For the first time since it opened in late 2009, Big Fin Seafood Kitchen has a new chef.
His name is Eric Enrique – we share the burden of having two first names – and he moved to Big Fin from Eddie V’s, just down the the Restaurant Row road. I’ve always considered seafood to be Eddie V’s forte, so I was anxious to see what Enrique would bring to Big Fin.
For one thing he brought his sea bass, one of the highlights, for me at least, of EV’s menu. The sea bass now on the menu at Big Fin is not an exact replication but it has similar notes, including the pitch-perfect timbre of umami from the broth the fish is served in. Here Enrique uses a shiitake dashi, a broth made by reconstituting dried mushrooms. The sea bass was steamed, which left the flesh beautifully white and moist, and was served on some bok choy to elevate it just above the dashi.
My companion had the grouper piccata, another new dish for the menu. The sturdy fillet had wonderful bits of crisped crust and was doused with a rich and lemony butter sauce. The highlight of the dish was the capers, a staple of a piccata preparation, but here they were flash-fried, making them crispy and ethereal. Served on stalks of fresh asparagus, the grouper was a definite winner.
It was a treat to dine on Big Fin’s covered patio, high above Sand Lake Road. And after a year of avoiding anything breaded and fried – foods that aren’t suitable for takeout – it was nice to be able to order an appetizer of calamari. Fried Point Judith calamari to be precise. The breading was light and deftly fried so as to be grease free. The little rings and squidlets were perfectly fine all by themselves, with a bit of saltiness in the jackets, but it was fun alternating between the sweet Thai chili dipping sauce and the marinara.
Big Fin also got (relatively) new owners, Philippe Villain and Kevin O’Donnell, who bought the restaurant in January of 2020, just a couple of months before the proverbial fan was hit with a load of shiitake. And during the past year the two also opened Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe. Villain and O’Donnell also hired a general manager for Big Fin – it’s first ever. Michael Venutolo now oversees the staff.
You may recall that the original owner of Big Fin was Bobby Moore and that it was to have been a second location for a seafood restaurant he owned in Winter Park Village called Beluga. Beluga had a financial issue that might have transferred to a second location, so Moore decided to call the restaurant Big Fin Seafood Kitchen.
While the menu has changed – it’s of course still seafood forward but has lost its previous takes on New Orleans dishes – the decor has remained the same. It’s a vast dining room with high ceilings and booths that were distanced before distancing was cool.
Big Fin Seafood Kitchen is in the Dellagio Plaza, 8046 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando. It is open for dinner daily. The phone number is 407-615-8888.