I was invited recently to dine at Unreserved Food Bazaar at the JW Marriott Bonnet Creek and I have to say it wasn’t at all what I was expecting it to be.
I knew that it featured multiple food stations in a marketplace atmosphere, so I was thinking it was going to be like a typical food court where diners go up to a food counter, order and pay and then have a seat to wait for the food to be delivers.
Nope, not that at all.
In fact, it operates more like a conventional restaurant, but instead of just one open kitchen there are several dispersed throughout the spacious dining area. There is the Chelonia Raw Bar; a Sushi station; Nolio, where pizzas and pasta are proffered; and The Josper, featuring the custom-made charcoal oven from Spain that can grill and roast at the same time.
And it’s all listed on one menu so you can order from any or all of them.
Chef Peter Kunstek, who oversees Unreserved put together some tasting-sized samples for me to try and there wasn’t one that I wouldn’t go back to have a full-sized serving of.
My first sampling platter drew from several of the kitchens. I had the Scallop Ceviche served in a watermelon consommé with a sliver of jalapeño as a counter note to the cool juice and scallop. Tuna Crudo featured a slice of sushi-grade fish brushed with lemon-infused oil and dotted with sea salt and fresh cracks of pepper.
There were also grilled IPA Mussels, prepared in the Josper, in a white wine butter sauce with grilled focaccia to sop up the liquor.
Also from the Josper, a Grilled Japanese Eggplant, stuffed with tzatzaki infused with dill and topped with pistachios and walnuts. Really delicious.
From the Sushi Counter I had the Unreserved Roll, the crab salad with spicy Kewpie mayo rolled in vinegared rice and decorated with jalapeño slices topped with bright orange tobiko. Colorful and tasty.
Charcoal Spanish Octopus had a wonderful smoky flavor and was served with a salsa verde along with black olives, sun-dried tomatoes and chickpeas.
Arroz Caldosa was a wetter version of paella (the name means brothy rice) with Key West pink shrimp, mussels and chunks of chorizo mixed in with the bomba rice.
Salt & Pepper St. Louis Style Ribs were pretty straightforward, made tender in the Josper and served with a house-made raspberry Guajillo barbecue sauce.
Beef Cheek Ragout had pan-seared potato gnocchi, mushrooms and braised swiss chard and a gravy fashioned out of the beef cheek juices.
I was a little skeptical when I was presented the Carrot Cake dessert because it looked more like a stack of mini pancakes than the typical carrot cake i’m familiar with. But all of those recognizable flavors were there and it was plenty carroty. A cream cheese frosting between the layers added some richness and it was accompanied by a sweet pineappe compote.
I do recommend that you try the Constellation Sangria, a white sangria with a pinot grigio base that’s perked up with Grey Goose Vodka and white peaches. Quite refreshing.
Unreserved – which actually accepts reservations – is a large, high ceilinged space on the hotel’s pool level. It’s decidedly casual, and different styles seating groups throughout the room keep it from feeling too food hall-y. It sits next to the hotel’s new herb garden, from which Kunstek sources many of the ingredients he uses, and outdoor dining is available, as well.
By the way, Unreserved is participating in Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining this year, and some of the items I sampled are part of the three-course menu. It’s a good opportunity to give this unique dining facility a try.