Things are looking up for area restaurants, at least in a physical sense.
There seems to be a renewed interest for top-floor dining. Recently, Hemisphere returned to the top of the Hyatt Regency Orlando International Airport. At the Four Seasons Resort at Walt Disney World Resort Capa, um, resorted to the highest space. They join California Grill at the Contemporary Resort, and sometime next year, Circo will open on the top deck of an International Drive parking garage.
And there’s the subject of today’s review, Eleven, the restaurant at the Reunion Grande whose name indicates its position at the 11-story hotel.
I first considered that these high-level dining rooms constitute a trend, but I’m not sure that’s the case. After all, in recent years we lost Arthur’s 27 at the Buena Vista Palace and Manuel’s on the 28th in downtown Orlando.
But considering those two past venues made me think of what the current ones have in common, more than a commanding view: They are all, for the most part, casual restaurants. Don’t confuse that with downscale or even inexpensive. (Especially not that.) Nor should you think of them as sub par. It’s just an indication of the current popular style of dining.
That’s what occurred to me when I was invited recently to dine at Eleven. I expected the elevator doors to open to a sumptuous decor with plush carpeting, low lighting, white linen tablecloths and — dare I hope for it? — the soft tinkle of a piano.
Instead, there was more of a golf-clubby atmosphere with wooden tabletops, tongue-in-groove plank ceiling, and a sort of one man band playing guitar to recorded background and singing songs (all cleverly selected for the age demographic in attendance).
But if I had a smidgeon of disappointment at the decor, I had none with the pleasant service and the fine food my guest and I tasted.
The chef sent out a sampler of appetizers that included Bacon-wrapped Lamb Chops and egg rolls stuffed with filet mignon. The lamb was especially satisfying and would have made a nice entrée.
And I probably should have moved directly to the main course but I couldn’t resist trying the Lobster Bisque, which featured half a lobster tail in a smoothly rich broth.
Although the word doesn’t appear in its name or description, steakhouse is an apt category in which to place Eleven. For my main course I chose the Peppercorn New York Strip, a beautifully seared piece of meat topped with sauce au poivre tinged with brandy and decorated with frizzles of fried onions.
The onions also topped my companion’s Eleven “Prime” Top Sirloin, also cooked precisely to the requested medium-rare and topped with thick rashers of applewood smoked bacon and crumbles of gorgonzola cheese.
A dessert sampler included a well-custardized Brown Butter Bread Pudding with a whiskey glaze, a sweet White Chocolate Raspberry Truffle Cheesecake, and a Peanut Butter Macadamia Chocolate Torte with a chip of macadamia brittle stuck in it.
Our server was skilled and attentive and added to the overall enjoyment of the meal.
And, of course, there was the view, which included, from the pool deck just outside the French doors of the restaurant (pool is closed during restaurant hours) the colorful bursts of the theme park fireworks in the distance.
It’s fun to see them at eye level.
Eleven is at the Reunion Grande, 7593 Gathering Road, Kissimmee. It is open for dinner daily, but that can change based on occupancy levels; best to call ahead rather than just show up. The phone number is 407-662-1170.