Enzo's Hideaway

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Hideaway interior

In terms of splashiness and go-for-the-awe design and decor, Enzo's Hideaway, from Patina Restaurant Group, offers much less than its sister restaurants at Disney Springs. Morimoto Asia has an opulent two-story dining room with elegant chandeliers; The Edison resides in what was supposed to have been an abandoned power producing facility, and Maria & Enzo's has the dramatic effect of a grand old airline terminal with large windows overlooking the lagoon.

Enzo's Hideaway has no windows and no double-height ceilings. It's dark and slightly dank and several of the walls are covered in graffiti. I enjoyed myself here more than at the others.

Which is not to say that I don't like the other restaurants; I do. But I think the absence of splash and distractions allows one to focus more on the food here. And the food here is really quite good.

Tartine

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Tartine interior

How could I not order something called a Tallow Candle? Tallow is a more lyrical name for lard, and the very thought of it whisked me back to a bar in Firenze that listed lardo as one its bar snacks. And it was just what it promised: little chunks of lard to put on a cracker or slice of bread. With each bite it was like saying, "Here it comes, arteries; deal with it."

Tartine tallow

A Tallow Candle, as presented at Tartine in College Park, sounded like a more inventive presentation. And it was. Essentially, the tallow was in the form of a tea candle with a lighted wick that was to melt the lard into a spreadable goo. Unfortunately, unless you're willing to wait a long time, the flame is insufficient to melt the lard. And it wasn't really worth the wait. But I appreciated the effort.

Maria & Enzo's

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Maria and Enzos balcony still

Grand is a word that might come to mind when you enter Maria & Enzo's Ristorante, one of a few new dining venues that opened recently at Disney Springs.

Although guests enter the building from street level (or walkway level, as the case may be), they walk past the host stand to discover themselves standing on a mezzanine overlooking the vast dining room below, accessed by a sweeping staircase. The far wall is comprised of two-story floor to ceiling windows with a commanding view of the lagoon outside. It reminds me a little of the opulence of La Coquina, the late lamented fine dining venue at Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress, but on a larger scale. It's among the most impressive dining venues in Central Florida.

Bugambilias

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Bugambilias birria

Bugambilias isn't the sort of place you'd just wander into, not unless you live in the vicinity of Lancaster Road between Orange Avenue and South Orange Blossom Trail. If you do live in the area, you know there are myriad Mexican restaurants, many as authentic as you're likely to find in the area, to choose from. Bugambilas would be a good choice.

Though it isn't a guarantee of authenticity, it's a pretty good indication of it when one has to ask if a menu is available in English. (One was.)

While I was still trying to navigate through the Spanish version, I was drawn to the Pozole, a favorite of mine. But when I failed to notice it was available only on Saturdays and Sundays, I figured I'd better switch to my first language. (Not that there's a second one, mind you.)

Instead I chose the Birria, shown at top, which is available todos los dias. Birria is basically a beef stew and is a traditional dish from the Jalisco region, which is home to Guadalajara. This isn't a stew like American versions -- there are no carrots or potatoes or peas. But on the other hand, it isn't made with goat or mutton, as it might be in Mexico.

Iron Cow Cafe

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Iron Cow ext

Where else would you expect to find a place called Iron Cow Cafe other than in the Milk District? Well, OK, maybe in the Rust Belt, but we're not there.

Iron Cow is rather a large place that in early evening hours (it opens most days at 6 p.m.) it looks like a big empty warehouse with a bar and kitchen set up on one side. Indeed, the business' own description calls it "a modern industrial warehouse merging food, beverage and music..." (Nothing comes after the ellipses, so I don't know what we're to infer from them.)

Only the food and beverage were evident when I stopped in. Although Iron Cow Cafe opened in December, it was still offering a "soft opening menu" in late March. You'd think a place with a name like this could harden that opening menu by now.

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

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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

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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.