One of the best things about Visit Orlando's Magical Dining Month -- at least it was when it was first instituted -- is that it allows you to experience a restaurant that perhaps might be beyond your financial comfort zone. At some of the featured restaurants, you couldn't even afford an appetizer from the regular menu let alone a full three-course meal.
Magical Dining Month made those restaurants -- Ruth's Chris, Eddie V's and Morton's among them -- approachable. The smart restaurants knew that it was an opportunity to woo new customers, even if it was just for special occasion dining, by showcasing the best of their regular menus on the specially priced three-course Magical menu
Then some restaurants started changing what they would offer. In many cases today, the MagDinMo menu doesn't feature any items from the regular menu. What's the point of that? Others make subtle changes, such as offering smaller portions of changing the ingredients used in a dish.
When I put together my "How to Do Magical Dining Month" video last year, which emphasizes comparing the MagDinMo menu to the restaurant's regular menu, found on most of their websites, I dinged deep blu seafood grille for changing the makeup of its Bouillabaisse (the regular menu had lobster, the Magical menu did not). I had previously dinged it for its inability to use capital letters and misspellings.
So I made a point of checking deep blu's Magical menu this year, and boy howdy, is it a bargain. At least on paper -- the three entrees on the MagDinMo menu range from $35 to $42. And since the three course special menu is $35, there's no need to pull out a calculator.
So I headed down to the Wyndham Grand Orlando Bonnet Creek to give it a try. All of the food my guest and I had was first rate, high quality, and expertly prepared. What's more, nothing about the experience was "dumbed down," nor were we slighted by any of the staff because we were ordering from the Magical Dining Menu (which we did have to request specifically). In fact, the manager and the chef, Wade McLamb, made a point of coming by the table to see how our meals were.
It started with bread service, which included three distinct rolls served with olive oil infused with red pepper flakes and ground black pepper.
For my first course I chose the Drunken Mussels, a big bowl of Prince Edward Island mollusks and hefty hunks of pork belly steamed in American pale ale. There was a slice of toasted baguette, buttered and topped with parmesan cheese, for dipping into the liquor, but I would have liked to have had a spoon so slurp some of it up directly.
My companion had a spoon, served with the New England Clam Chowder, a just-thick-enough stew with hunks of chopped clams and bits of bacon, all with a delicate spicy note. Good chowder.
For my entree, I had the Scottish Salmon, a thick fillet grilled enough to put hash marks on the top but not so much as to dry out the moist flesh. It was served atop a plotz of quinoa and accompanied by three black-eyed pea fritters, which were actually falafels made with peas other than chick, in a cucumber mint creme fraiche.
My friend chose the Beef Short Rib, a new addition to the menu. Braised in Guinness (not cooked sous vide, as we suspected), the meat was fall-apart tender and quite delicious. It was accompanied by a savory bread pudding muffin filled with bits of bacon, and a stack of sauteed Brussels sprouts, which could have benefitted from a good sprinkle of salt.
We had one each of the two desserts offered on the menu. The Southern Bread Pudding (is there a Northern version? Western?) was just right, a creamy custard with meaty slices of banana in a jar topped with whipped cream, caramel and crushed meringue. We both preferred it to the Flourless Chocolate Torte, which seemed to be missing something. I mean besides flour.
Service from our lead waiter was excellent, though the food runners could make a little effort not to auction off food to the guests. (It's really simple trick; I'd be happy to share it with management.)
The dining room of deep blu wants to be elegant but it can't quite escape that hotel-restaurant feel.
My first experience with deep blu seafood grille, in 2011 when it first opened, resulted in a shoulder shrug. I didn't see much reason to recommend it.
I do now. I was thoroughly impressed with the food and the general operation, and I'm now pleased to recommend it -- especially during the month of September!
deep blu seafood grille is at the Wyndham Grand Orlando Bonnet Creek, 14651 Chelonia Parkway, Orlando. It is open for dinner daily. The phone number is 407-390-2420.