Jiko -- The Cooking Place will be at Chef's Gala

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Jiko table

Jiko - The Cooking Place is among the restaurants that will be participating in this year's Chef's Gala. I was asked if I'd like to sample the dish that Jiko's chef, Edward T. Mendoza, would be offering at the April 14 event, so I said sure, why not? I hadn't been to Jiko in a long time, it would be nice to see what's going on there these days.

Good things, it turns out. Let me put it this way: As soon as the bus drops you off at the World Showplace at the beginning of Heart of Florida's Chef's Gala, head directly to the station, or cooking place, if you will, where Mendoza and his team will be serving their Isitambu.

Orlando Brewing and American Kitchen Impress with Pairings

Written by Scott Joseph on .

AmericanKitchen beer table

A couple of weeks ago I was invited to attend a beer pairing dinner at the American Kitchen restaurant in the B Resort & Spa at Lake Buena Vista. I accepted, because there isn't anything about the phrase "beer pairing dinner" that I don't like. But I was also anxious to see what's been going on culinarily at American Kitchen since some changes had been made from my last visit. I liked everything I ate and sipped.

The dinner was a collaboration between the resort's executive chef, Venoy Rogers III and John Cheek of Orlando Brewing.

AmericanKitchen beer scallop

Following an amusing little bouche we started the meal with a Scallop, served with white asparagus coated with pistachio dust, spring peas, some well place golden raisins and a small puddle of clam espuma. That's a lot going on on one plate, and it all worked beautifully.

So did the pairing of La Güera Blonde Lager, a light, non bitterish brew that had a sparkling finish. (It was apparent throughout the meal that Cheek and Rogers worked closely together to ensure the most appropriate pairings.)

Southern Spice

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Southern Spice gobi

When I wrote about Chutneys, an Indian restaurant in Bay Hill Plaza on Turkey Lake Road, I lamented the loss of Memories of India, which used to be in the same plaza. Chutneys, I said in my 2016 review, was OK, but it was not Memories of India.

Well, you might say that Southern Spice, the restaurant that has taken over Chutneys' space, has brought back good memories.

I shouldn't have been surprised. Southern Spice is from the same owner, Sunny Corda, as Mynt, the Indian restaurant in Winter Park's Hannibal Square, and Rasa, the Asian street food restaurant just down Restaurant Row. Mynt offers an inventive style of Indian food, but Southern Spice stays more traditional, featuring foods of South India (mostly), and presents a few items that might be unfamiliar to you if your only experience with Indian cuisine is from Central Florida restaurants.

Supper Club Redux: Pharmacy

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Pharmacysc menu

We had a wonderful pop-up Supper Club at the Pharmacy the other evening. I'd say that I wish you had been there but I don't know where we would have put you -- there wasn't a seat available at the table.

I probably should have capitalized The Table, because that's the space where the dinner was held. It wasn't the same big table from the old venue but rather an expandable version that allowed us to invite more people.


Big Fin Seafood Kitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Big Fin dining room

Things have changed at Big Fin Seafood Kitchen. Then again, not so much.

What has changed is that Bobby Moore, the original owner of the restaurant in Dellagio Town Center, has retired and turned over ownership to a group that includes James Slattery, who has been the executive chef since Big Fin opened in late 2009. And because Slattery remains in the role of chef, what hasn't changed is the quality of the food. It's still first rate with some of the best seafood in Central Florida.

Truck Stop Pop-up Kitchen

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Truck Stop exterior

In the early days of the nation's interstate system, as people set out on long road trips, it became a popular notion that if you wanted to find good food on your journey you need only look for the cafes with the most trucks parked outside. Whether it was true or not, travelers assumed that truckers knew where to find the best food. (In that regard, they were the precursors to present day Yelpers.)

You won't find a lot of trucks parked outside Truck Stop Pop-up Kitchen, maybe one at the most. For one thing, the narrow streets of Thornton Park aren't suited for 18-wheelers. Also, the concept for this new restaurant is that on most evenings the kitchen is taken over by the operators of a local food truck, giving them the opportunity to cook in a kitchen not supported by rubber wheels and to have their food presented by servers to people sitting at actual tables.

The innovative concept is from Greg Peters, who founded the Graffiti Junktion chain. In fact, the first GJ opened in the same spot in December of 2008. The Graffiti Junktion concept of burgers with an attitude caught on, and as other locations opened, the original outgrew the space on Washington Street. So it moved down the block after Wildside BBQ moved out in August of 2016.

Mee Thai

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Mee Thai interior

First we had Mai Bistro, now we have Mee Thai. Is there a trend in ego centric eateries?

I'll leave that discussion to Freud, and I certainly won't comment on a restaurant whose name is uncomfortably similar to a contemporary hashtag movement.

Let's just be be straightforward here. Mee Thai is a pleasant little cafe on Lee Road serving simple Thai favorites. If there is one thing that sets Mee Thai apart from other Thai restaurants in the area, it's that it specifies that it offers the cuisine of the Isan region of Thailand, or Esan, as they spell it here. Frankly, I didn't spot anything on the menu that wouldn't be available at other Thai restaurants. And it would have been a good opportunity for a restaurant specializing in Isan cuisine to offer a current local favorite -- sticky rice is a staple of that region. That dish is not on the menu.

General Public House

Written by Scott Joseph on .

General Public wall

Today's review if for the General Public. Yes, all my reviews are always accessible to anyone, no membership required.

What I mean is that today I'm reviewing General Public House, a restaurant in Winter Springs. It seems to combine the characteristics of a general store and a public ale house. So, General Public.

Let's start with the food. It's all solidly good and everything I sampled tasted great. Pleasantly plated, too. In fact, I was surprised at how good the food was.

Surprised because so much of what I observed and experienced before the food got to me and my guests did not suggest that good food was soon to come.

The Edison

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Edison Tower

The Edison is one of the new Disney Springs venues from the folks at Patina Restaurant Group (Morimoto Asia, Tutto Italia). It's a multilevel fun factory of a restaurant with good food to go with the entertaining decor.

Thomas Alva is the Edison of the name, of course, and there are homages to his inventions and patents everywhere. Indeed, the very design of the restaurant is an old power plant (electric power distribution, 1882) and lit with a soft glow from what are nostalgically referred to as Edison bulbs (incandescent lamps, 1879). Music plays in the background (phonograph, 1887) and old-timey black-and-white movies are displayed on various walls (motion picture camera, 1891).

Apparently he had something to do with inventing bacon, too, given its near ubiquitousness on the menu.

El Buda Latin Asian Restaurant

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Elbuda napkin

The word fusion is one of the most misused terms in culinarydom. More often than not, a restaurant will tout itself as a fusion restaurant when in fact all it does is offer two or more cuisines on the same menu. An Chinese restaurant, for example, might also offer some Thai dishes, or maybe a sushi selection. That might be considered diversification, but it isn't fusion.

Fusion occurs when two or more items come together to form something different, something unique.

And as you might deduce from the name, it isn't putting together similar Asian cuisines, though it does work with pan-Asian dishes, but rather a melding of Latino and Asian. The results are refreshingly distinct.

So you might have Chimichanga Eggrolls or Peking Duck Nachos. Or Congri Fried Rice. It's inventive, and even better, most of it works.