Veal Milanese is one of my favorite dishes, and I’ve had it many, many times. But I think this is the first time I’ve had one that was deep fried.
This was at Ravello, one of the restaurants at the Four Seasons. I had reviewed the hotel’s Capa, on the top floor, and had a delightful wine dinner featuring Markham Vineyards at Plancha, in the golf course’s clubhouse. But I hadn’t experienced Ravello, which serves breakfast and dinner. Its participation in Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month seemed like a good excuse to give it a try.
Overall, it wasn’t a very pleasant experience, and not just because of the oddly prepared Milanese. The space is cavernous and impersonal, the decor cold and austere. The only warmth in the ambience is from the fire in the pizza oven of the open kitchen.
The deep fryer is in full view, too, which is how I learned about the veal preparation. Perhaps the full immersion is why the breading was hard crusted and a darker brown than the desired golden hue. And while it’s customary to be served with a bit of arugula on top, Ravello’s had a full salad —complete with croutons! — weighing it down. I wasn’t sure if it was meant to be an entree or a first course.
Sadly, the Pan Seared Salmon wasn’t much better. Although it had a beautifully crisped exterior, it was unfortunately dry. It was pleasantly plated and accompanied by a mix of string beans, chopped pancetta and little pearls of fregola pasta.
My guest and I fared much better with the appetizers. I liked the Carpaccio quite a bit. The cool slices of the raw meat were served creatively with cured mushrooms and sticks of radish pickles plus a bit of watercress. A very nice presentation.
My friend had the Grilled Calamari, which our server, to his credit, was quick to point out was actually a salad. It included arugula and a vinaigrette dressing with capers and a slice of orange. It’s nice to see a chef (Fabrizio Schenardi is the executive chef) present calamari as something other than breaded and deep fried, although heaven knows there’s a deep fryer back there. And I enjoyed it, but I liked the carpaccio better.
Dessert included a grape dotted sweetened focaccia topped with Nutella gelato, and a granita presented like a neapolitan ice cream with layers of watermelon, peach and lemon. Creative, and with a topping of assorted berries, light and refreshing.
Now, as most veterans of Magical Dining Month know, one often has to request the special menu. The $33 prix fixe usually represents a savings from ordering a la carte — it certainly does here, seeing as the Milanese is $35 — so many restaurants would rather guests choose the full priced options.
Ravello does something different: It offers the Magical Dining Month menu upon seating but doesn’t tell you what it is. There is nothing printed on the insert that says Magical Dining, nor is the $33 fee indicated. What it does have are extra courses and options that are available for an additional fee. I actually think that’s a very smart thing to do, although I would use a different word than the negatively connotative “upcharge.” Premium is better, but that’s just me.
The Ravello dining room is found one floor below the Ravello bar and lounge. Apparently they expect most guests to take the elevator down — the host stand, such as it is, is situated closer to that entrance. When I reached the bottom of the stairs I had no clue where to report.
I was glad to see Four Seasons participate in Magical Dining Month. It shows they would like to develop a local clientele. I just wish there were more reasons to return.
Ravello is at the Four Seasons Resort, 10100 Dream Tree Blvd., Lake Buena Vista. It is open for breakfast , lunch and dinner daily. The phone number is 407-313-7777.