What is it about the space at 4979 New Broad St. in Baldwin Park that prevents its occupants from being successful? Or should the space be blamed?
First there was Lago, an Italian restaurant whose owner seemed to be repelled by by his customers. It lasted from 2009 to 2012. Manny’s Original Chophouse moved in in 2018 and out in 2019.
Now it’s home to Galeria, with a confusing mishmash of styles, uneven food preparation and service that is spotty at best.
If I were to blame the space, I’d cite its vastness – there’s a lot of volume to fill in there, so much so that one end of the restaurant is empty of furniture, as though it were a dance floor waiting for a band. And although the restaurant provides a lovely view of the lake, it can’t easily be seen from the street. Those things can effect operations.
But I think there’s more to it.
The restaurant’s banner says “Steak – Seafood – Adega,” but when I asked my server what Adega means, he came up with some sort of out-of-left-field lifestyle explanation. In fact, Adega is a Portuguese word for wine cellar.
So you might expect the menu to feature foods of Portugal – bacalhau, perhaps, or grilled sardines. But no.
Instead, the menu is, as the rest of the sign promised, mostly steaks and seafood, presented in a maddening affectation that names many of the dishes, but not all, after famous artists. And they are collected under such headings as The Canvas (small plates), The Opening (entrees, not appetizers), Aesthete (sides dishes), and Curtain Call (dessert, but what the hell does a curtain call have to do with an art gallery?). The children’s menu can be found under the heading Geisel, for some reason.
So you’ll find dishes like Claude Monet, Mabel Alvarez, Michaelangelo or Peter Paul Rubens, which is a salad and not to be confused with the Peter Paul Reubens (not on the menu but I don’t know why). On some dishes, the menu designers apparently gave up. They were able to name a chicken breast dish Gongwang, after the Chinese artist from the Song Dynasty, but apparently got tired with the eggplant steak and simply named it Eggplant Steak. (Caravaggio did some terrific still life paintings, maybe they could go with that.)
And then there’s the Sopa de Mesa, which could easily have been the Soup of the Dali if the Dali weren’t already a salad.
Speaking of that soup, it was a French onion and it was pathetic. It was a thin broth with bits of burnt onion floating in it and a glob of melted cheese at the bottom of the bowl rather than atop. It was croutonless. As I was going over the history of this restaurant space, I noted in my review of Manny’s that the onion soup I was served there was the worst I’d ever had. Manny, you’re off the hook.
Then contrast that with the Spinalis Sliders, which were delicious. Even though spinalis sounds like it could be the name of an artist, it’s actually a cut of steak also known as the ribeye cap. The meat, which had an espresso rub, was deliciously tender and served on soft rolls with caramelized onions, a spicy aioli and peppery leaves of arugula.
My dinner guest ordered the “Day Boat” mahi mahi but was served salmon. That was sent back, as was my filet to be kept warm.
The corrected fish was a good sized fillet, nicely grilled, and served with fingerling potatoes and pickled watermelon.
My steak, listed as The Center on the menu, was disappointing – perhaps it had declined during the extra wait time. But I doubt that had anything to do with the chewiness of the meat. It was served with a small portion of mashed potatoes and cloves of roasted garlic.
Following the gallery theme, the restaurant is decorated with pieces from local artists, a hodgepodge of media and styles, all, of course, for sale. Depending on your level of cynicism, you may see this as a way to promote and encourage local artists or you may see it as an inexpensive way to decorate a restaurant. A restaurant decorated in consignment art is also decorated with the for-sale cards and they even dot the doorways here.
The dining room is darkened and splashes of light are provided by light fixtures as diverse as the artwork. Tables are covered with black cloths and each table has a votive that might have provided a romantic bit of candlelight if any of them contained candles (or if someone took the time to light them). The sound system plays a pleasant soundtrack of old standards. Where was that dance floor.
I won’t belabor the unprofessionalism of the staff, but I will note that at no time during my visit could I spot someone I could identify as a manager.
A lot of thought goes into opening a restaurant. I wish Galeria had put less emphasis on naming the dishes and more on providing a better dining experience.
Galeria is at 4979 New Broad St., Orlando. It is open for lunch Tuesday through Sunday and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-543-3279.