Things have changed at Big Fin Seafood Kitchen. Then again, not so much.
What has changed is that Bobby Moore, the original owner of the restaurant in Dellagio Town Center, has retired and turned over ownership to a group that includes James Slattery, who has been the executive chef since Big Fin opened in late 2009. And because Slattery remains in the role of chef, what hasn't changed is the quality of the food. It's still first rate with some of the best seafood in Central Florida.
Because it had been a few years since I last visited Big Fin, I visited recently for dinner. My guest and I started with the Lobster Mac-n-Cheese, a diet-buster appetizer of cavatappi, which is macaroni-like but with some squiggles and ridges thrown in. They were lushly enveloped in a velvety sauce fashioned out of five cheeses with large chunks of lobster and bits of lardons. (I love a dish called mac and cheese with a special note next to the menu entry that reads "contains pork.") Don't ask me what the five cheese were -- even after basically shoving my face in the dish I couldn't tell you.
My companion ordered the Scallop Orleans, which featured pillow-sized scallops, blackened, a placed atop a ploof of parmesan grits with bits of crawfish in them. There was some spinach and some mushrooms, little dollops of Cajun cream sauce and a grating of parmesan cheese. It was all wonderful.
I had the Sesame Seared Ahi Tuna, a beautifully presented dish that had the sushi grade fish on top of pearl pasta, green from the wakame seaweed, with spicy fried lotus root (really spicy) and a purple orchid garnish. A ginger butter sauce pooled around the plate with decorative drizzles of soy. The black sesame seeds on the tuna added flavor and texture.
Slattery also offered us a taste of the Maine Lobster Paella (minus the lobster because, you know, lobster). The saffron infused rice had peas, tomatoes and bits of spicy chorizo, as well as clams, mussels, shrimp and squid. Can't imagine all that richness and a lobster, too.
If anything has changed in the decor, I couldn't spot it. The main dining room still has a double height ceiling and a massive revolving globe overhead that declares the specialty of fresh seafood in red neon. Tables are covered with white cloth topped by white butcher paper, so be as messy as you want.
By the way, Big Fin was originally meant to be a second location of Moore's other restaurant, Beluga, which was in the Winter Park Village in the space that Mitchell's Fish Market recently vacated. Raise your hand if you'd forgotten about Beluga. (Let the record show that I am currently typing with one hand.)
For his part, Slattery had previously been at Circa, the also forgettable Park Avenue restaurant where Boca now lives, as well as A Land Remembered and Emeril's Orlando. It was at the latter that Slattery began his culinary career, under the direction of Bernard Carmouche (now of Muddy Waters). Previously in the chemistry field, Slattery applied for a kitchen job when Emeril's announced it would open at CityWalk. He worked his way up from entry level kitchen help to sous chef in just a few years, then became executive sous chef when Emeril's Tchoup Chop opened.
Anyone with that tenacity to learn and grow has to love what he does. It's clear that Slattery loves cooking, and he has shown that he has an especial affinity for seafood.
Big Fin Seafood Kitchen is at 8046 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando. It is open for dinner daily. The phone number is 407-615-8888.