Chef's Table at the Edgewater

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Chefstable bucket

I just spent a perfectly lovely evening at an old favorite I hadn’t visited in too long a time, Chef’s Table at the Edgewater.

Owners Kevin and Laurie Tarter were ahead of the Winter Garden renaissance when they opened their intimate restaurant in the historic Edgewater Hotel there in May of 2008. Eleven years later, the West Orange County hamlet is a hopping with good restaurants and evening entertainment. And the Tarters have expanded their domain with the addition of the Tasting Room, which occupies a space in front of the Chef’s Table’s dining room, and, earlier this year, the acquisition of the Attic Door.

But the Chef’s Table remains the jewel, a leisurely evening of three courses, with wine pairings if you like, served by a friendly and attentive staff.

Tako Cheena

Written by Scott Joseph on .

tako cheena interior

I can’t remember any restaurant taking as much time between announcing it would be moving into a new space and the actual move as Tako Cheena did. It was in July of 2015 that I first told you the popular fusion concept would take over the former Forbidden City Chinese restaurant space just a few doors away from its original Mills 50 location. Even the recently opened Delaney’s Tavern only took three years, and it included building a boutique hotel on top of the restaurant.

I suppose Kobe Japanese Steak House is still the “any minute now” champion – it has entered its second decade with a sign on the property where Barney’s Steak & Seafood once stood announcing that it is “coming soon.”

But anyway, Tako Cheena.


Written by Scott Joseph on .

Guru exterior

When I called for nominations a couple of months ago for Best Indian in our Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants, Guru, a Clermont restaurant, kept popping up as a write-in candidate.

I wasn’t familiar with the restaurant, so I headed west to check it out. And when I got there I was surprised to learn that I’ve known the owner for nearly 30 years.

His name is Uday Kadam, and I first reviewed his restaurant in May of 1990. That restaurant was Passage to India, on International Drive in Orlando, and it was very good. Kadam liked my review so much that he had it blown up and hung it in the front window where is stayed for years. In 2008, I revisited the restaurant and in my followup review I asked that the poster-sized, decades-old reprint be removed from the window. Not because it was yellowed and faded but because it was no longer valid. The quality of the experience – food, service, atmosphere – had deteriorated so much that it was no longer valid.

Redlight Redlight and Sushi & Seoul on the Roll

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Redlight beer

I had visited the original Redlight Redlight when it was on Bennett Road in the compact building that became the original home of the Smiling Bison and currently houses Blue Jacket Grille. (Redlight's original location was in Winter Park's Hannibal Square – before it was known as Hanibal Square – above what is now Mynt Indian restaurant. Thanks to the readers who reminded me.)

But for some reason I hadn’t visited the popular beer seller since it moved to its current location on Corrine Drive more than half a dozen years ago. Driving by with a friend on a recent Friday night, I decided it was time I stopped in.

The first thing that impressed me was the size of the place. It’s immense, so much more expansive that any of its surrounding neighbors, including Sushi Lola’s, P is for Pie and Junior’s Diner. Redlight squared occupies a former Carrier Air Conditioning sales and service facility, with double volume ceilings. Large velvet curtains in the back space give it a theatrical look, though you feel more like you’re backstage than out front.

The Mexican Camel

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Mexcam exterior

The young woman behind the counter at the Mexican Camel, responding to my question regarding how the concept works, said, “We’re sort of like Chipotle.”

Just as a matter of brand recognition, it may not be advisable to suggest you’re copying another restaurant. And if you do, maybe choose one that hasn’t been plagued in recent years with foodborne illnesses.

What she was trying to convey is that the Mexican Camel is yet another assemblage concept wherein diners choose the ingredients to be piled into a conveyance and thus take all responsibility if the melange sucks.

But Mex-Cam has its own unique spin to promote, and that’s that it combines Mexican and Mediterranean flavors in one dining excursion, making it possible to screw up your choices with two separate cuisines.

Kaizen Izakaya

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Kaizen interior

Amura, the sushi restaurant on Church Street in downtown Orlando, is now Kaizen Izakaya, and it’s not the first time this restaurant has changed names under the same owner.

When it first opened, more than 20 years ago, it was called Samurai. But, not surprisingly, another restaurant in the state already had claim to that name. So, perhaps to save on signage costs, the owner dropped the first and last letters from the word Samurai and came up with Amura.

What prompted the latest change I can’t say. An izakaya is basically the Japanese equivalent of a pub or tavern where the focus is more on the drinking and mingling with friends – the word means stay sake shop – and the food consists of small bites and nibbles.

Kaizen’s menu is just as robust as before with a full array of sushi and sashimi as well as noodle and rice dishes and other kitchen foods. And the surroundings here don’t exactly inspire one to linger, but I’ll come back to that.

Due Amici

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Due Amici exterior

The first time I visited Due Amici, a new Italian restaurant in College Park, it didn’t quite have all of its stuff together. It also didn’t have its beer and wine license. So one of my dining companions hiked over to Publix and brought back something for us to sip on. In fairness to DA, it had softly opened only a week earlier.

Two months later, its stuff is still a bit disarrayed, though the beer and wine issue has been resolved. But I was a tad flummoxed when I arrived at noon ahead of my lunch companion to find the doors locked, even though it clearly stated out front that the restaurant opened at 11 a.m. What’s more, I could see someone inside with her back to the door, and she did not respond to my knocking.

So I called, and the person who answered (the same one who didn’t answer my knock) was startled to learn that the doors were locked. (That might have something to do with a complete lack of business the first hour.) The music was a tad loud, which might have been why she couldn’t hear me knocking.

But even if the operation seems a bit scattered, the food is good. That was true even on that first visit in the early days.

Hook & Reel

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HookReel exterior

Hook & Reel has set up shop in a former Logan’s Roadhouse on the west side of town. It’s a restaurant company that started in Lanham, Maryland, but is now based out of Flushing, N.Y. Any restaurant based in a place called Flushing is just asking for it if it doesn’t serve good food.

Luckily, H&R does serve good food – seafood, in case you hadn’t already deduced – in a casual and relaxed atmosphere.

The menu is Louisiana accented. In fact, the sign out front declares “Cajun Seafood & Bar.” The highlight of the menu is a seafood combo that is served in a poofy, clear plastic bag that sort of looks like a transparent Jiffy Pop. I had to order one after seeing several go by my table. But I’ll come back to that in a moment.

Carrie's Winter Park Cafe

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Carries exterior

I had arranged to meet a friend at a Winter Park restaurant for lunch, but when we got there we discovered it was closed. Apparently its experimental lunch concept is no more, though no one felt the need to change the information on the website.

Luckily, I remembered a place I’d driven by a few weeks ago, so we hopped into my car and drove to Carrie’s Winter Park Cafe.

Carrie’s serves only breakfast and lunch, closing each day at 2 p.m. My friend and I made it in under the wire, and luckily one of us was in the mood for breakfast and the other wanted lunch.

Signature India

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Signature exterior

As we await the results of the 2019 Best Indian Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants, let me tell you about a new Indian cafe in South Orlando that you may want to give a try.

It’s called Signature India and it opened in April in a strip mall at 11352 S. Orange Blossom Trail in Orlando. The place isn’t heavy on decor. There are tomato red walls and oxblood red booth backs and pendant lights over the booth tables. The place is neat and tidy for the most part.