Seemingly out of nowhere, a big new JW Marriott has appeared and along with it a pretty darned good restaurant, Sear + Sea Woodfire Grill.
The hotel is a new neighbor of other large hotels like the Waldorf Astoria, Hilton and Wyndham in the area known as Bonnet Creek. In fact, if you sit on the restaurant’s comfortably spacious veranda, as I did on my recent visit, you’ll have a view of the actual creek and its woody banks just below.
As you might deduce from the clever name, Sear + Sea is a steak and seafood restaurant, which might sound a bit ho-hum at first. But the menu, under the direction of chef de cuisine Alex Pyser, is creative and appealing.
Just consider the hand-cut steak tartare, which itself sounds a bit old-schoolish. But Pyser’s puck of tender meat is blended with a creamy mustard and topped with smoked tomatoes and shaved bits of salt-cured egg yolks. And even better, instead of toast points the tartare is accompanied by crispy beef chicharrones. Beef on beef.
Another appetizer, the baby artichokes, featured the tender buds draped with Iberico ham a sitting atop a barigoule vinaigrette. (Barigoule is a classic Provencal preparation of artichokes rarely seen in this country.) The grilled artichokes were sprinkled with gremolata, which offered a nice counterpoint to the rich flavor of the thistle.
The smoked Maine scallops were about as tender and toothsome as you’ll find, served with pickled carrots and a minty pea puree that reminded me of Britain’s ubiquitous mushy peas.
For my entree, I chose the 16-ounce Providence Cattle ribeye, a beautifully grilled steak with a sear to do the restaurant’s name proud. The inside was a perfect red medium rare, and the meat was accompanied by a blistered pepper and a grilled shallot.
My companion chose the olive oil-poached halibut, a fist-sized piece of fish as white as fresh burrata and with a texture almost as creamy. The halibut was balanced atop a mound of ancient grains (they didn’t taste all that old) and was topped with bright red tomatoes.
For a side dish, we sampled the mac & cheese, made extra creamy with pimento cheese and extra delicious with large hunks of chewy bits of bacon.
Our skilled server and his fellow staff members never approached our table without gloves and a mask, and we were careful to cover our faces when they were there, too.
Although I chose to sit outside, I did pass through the dining room, which has a modern, monochromatic decor and a view of the open kitchen. There is a large bar outside the entrance where, I’m sure if you asked one of the accommodating managers, dinner could be served under the more voluminous ceiling.
By the way, Sear + Sea is participating in Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining, which has been extended through October. It’s three-course menu (which included the baby artichoke I had) is a great deal at $35 and would be a wonderful way to introduce yourself to this fine new restaurant. (The $62 8-ounce filet mignon is on the menu, too – you do the math.)
Sear + Sea Woodfire Grill is at the JW Marriott Bonnet Creek, 14900 Chelonia Parkway, Orlando. It is open for dinner daily. The website does not seem to have a menu, but there's a photo of mine (paper, single use) below. The phone number is 407-919-6300.