There was a time when the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress was a dining destination for special occasions. La Coquina was one of the top fine dining restaurants in the area with an incomparable Sunday brunch. Hemingway’s had a casual elegance that made guests feel as though they were dining in an elite Key West house.
La Coquina regularly took a summer hiatus, but in the fall of 2012 it simply did not reopen, a casualty of changing dining preferences; the gorgeous space now used for special events. Hemingway’s closed at the beginning of the pandemic shortly after it underwent a remodel. But it didn’t reopen either, though it wasn’t missed much – its panache had paled in its last years.
Now the hotel has opened a new restaurant in the Hemingway’s space called Four Flamingos. And the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress may once again see locals booking tables.
The official full name of the restaurant is Four Flamingos: A Richard Blais Florida Kitchen. (Four because there are four species of flamingos native to the Americas.) The Blais name will only mean something to you if you watch cooking competition programs (I don’t). Blais was the first winner of Bravo’s Top Chef All-Stars and is a co-star, with Gordon Ramsay, on the new Next Level Chef.
Of course, you shouldn’t expect to find Blais in his Florida Kitchen restaurant, at least not regularly; you know, all that television taping and all. But he has put together a rather nice menu and has as his chef de cuisine Shelby Farrell, who moved to the Four Flamingos kitchen from Hemisphere at the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport. (I’ll have an update on Hemisphere and Ferrell’s replacement there on Thursday.)
As you would expect, or hope, for a Florida restaurant, the menu is seafood centric, though many of the dishes have Asian or Latin American roots.
Such as the coconut shrimp toast appetizer, a take on the Chinese classic. The thick slice of bread, smeared with a pulpy shrimp paste and fried, was appropriately crispy, sprinkled with little Os of chopped green onions and accompanied by a spicy chili sauce.
The scallop ceviche was a lovely array of thinly sliced scallops overlapped and layered on top and bottom with diced papaya and coconut in between and sprinkled with flower petals. Tender, cool and refreshing.
Two of my dining companions chose the whole red snapper, an impressive presentation of a fish in motion, its skin rubbed with turmeric and crisply fried. The white flesh beneath came off in fine flakes that were enhanced with the piquant chimichurri sauce. It was accompanied by a dish of papaya salad and coconut flavored grits cooked in a banana leaf.
The whole fish is promoted as being for two people, but the swordfish “prime rib” was a double serving, too. It was a bone-in “Neptune’s cut,” a thick steak basted with brown butter. The outside was nearly black and quite crispy; the meat inside was tender and juicy. It was not the prettiest hunk of fish, despite the sprinkling or yellow flowers, but I challenge you to find a more delicious swordfish dish.
Service was attentive and moved apace. The decor of the restaurant, which is in a separate building from the high-rise hotel, is brighter, thanks in no small part to the open kitchen, and more casual than I remember it from its Hemingway’s days.
And that’s fine. Don’t think of Four Flamingos as a replacement but as a fine restaurant in its own right.
Four Flamings: A Richard Blais Florida Kitchen is at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, 1 Grand Cypress Blvd., Orlando (map). It is open for dinner daily. The phone number is 407-239-1234. Note: valet parking is complimentary for customers of the restaurant.