The Mount Dora Art Festival seemed like a good time to take a road trip and check out how 1920 Mount Dora is doing.
I hadn’t visited the restaurant since it was known as 1921 by Norman Van Aken. Van Aken, the popular award-winning chef based in South Florida, was instrumental in developing and opening the restaurant in 2016. He ended his involvement in 2018 and the restaurant was renamed 1921 Mount Dora.
In the ensuing years, I missed a couple of chefs who took up residency there, figuratively more than literally, including Josh Oakley, who cooked there between his Smiling Bison days and his current position as executive chef at The Monroe in downtown Orlando’s Creative Village.
Now in the executive chef chair at 1921 is Chris Edwards, who previously held that position at King + Duke in Atlanta.
His brunch menu is succinct yet varied – you could go in various directions and end up in a happy place.
I was pleased with my choice of the blackened mahi sandwich, which featured a nice fillet with spicy seasonings on its crispy exterior. It had a heavy slather of aioli made with smoked scallions and sat atop fresh greens which themselves were upon pickled green tomatoes, all on a fresh toasted bun.
One of my companions chose the melted fennel and spring onion soup for an entree. Poured tableside, the soup was more fennelly than oniony but had a smooth and creamy texture and mild seasoning. Instead of croutons, miniature financiers floated in the bowl along with a dollop of eggplant caponata and garnishes of fried sage.
The Dutch baby pancake was the most impressive of the presentations. This sweeter relative of Yorkshire pudding, fluffed and puffed, was served with roasted strawberries and topped with a perfectly poached egg. A couple of very crispy bacon rashers overlapped the sides of the Staub cast iron pan, which also held hefty hunks of sausage.
We had also ordered the yeast rolls from pastry chef Tiffany Watson, thinking the bread and the whipped honey butter would tide us over until our entrees arrived. But the entrees arrived before the rolls.
I’d like to say we were greeted warmly upon our arrival but that was not the case. The host, in fact, argued with me that I had specifically requested the hightop table she initially tried to seat us at. But once seated – at the actual table I had requested, by phone, two days earlier – our server made us feel more welcomed.
The restaurant is situated in a decidedly unattractive building but the interior is modern and artistic. On the Art Festival weekend it was the perfect place to be.