Financier Bistro & Bar

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Financier interior

Is it Financier or Financier? That is, should we pronounce the name of Financier Bistro & Bar in Winter Park fih-nan-see-AY or fih-nan-SEER? The former is the French word for a classic almond cake that is shaped sort of like a gold bar. The latter is, um, a French word with an American pronunciation that means someone who manages money (and may be of various shapes).

Actually, it can be either or both, according to the restaurant’s website. The name was chosen as a double entendre (doo-bluh ahn-TAHN-druh) for a patisserie that opened in 2002 in Manhattan’s Financial District (usual pronunciation) and is now permanently closed.

I took refuge at the Park Avenue cafe, which was previously home to Rustic Table, Park Station and, coincidentally, a place called Frenchy’s, on a recent evening when my original destination proved too crowded. I took a small table on the sidewalk and felt like I was once again sitting at a cafe in Paris. The host even seemed insulted when I tried to order a glass of wine from him instead of waiting for my actual server, so it felt even more authentic.

Hemisphere

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Hemisphere22 overhead

It seems inconceivable that Hemisphere, the restaurant at the top of the Hyatt Regency hotel in the main terminal of Orlando International Airport, is nearly 30 years old. My first review ran in the Orlando Sentinel’s Florida magazine in November of 1992 shortly after it opened.

Three decades later, I still remember the impression of stepping off the elevator on the 10th floor and taking in the expansive view from the two-story high windows as I descended a curving stairway to the dining room below. It was quite grand.

It still is, though there have been changes over the years, most notably in 2016 when the space underwent a three million dollar renovation. But even before that the restaurant had gone through evolutions. For one thing, the elevator stop had changed from the 10th floor to the ninth, eliminating the Scarlett O’Hara at Tara entrance. (Then, as now, accessing the restaurant does not require stepping foot inside the airport’s terminal; more on that in a moment.)

Four Flamingos: A Richard Blais Florida Kitchen

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fourflamingos sign

There was a time when the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress was a dining destination for special occasions. La Coquina was one of the top fine dining restaurants in the area with an incomparable Sunday brunch. Hemingway’s had a casual elegance that made guests feel as though they were dining in an elite Key West house.

La Coquina regularly took a summer hiatus, but in the fall of 2012 it simply did not reopen, a casualty of changing dining preferences; the gorgeous space now used for special events. Hemingway’s closed at the beginning of the pandemic shortly after it underwent a remodel. But it didn’t reopen either, though it wasn’t missed much – its panache had paled in its last years.

Now the hotel has opened a new restaurant in the Hemingway’s space called Four Flamingos. And the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress may once again see locals booking tables.

Bites & Bubbles

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Bites exterior

I recently attended a reception held on the rooftop space of Bites & Bubbles, the Mills 50 restaurant that last year moved from its original address on Mills Avenue near Marks Street to its current location in Mills Park. There was little to eat at the reception, so as my companion and I were leaving, we spotted two seats at the bar downstairs and decided to stay for dinner. It was a perfectly delightful experience.

Nifty's

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Niftys interior

I’ve always had a rule that you could still wish someone Happy New Year all the way through January 31. After that, the trajectory of a person’s year is pretty much set and if it isn’t going well then you’re just taunting them.

But this year is an exception because today, February 1, is the beginning of Lunar New Year, the Asian holiday that celebrates the beginning of the year based on the lunisoar calendar with festivities lasting up to 16 days. The lunar year is designated by an animal. Last year was an ox and 2022 is the year of the tiger. I hope the ox got away in time.

Lunar New Year is also known as the Spring Festival and often called Chinese New Year, but other Asian countries, though not all, observe it too. In Vietnam it’s known as Têt and in Korea it’s Seollal.

So let’s celebrate Seollal with a quick visit to Nifty’s Korean BBQ & Ramen in downtown Orlando.

Soseki Modern Omakase

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Soseki collantes

The Japanese dining experience known as omakase, wherein diners, not presented a menu, turn themselves over to the whim of the chef, is not new to Orlando. It has been an option at sushi restaurants for many years. (This concept isn’t exclusive to sushi restaurants, either – think a degustation or chef’s tasting menu, such as that at Victoria & Albert’s chef’s table.)

What is relatively new to the area is the omakase-only restaurant, offering an exclusive and intimate dining experience. Well, intimate in the sense that you’re among fewer than a dozen customers seated next to each other at a sushi counter but all having the same culinary adventure.

Kadence was the first to present this concept full time to Central Florida, and was awarded the Best Restaurant Overall Foodster Award in 2019. Soseki Modern Omakase came on the scene in March of ’21.

There are several similarities between the two. Both occupy indistinct buildings with little or no signage – walk-in diners aren’t allowed so there’s no need to try to draw people in; there’s also no published phone number. Each has an attractive interior decor and each has limited seating – nine for Kadence and 10 for Soseki – at a sushi-style bar (sans the see-through refrigerated container seen in typical sushi bars) with .

Also, you don’t make a reservation, you buy a ticket, a nonrefundable one. (And an expensive one, too, but more about that in a moment.)

One other similarity: Both are staffed by young, exuberant professionals who are passionate about the quality and creativity of what they present to their guests.

Chēba Hut

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Cheba ext

I’m probably one of only a few people who went through college and grad school in the 1970s without ever smoking pot. I’ll probably be invited to be a keynote speaker someday.

It’s not like I was vice adverse. My dorm room had plenty of illicitness within. Just not pot.

So a lot of the insider-jokes and terminology on the menu at Chēba Hut, a marijuana-themed sandwich shop, might be lost on me. (Most, but not all – some of the potheads on my floor were my best friends, so I experienced it secondhand, so to speak.)

Oz Asian

Written by Scott Joseph on .

OzAsian counter

I came across Oz Asian in Lake Mary recently, a small quick-serve restaurant with a pan Asian menu. It’s an assemblage concept, so you’re asked to choose your protein (chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu or vegetables); a base (white rice, brown rice, pasta noodles, vermicelli or soba noodles); a sauce (sweet & sour), sweet oyster, Thai curry, garlic, teriyaki or soy and ginger); vegetables to add in (broccoli, onion, cabbage, bean sprouts, mushrooms, peppers, jalapeños, scallions, corn, carrots, celery, pineapple, tomatoes and snap peas); and any extras at extra cost: (fried egg, scrambled egg, or more chicken, tofu, beef or shrimp).

Very close by is a Fresh Market grocery store where you can buy most of those items and just put them together yourself, but don’t get me started on assemblage restaurants. Or maybe it’s too late for that.

Sazoncito Latin Food

Written by Scott Joseph on .

sazoncito ext

I was in the Conway area of the city recently on personal business, which I completed right around noon. So I set out to find a place for lunch and happened upon Sazoncito Latin Food, which has apparently been around for almost seven years.

It’s a small storefront in a strip mall with an impossible amount of food on display on a steam-table buffet behind the counter. As with other Latin food restaurants in the area, you choose a rice, a meat or protein and sides and move along the line as a server scoops your choices into a container.

Scoops isn’t quite the correct word – it’s more like shovels. I recall thinking as I watched the young woman serving me that she was going to need a bigger container. But somehow she got all of it inside.

Krazy Greek Kitchen

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Krazy Greek ext

I’m not at all sure what makes Krazy Greek Kitchen krazy. It all seemed rather normal to me. Or maybe spelling it with a K is similar to calling the sushi ingredent surimi krab. Maybe it’s just a imitation crazy.

Whatever. Krazy Greek Kitchen sits across from Central Park in what is the de facto downtown Lake Mary. It has a wraparound terrace for outdoor dining and on the night I visited there was live music in the park, which itself was still aglow with colorful holiday lights.

The menu features most of your classic Greek dishes, or maybe that should be klassic.