As the burgeoning medical city in the area known as Lake Nona continues to, um, burgeon, the ancillary businesses that will serve the community of doctors, researchers, students and educators are growing too.
That of course means restaurants, and among the inevitable Outbacks and fast fooders are a handful of hopeful independent restaurants. It’s nice to see them take an enterprising role in this frontier. But I hope more of them put more effort into their business than Durian Durian.
When I arrived at the strip mall location of Durian-squared, a young woman who greeted me at the door assumed I would be getting takeout. But when I said I would be dining in, she showed me to a table next to where a young man was sweeping the floor. Although he tried to sweep slowly, the late afternoon sun streaming in the west facing window showed all manner of dust wafting through the air around my table.
The young woman also turned out to be my server. Although she did not appear to be Thai, she was dressed in a traditional Thai style wrap dress. This she had chosen to pair with a heavy hooded sweatshirt with Italia on the front. (The young man, another server dealing with the only other occupied table in the restaurant, was dressed in black slacks and black shirt with flip flops on his feet. This is where a sign requesting proper footwear would come in handy.)
I made my dinner selections, a bowl of tom yum gai ($3.95) and massaman curry with beef ($9.95).
The soup was delivered almost immediately -- what else did the kitchen have to do? And as I started to sip the hot broth, the two young servers set about readying the dining room for the next day’s luncheon service. This involved removing the black napkins from the barewood tabletops and replacing them with white paper napkins. Mind you it was only 7:45. And even with only two occupied tables, the restaurant was still open for dinner business. Such activity is a terrific way of telling your guests you wish they’d hurry up and leave.
The soup was hot both in temperature and spice. It had a small chili-like oil slick on top and plenty of chicken and mushrooms beneath the surface. There might have been a bit more cilantro and other herbs to balance the flavor, but it wasn’t a bad soup.
The massaman, which I ordered hot (Thai hot is the uppermost choice of scorch), featured a coconut milk base with chunks of potatoes, crinkle-sliced carrots and onions in a Muslim curry paste. Again, there was plenty of heat, but there was little depth to the flavor. The Muslim curry should have been multilayered, but instead was one-dimensional.
The couple at the other table got up to leave, and although the young man was standing in the middle of the dining room, he said nothing to them to encourage them to return. And when I, too, got up to leave, the young woman in the Italia sweatshirt said nothing.
I’d love for Lake Nona to have dozens of successful independent restaurants. But service like this, paired with food that is only OK, does not bode well.
Durian Durian is at 10743 Narcoossee Road, Orlando. It’s open for lunch Monday through Saturday and dinner nightly.The Web site is duriandurian.com. The phone number is 407-282-2992.