Proper & Wild

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Proper exterior

There’s probably no better way to begin this review of Proper & Wild than with the owners’ Mission Statement, even though I generally am not a fan of mission statements because they’re so general and ethereal and lacking in specifics that they usually are meaningless.

But I like what Chelsie and Jamie Savage have to say here: “We believe community matters, food matters, and health matters, so we make damn good food that’s good for you, and we hold the space for Central Florida to come together and enjoy it.”

It still isn’t very specific in details, but the “damn good food” pretty much gets to the heart of what they’re doing with this Winter Park restaurant.

Simply Gyros

Written by Scott Joseph on .

 Simply Gyros exterior

Restaurateur Sunny Corda, whose current brands include Rasa, Southern Spice, saffron and Mynt, is stepping out of his Indian milieu and dabbling in a bit of Greek with Simply Gyros.

Located next door to Rasa, on Restaurant Row, SG is a fast-food style outlet for everyone’s favorite Mediterranean sandwich.

As the name suggests, the menu is straightforward and focuses on gyros. However, if your concept of a gyro is lamb and beef sliced from a vertical tower of meat that continually spins on a rotisserie, you should know that here a falafel sandwich is also considered a gyro. So is chicken, though in both cases I would classify them as shawarmas or doners. But far be if from me to be difficult about a place called Simply Gyros.

Fiorenzo

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Fiorenzo19 decor2

Fiorenzo, the Hyatt Regency Orlando restaurant formerly known as Fiorenzo Italian Steakhouse, has emerged from its monthslong renovation. Even though it shortened its name, it is still Italian and you can still get a good steak.

But Italian steakhouse didn’t fit the restaurant’s new designation as an all-day restaurant. And there is a preconceived notion of what a steakhouse looks like.

And before the renovation, Fiorenzo lived up to that stereotype: it was dark and moody.

Fiorenzo19 decor3

That has changed. The space has been brightened and opened up, including at the entrance, which used to be behind a wall hidden from the lobby but now is fully visible with a lobby bar. George Wong Design did the renovation.

Sideward Brewing

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Sideward exterior

Have you noticed that there are a lot of microbreweries popping up lately? Just in the downtown area there’s Orlando Brewing, which is sort of the granddaddy of local beer makers at this point, newcomer Rockpit Brewing in Sodo, Ocean Sun Brewing on Curry Ford West, where Hourglass Brewing will soon open, Ten10 Brewing Company in Mills 50, and downtown’s Orange County Brewers, which can’t seem to hold on to a partner food provider.

Now comes Sideward Brewing to the Milk District, taking over the backend of the building at the corner of Bumby Avenue and Robinson Street that also holds Stasio’s Italian Deli & Market. Sideward is not the biggest local brewer when compared with some of the others mentioned above. But it has two things the others don’t.

One is a license to produce cider on the property as well as beer. (Cider production requires a winemaking license, for some reason.)

The other thing Sideward has to its advantage is some pretty good food to go along with the beers.

Jaleo by José Andrés

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Jaleo exterior

For a video version of this review, click here.

Once you know the meaning of the word Jaleo, it all makes more sense. Commotion, uproar, din, jumble — all those translations could describe the new restaurant at Disney Springs. It can also mean revelry, defined as lively and noisy festivities, especially when alcohol is involved. Let’s go with that one.

Jaleo (say hah-LAY-oh) is a Spanish restaurant from José Andrés. In fact, the official name is Jaleo by José Andrés. Andrés has been a well-known chef for many years, but he has been particularly celebrated over the past year for his organization’s efforts in feeding the hurricane victims in Puerto Rico and federal employees affected by the recent partial government shutdown in Washington, D.C., where he is based. He has been recognized as Outstanding Chef by the James Beard Foundation and last year was named that organization’s Humanitarian of the Year. He has twice been on Time magazine’s list of “100 Most Influential People.” The original Jaleo, which opened in Washington in 1993, is a finalist for Outstanding Restaurant in this year’s Beard Awards. He has also been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

The Disney Springs Jaleo is the chain’s fifth — others are in the D.C. area and Las Vegas — and the largest.

And it certainly is big. Occupying the lakefront space previously occupied by Wolfgang Puck Cafe, it is multileveled and sprawls over 22,000 square feet, with multiple bars and seating, both inside and out, for 543 people. (Puck recently opened Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill elsewhere at Disney Springs.)

Bangkok Thai Passion

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Bangkok Thai exterior

While I sat waiting for my food at Bangkok Thai Passion at one of only two occupied tables, a woman came rushing through the front door. She loudly expressed relief that the restaurant was open — she had tried to call in an order but the restaurant’s phone was not working. She apparently feared the worst.

I guess we all have different things that stir our passion. My experience at the Ocoee restaurant was more frigid. At least that’s what I felt from my server, who seemed desperate to be anywhere doing anything other than where and what she was. Clearly, waiting tables is not her passion. (This was in contrast to the genuinely warm welcome I had from someone I assume to be an owner when I first came through the door.)

Old Jailhouse

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Old Jailhouse extrior

Today we’re visiting the Old Jailhouse in Sanford, the area’s current hotbed of new and innovative restaurants and craft bars. But before we get started with the review, I want to make this pledge: I will not be making any puns about incarceration, and the only references to sentences will be the ones written here. Besides, most of the puns have already been made by the restaurant itself (see staff t-shirts that read “I serve more than thyme”).

Although I must say I’m surprised that, given the current craze for the Hawaiian dish of raw chopped fish, there isn’t an item on the menu called Pokey. And how could the bar not have a drink called the Hoosegow Hooch?

Slapfish

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Slapfish interior 1

The stated goal of Slapfish, a seafood franchise with a location in Waterford Lakes, is an admirable one: to get people to eat more seafood. I suppose if you owned a pizza franchise you’d likely set a goal to get people to eat more pizza.

Shortly after stating Slapfish’s goal in a statement on the website, the founder, whose name cannot be easily read in his signature (it’s Andrew Gruel), also says that people are disinclined to eat more fish because of “sensationalism in the media about contaminated seafood” with “mercury and this and that.” So, marketing apparently isn’t one of Andy’s fortes.

Further evidence: A logo that looks like a bloodied hand that has just done some serious spanking.

Coco Cucina

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Coco cucina wall

Is there any other restaurant space in Orlando whose short life has been so fraught with failure as the one mid-block in the Sanctuary condominium building?

It started out, in 2007, as Fifi’s Patisserie, then changed to Sanctuary Diner. Nick’s Italian Kitchen came next, in 2011 and closed in 2013. For three years after Nick’s closed, three concepts were proposed, including a champagne lounge to be called Pagne. None ever opened. Then Gaviota, a fine dining Peruvian restaurant, decided to give it a go in late 2016, and it lasted more than a year.

So we’ve had French, American, Italian and Peruvian in just 12 years.

Now comes Mexican in the form of Coco Cucina, a project from the owners of Oudom Thai, the restaurant next door. (That space has had its own multiple tenants.)

Coco Cucina is apparently striving for authenticity, and it certainly has an ambitious menu. You have to give them props for putting such things as braised beef tongue, huitlacoche (corn smut)quesadilla and cactus worms tacos on the menu. Those are tough sells even to people who live in Mexico, tasty as they may be.

Chianti's Pizza and Pasta Longwood

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Chianti pizza

Chianti’s Pizza and Pasta, the charming trattoria that opened in Sanford in 2012, now has a second location in Longwood. It has taken over the space in the Longwood Village Shopping Center that had previously been Carmela’s of Brooklyn and a Sbarro. So the walls should be sufficiently Italianized by now.

Of the two food genres in its name, Chianti’s seems to be more proficient in the pizza format. During a recent lunch visit, a flog associate ordered the Chianti Supreme Pizza, which featured slices of pepperoni and bits of sausage with mushrooms, red and green peppers and just enough mozzarella to give it some stringiness, all on a platform of a seasoned-just-right tomato sauce. The crust was just the right thickness, not too thin and crackerlike and not too thick and doughy. The edges of the crust had a decent char. And the 12-inch size is available as a lunch special for $8.99 with a beverage, to boot, a good deal for such a good quality pizza.