Orlando has a new luxury hotel, the Lake Nona Wave, and with it an upscale restaurant, Bacán.
That’s pronounced bah-KAHN and is a Spanish word meaning cool or awesome. I might add suave and sophisticated, too, because dining here is a fashionable experience with a modern menu of Latin American-inspired dishes served in a stylishly appointed atmosphere.
My companion and I sat in a booth with buttery leather seats beneath a large, colorful wall mural with a full view of the open kitchen, the rows of banquettes that run down the middle of the room and the cluster of gold-mesh hexagonal light fixtures overhead.
The executive chef is Guillaume Robin, though curiously he is not credited on the menu. But then neither is the pastry chef, Laurent Branlard, formerly of the Swan and Dolphin Resort and the only person to win the World Pastry Team Championship twice.
I started with the steak tartare, a unique presentation that included miniature pickled mushrooms, bubbles of tomato jam and a dusting of beef chicharrón. Instead of toast points, plantain planks served as the conveyance for the coarsely chopped and well seasoned raw beef.
My friend chose the Florida heirloom tomato salad, which also included pickled peaches, watermelon radishes, crumbles of feta cheese and crackers fashioned out of flaxseed. Dollops of green goddess decorated the plate to be used or not.
For my entree I chose the branzino a la plancha, a generous portion of the white fish on a not-so-generous bed of wild rice, with grace note smear of mint and pea puree on the plate and a topping of flash-fried purple kale. The skin of the branzini fillets was wonderfully crispy.
My companion chose the duck breast, served medium-rare in a pureed pumpkin puddle with dots of tomatillo salsa. Preserved swiss chard offered a piquant note but the cubes of foie gras lobe were sufficiently rich.
For dessert we shared Branlard’s banana cream tart, a beautiful burst of vanilla curd with a gold leaf garnish. It was light and heavenly and it may have been the best thing I tasted all night.
The Wave promotes itself as technologically state of the art and to that end I did see one of those R2D2-like robots restaurants have started using to deliver plates near the kitchen, but fortunately it was not put into play during my visit – the human staff managed quite nicely.
The hotel also features an impressive amount of art from the Lewis Collection (as in Tavistock founder Joe Lewis) that fills the walls of the lobby and spills out to a 50,000-square-foot sculpture garden that includes Botero’s Leda and the Swan (tell the kids they’re just wrestling) and Arturo di Modica’s Charging Bull, which can also be seen outside the New York Stock Exchange.
The artwork alone is worth a visit to the Lake Nona Wave, but the innovative cuisine of Robin and Branlard makes it even more satisfying.