Using the excuse of Orlando Magical Dining Month, I went back to Nine18 the other evening. What’s that? You don’t know Nine18? That’s not so surprising. It flies pretty much under the radar. Actually, for many, it’s off the radar screen completely.
Nine18 is the space that for many years was the Black Swan at the Villas of Grand Cypress, about a mile up the road from the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, in the golf resort’s clubhouse. Recognizing that things were trending away from fine dining, at least in terms of elegance, the Hyatt closed the Black Swan and rebranded it about three years ago. The name, you can probably guess, is a golf reference, but there is no links kitsch. The decor is still upscale, With tablecloths and napkins and good flatware and wine glasses. And the food is more even than it was when I first reviewed it in January of 2008.
I chose the onion soup I had enjoyed so much back then as my starter course. Chef Alan Gould takes an immense onion and hollows it out to become the vessel for a beefy onion broth topped with thick cheese. It’s still a winning starter. My guest chose the Caesar salad, which, though not a classic version -- no mango in the original, nor were there any yucca croutons -- was a very nice salad. (Why call it a Caesar when it’s not even close?)
For my entree I selected the fire-grilled petit fillet, a nicely grilled steak with an intensely flavored wild mushroom demiglace. It was served with delicious potatoes au gratin (gratined with blue cheese) and delicate haricot vert.
My friend had the parmesan crusted chicken, a plump airline breast with a crisped cheese jacket accompanied by angel hair pasta and vegetables. Fairly mundane, but nicely executed.
For dessert, my creme brulee sampler outdid the Jamaican flan. Although it included raspberry and pistachio iterations, it was the vanilla bean brulee that was the winner. The flan, I thought, was too bland.
Service had improved over my last visit, and I appreciate that by-the-glass selections are now on the printed wine list (previously, the server had to run off to the bar to find out what was available).
Nine18 might be a tough sell for a lot of locals. Its remote location could keep some from trying it. But the setting, overlooking a lake and the pristine golf course beyond, is lovely, especially at sunset. And with the the Magical Dining Month menu, it’s worth a trip.
Nine18 is at the Villas of Grand Cypress, 1 N. Jacaronda, Orlando. It’s open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday. Here’s a link to the restaurant’s Web page, and this one will take you to the Orlando Magical Dining link. The phone number for reservations is 407-239-1999.