Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining promotion begins Friday, Aug. 23, but I stopped by Big Fin Seafood Kitchen for a sneak preview.
Big Fin always offers quality seafood at price commensurate with its quality, but its MagDine menu represents a real bargain.
For the uninitiated, restaurants participating in Magical Dining (formerly known as Magical Dining Month, or MagDinMo) offer special three-course, prix fixe menus for $35, excluding tax, gratuity and beverages. One dollar from each meal sold goes to local charities. (As of publication or this article, this year’s charities had not yet been announced.)
Some restaurants, shall we say, cheat a bit. They sign up to participate – restaurants pay a fee to Visit Orlando to be a part of the promotion – but instead of offering dishes that are representative of their regular menus, they feature items that aren’t even on their menus, presumably dishes with lower food costs so they don’t lose money on the $35 charge. Or $34, since the restaurants have to send in the dollar-per-sale collections. Others might present regular menu items but in smaller portions.
But smart restaurants see MagDine, rightly so, as an opportunity to show potential new customers what they can do by presenting some of their popular dishes and not dumbing down the menu. And in so doing, perhaps woo the Magical Diners to return as regulars.
That’s how Big Fin’s executive chef, James Slattery, sees it. All of the items on his Magical Dining menu are straight off the regular menu, and the portions are all the regular size, which is to say generous.
And in the real spirit of Magical Dining, the prix fixe menu here represents a real bargain. Choose wisely – here’s a hint: raw oysters, crab crusted corvina and bread pudding – and you will pay $35 for a dinner that, if ordered a la carte, would cost $54.
I sampled the Smoked Fish Dip appetizer but also snuck some of my dining companion’s raw oysters and liked both.
I went for the corvina, a signature dish, because I’m no fool. The white-fleshed fish was firm and flaky and topped with a big stack of blue crab meat. It was served with mashed potatoes, slightly tinged with garlic, and slender spears of grilled asparagus.
The “Apple Pie” Bread Pudding was topped with braised cinnamon apples with a salted caramel sauce, accompanied by a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
It was all certainly worth the regular price but will taste even better at $35.
Reservations are recommended – Magical Dining days have become so popular that restaurants fill up fast.
Big Fin Seafood Kitchen is in the Dellagio Town Centre, 8046 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando. It is open for dinner daily. The phone number is 407-392-9627.