy-to-cook pasta-based dishes. But the new owners did something very smart: they expanded part of the kitchen into the front dining area, which allows for more production area, not to mention elbow room for the cooks.
What wasn’t as clever is the way they chose to define the expanded kitchen space. Making a sort of half wall, and facing the dining area, is a refrigerated display case with garish fluorescent lights. A perpendicular counter space is “decorated” with big number 10, which also adorn a shelf on the back wall. These elements clash with the rest of the decor, which is classy and convivial, with warm lighting, some of which is provided by ornate antique light fixtures. Plopping a refrigerator case and big cans of food in the space detracts.
The expanded kitchen space allows for some of the best food to be served in this spot in years. My friends and I started with an appetizer of clams & mussels Catalan, a pulpy pomodoro with chewy chunks of chorizo, a delicious sauce taht was thick enough to eat with a fork. The clams and mussels were good, too, although too few for the $10 fee.
For my entree I chose the shrimp & grouper Maltese, which had several large, firm shrimp sitting atop a tender fillet, all doused with a delightful creamy sauce flavored with blood oranges. Asparagus and a wedge of something that appeared to be a baked macaroni and cheese device (and which was delicious) accompanied.
One of my guests had the shrimp Provencale, another use of the good shrimp in a colorful presentation with tomatoes and pine nuts. Certainly not a classic Provencale dish, but a tasty one.
Another companion had the special of the evening, a pork osso buco that was wonderful. Big, too, with
plenty of tender meat on the oversized shank.
Shine has a good list of wines and beers that includes a bunch of wine labels available for $5 a glass or $20 a bottle. Good pricing, thought the pour was a bit uneven on my visit.
Service was affable and prompt, although there was a long wait between courses, which is likely another reminder that the kitchen is limited.
But it is so much able to do more with its limitations. This space has always been popular as a neighborhood destination simply for its convenience and comfortable feel. Now it will also be the choice of others -- even outside the neighborhood -- who want all that and a good, fairly priced meal, too.
Shine Neighborhood Kitchen is at 337 N. Shine Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch Monday through Friday, brunch Sunday and dinner daily. Click here to download the dinner menu ; click here to see the beverage list . Click here for Shine's Web site. The phone number is 407-674-6841.
Updated 10/29/10 to include new Web site.