When Nova opened almost a year ago in a redesigned space on North Orange Avenue at Virginia Drive, the crossroads that give it its name, I found the decor delightfully adult and sophisticated but the food was disappointing. I also said at the time that I wasn’t ready to give up on Nova because we need more restaurants like this in the downtown sector.
I’m glad I didn’t give up because I returned to Nova recently and found that the menu — a different one from the opening — is now more appropriately varied and with more interesting offerings. Even better: it’s being cooked properly.
I’m pleased now to recommend Nova.
I stopped in recently on a whim when my first choice for dinner wasn’t available. Although I’ve had warmer greetings at the host stand, my guest and I were shown to a lovely table near the front patio doors. A perfect position to observe the dining room and the covered patio across from Lake Ivanhoe.
Our server more than made up for the less-welcoming host. He confirmed that the menu had been redone since the restaurant opened, and as we looked it over we found ourselves torn among the myriad attractive choices.
We decided on a starter of the Southern Rockefeller, which reimagined the classic dish. The Hog Island oysters had braised chard instead of spinach and added andouille sausage to give it a drawl. It was finished with a hollandaise tinted with chilies and also seemed to have a dash of Pernod in the traditional Rockefeller style. It was just the sort of dish I’d like to see on a menu like this, and except for a few bits of shell in the first oyster I ate, it was nicely executed. (The other four oysters were fine.) (But why one less than half a dozen?)
For my entree I selected the Scallops and Pork Belly, an unlikely pairing that featured deftly seared George’s Bank sea scallops and a pork belly, well-crisped following a braise. The belly sat atop more of the braised chard while the scallops were on ploofs of caper tinged aioli. Not sure why there were cucumber roulades filled with a creamy cheese but there they were.
My companion had the Duck Two Ways. One way was listed as a duck confit “pot pie,” the pot pie in quotes because it wasn’t. Instead, it was more like a crispy spring roll, the juicy meat inside a flaky crust. There was also a pan-roasted breast, broccoli rabe and something called vicious duck jus. (I didn’t ask for clarification.) It was all delicious.
I remain just as attracted to the ambience as I was before. The white-washed brick, high white banquettes and moody lighting make it comfortable and approachable. I still wish it had a larger bar area.
But I’ll take what I can get. Last year I hoped it would improve the food to match the atmosphere. It’s finally there.
Nova is at 1409 N. Orange Ave., Orlando. It is open for lunch Monday through Friday, brunch Saturday and Sunday and dinner daily (though none of that information is on its website or Facebook page.) The phone number is 407-745-4080