Sushi Pop Winter Park

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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This isn’t my first time visiting Sushi Pop in Winter Park, an off-Park offshoot of the original Oviedo restaurant that opened in 2019. For myriad reasons – please check events from the past two years – that review was never published. But I remember thinking at the time that the Winter Park restaurant was a mere shadow of its Oviedo self, both in terms of the quality of the food and the overall experience.

I still feel that way.

When it opened, in 2011, Sushi Pop really did pop. It was fun, not only for the diners who were enjoying having good quality sushi in a part of town that was still inundated with bland American chain restaurants, but also for the staff, who seemed to delight in wearing costumes and sporting wildly colored hair, all while still offering good service.

There is none of that at the Winter Park SP, and maybe it’s no longer the case in Oviedo, either, but I missed it.

Fish On Fire

Written by Scott Joseph on .

 

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Fish On Fire has been operating on the lonely corner of Daetwyler Drive and McCoy Road since 2004, though not consistently, and not just because of pandemically forced shutdowns.

In April of 2010, a fire all but destroyed the structure, proving that the gods have a taste for irony. But owners Jay Herrington and John Mitchell rebuilt the restaurant, which sits in front of a motel across from the elevated Beachline Highway, and reopened it in 2011.

Except for the lack of a nearby body of water – Lake Conway Chain of Lakes is about a tenth of a mile away but that doesn’t count – FOF has all the trappings of a classic fish camp, especially in its overt rusticity. I did notice on my recent trip that the floors that were once bare concrete are now tiled, and galvanized buckets have been fashioned into overhead light fixtures, a bit of whimsy that might be considered too precious for an actual fish camp.

Lale

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I don’t know why but whenever I consider places to dine on Park Avenue I usually begin my mental restaurant roll call at Lyman Avenue and head north from there. But of course that means I miss some others worth recommending that are on the lower end of the street, such as Cafe de France, which is one of the oldest restaurants on the avenue, Umi Japanese and Grato, a newcomer Italian.

Now add an even newercomer to the list, Lale a Mediterranean/Turkish restaurant that has moved into the compact space next to Umi (they’re so close to each other that it’s difficult to distinguish which sidewalk tables belong to which restaurant).

Amare

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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The Walt Disney World Swan and Dolphin opened its new companion hotel, the Swan Reserve, in November. It’s distinguished from the two larger resorts – it sits separated across Epcot Resort Boulevard – with a more modern glass-and-steel design and the absence of frighteningly large creatures on its roof.

With the new hotel comes another signature restaurant, Amare, to join the likes Todd English’s bluezoo, Kimonos and Shula’s Steak House.

Amare is a Mediterranean restaurant whose name means to love. (It’s the verb form of the word as opposed to the noun. That’s amore.) However, the succinct menu has more of a Greek accent. The restaurant is described on the hotel’s website as casual upscale. I can agree with that. The decor is tastefully casual – it’s a breakfast, lunch and dinner venue – with bare blond wood tables set with blue and white chargers with a spirographic motif, cloth napkins, basket light fixtures, wood flooring and an open kitchen. Large windows from the second floor restaurant look out toward the other hotels.

Clean Eatz

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Cleaneatz counter

Clean Eatz is the rather clinical sounding name for a new “health restaurant” franchise in SoDo. I almost expected to see a blueberry enema on the menu board behind the ordering counter.

That is if I had been able to read the menu board behind the ordering counter. Teeny tiny print. Maybe they’re just trying to sell more carrots.

Despite its healthful theme, Clean Eatz is not a meat-free restaurant. There’s even a burger category on the menu (which I was finally able to read on one of the paper brochures at the ordering station). There are also wraps, flatbreads, salads, of course, and a build-a-bowl, thankfully the only assemblage option.

Maracaibo Mia

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If you’ve been out to eat recently, you know that cost for restaurant food, much like anything else with a price tag, is skyrocketing. Twenty dollars for a chicken kebab, $28 for a chicken breast. Don’t even ask about the wings.

So even more now than in other times, people want to get a sufficient bang for their buck. Or eight and a half bucks with inflation.

So places like Maracaibo Mia, a Venezuelan restaurant in the Gateway District, offer a good value – a box full of food, more than enough to fill you up, maybe enough for two meals, for about half what a kebab would cost. You just have to adjust your mindset to know that the quality is likely to be commensurate with the cost. Here we're talking about a meat with rice and beans and two sides for under 10 bucks.

Kosher Grill

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Anyone who strives to maintain a kosher diet can tell you the options for dining out are close to bupkis. But not totally. Kosher Grill is among the few glatt kosher restaurants in the area, and its International Drive location allows it to serve visitors as well as locals.

In simplest terms, the word kosher is derived from a Hebrew word that means to be pure, proper, or suitable for consumption. In that respect, we should all eat kosher.

HuNan Taste

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I first heard about century eggs from my father after he returned from one of his trips to Southeast Asia in the nineteen-sixties. They’re also known as hundred-year-old eggs, thousand-year-old eggs, pidan, millennium eggs, black eggs and, as they’re more simply known at HuNan Taste in West Orlando, preserved eggs. Some have even referred to them as one of the world’s most disgusting foods.

I don’t think I’d go that far but the mere thought of them might be enough to turn some people away. And if the thought doesn’t do it then the appearance might.

Bacán

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Bacan dining room

Orlando has a new luxury hotel, the Lake Nona Wave, and with it an upscale restaurant, Bacán.

That’s pronounced bah-KAHN and is a Spanish word meaning cool or awesome. I might add suave and sophisticated, too, because dining here is a fashionable experience with a modern menu of Latin American-inspired dishes served in a stylishly appointed atmosphere.

My companion and I sat in a booth with buttery leather seats beneath a large, colorful wall mural with a full view of the open kitchen, the rows of banquettes that run down the middle of the room and the cluster of gold-mesh hexagonal light fixtures overhead.

Thai Farm Kitchen

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The About page on Thai Farm Kitchen Orlando’s Facebook page describes the new College Park restaurant as having, “Award winning authentic Thai food from Thailand and the New York Times.” Sort of conjures up images of someone from the paper’s Food staff cooking up a batch of laab khai jiaw in the test kitchen to send out to Brooklyn.

Brooklyn is where the original Thai Farm Kitchen is, and the Times mention is apparently a reference to a review by Ligaya Mishan in 2019 in the paper’s Hungry City column. Mishan, who now writes for the Eats column in the New York Times Magazine, named the Kensington neighborhood restaurant an NYT Critic’s Pick. 

Perhaps New York doesn’t have as many fine Thai restaurants as we do here in Central Florida. Ot maybe it’s the same old story of out-of-state restaurants moving to Orlando and figuring they don’t have to try too hard to impress. I could be wrong, but consider this: The back page of the College Park menu has a four-step process on “How to enjoy phad Thai correctly”; I could find no such instructions in any of the dozens of online photos of the Brooklyn menu. Because, you know, New Yorkers are born with the necessary knowledge to eat any kind of food.