I finally got a chance to dine inside Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe and to experience its Sunday brunch, and both experiences were as satisfying as I had hoped them to be.
As you’ll recall, Russell’s was one of the venturesome restaurants to open in the middle of the pandemic. During that time, I chose to limit my reviews to takeout offerings. And when I reviewed Russell’s, in October, I mentioned that it was one of the restaurants I would definitely return to once it was safe to do so.
Thank you, Moderna, for giving me the opportunity to fully experience Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe and the cuisine of chef/partner Emmanuel Clement.
A few friends and I visited on a recent Sunday and snagged a table at the front window with a great view of the lake. To be fair, there are good views of the lake throughout the restaurant, sort of like Hillstone’s but not as big and with a friendlier management staff.
I had not had steak tartare in so long that when I saw it on the menu I knew that’s what I would be having. (And I also knew that Clement was especially proud of his tartare, so that made it even more intriguing.)
The filet was hand cut into pieces that could be spread on the toasted crostini. The tartare had a perfect blend of classic accouterments, including Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and egg yolk. I usually order tartare as an appetizer but I enjoyed having it as my main course, especially with the thin and crispy fries that accompanied. (You can substitute a salad for the fries; I won’t judge you.)
One of my guests chose the Mrs. Croc, a tongue-in-cheek reference to another bistro mainstay the croque madame. It was classically prepared, a sort of inside-out ham and cheese sandwich with melted gruyere and a rich béchamel sauce, plus a perfectly executed sunny side-up egg, the ingredient that distinguishes a croque madame from a croque monsieur, or in this case, a Mrs. Croc from a Mr. (Actually, Mr. Croc isn’t on the menu but I have a feeling they’d make you one if you asked.) The sandwich came with a house salad with frisée and other greens plus tomatoes. A very nice salad, but I’m still sticking with fries with the steak tartare.
Another guest chose the Breakfast Club, a substantial sandwich with thinly sliced roast turkey, bacon, avocado and a fried egg (this one cooked so as not to ooze) with lettuce and tomato on toasted bread. Unlike a traditional club sandwich, this one did not have a third slice of toast in the middle, which I appreciated – I never understood that third slice.
Crab and avocado toast was another choice at my table. It had plenty of both, lump crab meat and loosely mashed avocado. But it also had a generous portion of egg salad, which by rights should have been named in the title.
Although the restaurant was busy, our server paid us plenty of attention and attended to our requests.
I was glad to finally have a chance to dine inside Russell’s, which is now one of downtown Orlando’s best new restaurants. But now I see that the restaurant has added tables and chairs to a terrace on the lakefront. So now my new goal is to dine outside Russell’s.