Coco Cucina

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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

Written by Scott Joseph on .

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.

Le House

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Le House interior

The owners of a new Vietnamese restaurant in downtown Orlando named it Le House because they wanted customers to feel as if they were dining at their home. I can’t attest to that authenticity, but I can say that I certainly felt welcomed and accommodated on my visit, even if I wasn’t offered the guest room.

The menu here is more succinct than at other Vietnamese restaurants. Pho is available, as it must be at all local Vietnamese restaurants, apparently by law. But Le House’s menu has a manageable 10 entries instead of the three or four dozen you might be asked to negotiate elsewhere.

But pho is not a specialty of Le House. The young man who greeted me — welcomed me into his home, as it were — suggested two items under the Specialty banner: Nem Cuòn, a springlike roll with cured fermented pork; and Com Gà, or organic chicken.

The Nem was a must, I decided, but instead of the entree version, which comes as a build-it-yourself kit of ingredients, I opted for the no-assembly-required appetizer variety.

Columbia Restaurant Ybor City

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Columbia sign

Columbia Restaurant in Ybor City has been around for more than 114 years, longer than any other restaurant in Florida. The menu features an item called the 1905 Salad to commemorate the year it opened. Actually, when the restaurant was anticipating celebrating its centennial in 2005, the owners found documentation that it had really opened in 1902, but they decided to stick with the 1905 date. There would be the whole salad problem to deal with, after all.

A restaurant has to be doing something right to last that long. But if my recent experience is indicative of the way the restaurant operates now, it may not see another anniversary. It has a whole lot more problems than a misnamed salad.

Tre Bambine

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trebambine interior

I don’t suppose that technically there’s an absolute, written in stone recipe for Saltimbocca. After all, the word means “jump in the mouth” in Italian, and you could probably name a number of ingredients that you might like to have saltim your bocca.

But generally, in Italian restaurants, saltimbocca usually refers to a specific preparation, though even that is open to variations. I’ve had veal saltimbocca and I’ve had chicken saltimbocca. But until I visited Tre Bambine, a new restaurant in the former Spice Modern/Lake Eola Yacht Club space, I had never had meatloaf saltimbocca.

Mind you, it was veal meatloaf, but still. This culinary interpretation was completely lost in the translation.

Forever Naan

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Forever Naan sign

I don’t know why it’s taken so long for an Indian restaurant to take advantage of the street name Curry Ford, but Forever Naan has finally stepped up with the subname Curry Street Grill.

It’s a little slip of a place near the corner of Conway Road in a strip that holds a pawn shop (once a Blockbuster Video) and a payday loan business. If I remember correctly, the space that Forever Naan occupies was once a Hungry Howie’s Pizza. So we’re not talking the toniest district.

But inside, FN has a pleasantly casual space. Although it seems more suited as a takeout restaurant, it has seating for dining in, albeit on uncomfortable looking metal chairs and backless stools. A bright red wall in the front of the space seems dedicated to Bollywood, with film reel sculptures, movie ticket signs and lobby cards for Indian flicks.

Menagerie Eatery & Bar

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Menagerie interior

I’m not exactly sure what Menagerie Eatery & Bar wants to be, and I’m not sure the people running it know either.

The Menagerie is the latest occupant of the corner spot on South Eola Drive and East Pine Street. It replaced Muddy Waters, which replaced Mucho. Perhaps there’s something in the deed that stipulates any business occupying the space must begin with the letter M.

The owners of Menagerie are Jonathan Canonaco and Brian Buttner, who also own Teak Neighborhood Grill, RusTeak College Park and, more pertinently, the Stubborn Mule, directly across the street.

The menu is a mishmash of cuisines, styles and food genres, which I suppose befits a place called Menagerie. The restaurant’s Facebook page says it is “chef driven,” but nowhere could I find the name of a chef. Or a driver, for that matter.

UberEats: The gig economy delivers restaurant food to your front door

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Sponsored

ubereats outpost

Editor's note: UberEats is an advertiser on the flog.

Restaurants have been delivering food for eons, even before civilization entered the Internet Age.

But it was the internet that made it more plausible.

But now an even more recent development than the internet is changing the meal delivery game again: the gig economy.

And gig giant Uber is leading the pack with its UberEats service.

The H Cuisine

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Hcuisine exterior

If you name your restaurant The H Cuisine, wouldn’t you expect people to wonder what the h the H stands for?

That’s the name of a beautiful restaurant in the Dr. Phillips district. It’s primarily a steakhouse and there are Turkish touches on the menu — Turkish and tulum salads, kafes (rack of lamb) — so might the initial be for halal, the designation for meats prepared by Muslim law?

No.

Maybe it refers to the space, the former Stefano’s Grill, which has been so completely transformed into an upscale and posh dining room that it’s absolutely heavenly? Or for the prices, which are high?

No and no.

The owners all have last names that begin with the letter H. That’s it. As I’ve said before, naming a restaurant is really Hard (with a capital H).

Buster's Bistro

Written by Scott Joseph on .

Busters interior

It was a photo on the website for Buster’s Bistro that threw me. I had heard of the Sanford restaurant and had gone online to do some preliminary research. I was meeting some friends for dinner and wanted something a little more upscale. On one of Buster’s web pages was a photo of a dining room with the tables covered in crisp white cloths. Just what I was looking for.

Buster’s Bistro is a bar. A Belgian bar, to be precise.

And the tables are not covered with cloths, white or otherwise. (The photo that hooked me was from a special event, apparently.)

But BB’s menu is more ambitious than most bars, with such selections as Short Rib Carbonnade, Vol-au-Vent, and Tikka Masala Curry. The results are as varied as the selections.