Breathe a sigh of relief.
If you were concerned, as I was, that the recent rebranding of the Venetian Room to the Venetian Chop House would mean that Orlando was losing yet another fine dining venue you can relax.
The signature restaurant at the Caribe Royale is still an elegant dining room, the service is still first rate, and, perhaps most importantly, the food is as high quality and well prepared as ever.
In fact, except for some tweaks to the menu, now under the direction of chef de cuisine Luis Taborda, working with the Caribe’s executive chef, Vincent Posada, and a more forward focus on steaks and chops and their accoutrements, you’d be hard pressed to find any substantive changes.
My guest and I were invited to experience the “new” concept recently. After nibbling on items in the bread basket, served with an array of infused butters, we began with appetizers of Lump Crab Cake and Gnocchi Stroganoff.
Both were exceptional. The crab cake was thick and full of sweet meat. It had a lovely crisped crust from the pan fry and sat in a creamy mustard and Pommery Champagne sauce. The Savoy cabbage slaw with black sesame seeds added a slight Asian note.
The gnocchi starter was more like an entree. The doughy little dumplings, fashioned out of potatoes and sun-dried tomatoes, were tossed with a creamy sauce of Cognac and pearl onions with a bit of truffle shavings. On top were slices of filet of beef, crusted with Gorgonzola and cooked to the requested medium rare. I could have happily filled up on this alone.
But entrees called. My guest chose the Veal Chop (it’s called a chop house, after all). It was a beautifully tender chop topped with buttery hollandaise and accompanied by a bright green stack of watercress and a purple orchid.
I couldn’t decide which item I wanted so I asked the server to let the chef decide. He sent out the Bison Short Ribs, the tender but impressively large hunks of meat resting atop the bones they’d fallen off of. Onion jam, infused with the natural juices from the meat, topped the ribs. We also ordered the Potatoes Lyonnaise, an ample serving of potatoes sauteed with onions that would have benefited from a dollop of butter.
We sampled an array of desserts from new pastry chef Jose Detres, recently of Norman’s at the Ritz. A highlight was the passionfruit souffle, an impossibly light and creamy confection with a burst of fruity flavors.
The staff were as polished and professional as ever, an absolute delight.
As far as I can detect, the waiters removing the tuxedo jackets they used to wear to serve now in shirt sleeves is one of the few concessions changing the style to be more chop houselike. Even for those who aren’t drawn to a steakhouse concept will find other items, including Dover Sole, Lobster Tail, Norwegian Salmon and Chilean Sea Bass, among others.
And rest assured it will all be prepared expertly, served with deftness, and enjoyed in what is still one of Orlando’s finest dining rooms.
Venetian Chop House is at the Caribe Royale, 8101 World Center Drive, Orlando. It is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. The phone number is 407-238-8060.