I enjoyed a birthday dinner at Orlando's newest buzzed-about restaurant - Luma in Winter Park. From the creators of One. Midtown Kitchen and Two. Urban Licks (aside - WORST NAME EVER) in Atlanta and co-owned by the France's of NASCAR fame, it is a slick eatery on Park Avenue in fashionable-again Winter Park.
Short summary - great place, wonderful addition to the Orlando scene.
Longer version - It is hard to believe this used to be a bank lobby. Entering around the corner from Park Avenue, to the left is a nice bar with ample seating and of both the table and more relaxed variety, As this was a Sunday and we had a reservation, however, we didn't need to spend time in the bar but were immediately shown to our table. We sat along the back wall at a group of two-tops that could be pushed together to seat a larger group. One small criticism here is that my wife had mentioned it was my birthday when she made the reservation and asked for a nice table, but we were given one in the middle of everything and no mention of the occasion occurred, even at dessert. This may be due to the fact it has only been open a week, but she was a little disappointed. More about the room: along the back wall is a long bench with cushions with tables up against it. The center of the room is a a mixture of tables of varying sizes and there are also some prime locations along the window (where we had hoped to sit and where there were empty tables) The pillars are covered in thin, flowing drapes and the lighting in the place is low. It is a little crowded, similar to Hue, you are really on top of your fellow diners. There is an open kitchen (a little noisy, they dropped a number of pans while we were there :) ) and the bathrooms are the coolest in town, with automatic doors and a cool sink that shares the same drain for both men's and ladies rooms. And great news - no annoying bathroom attendants!
On to the most important part - the food. The menu is printed new every day or so, and it consists of a listing of "Small Plates' ($6-$10) down the left side and main dishes down the right. In keeping with the American way, many of the small plates were anything but small and please be sure to ask of your server the size before over-ordering, because the food was great and you'll want to enjoy everything you get. While we ordered, we shared the Assortment of Olives, a spicy mix of olives that went well with our opening cocktails. We then enjoyed 2 small plates offerings - the pork pate, a chunky slice of mortadella-like succulent pork with a dijon ice cream (more on that in a bit) and cornichon and the Crab Tian, another stand-out with pieces of peekytoe crab mixed with mayo, served atop avocado and swimming in a tomato coulis. The pork pate was wonderful, not finely textured like most liver pates but a slab of pork and fat that really popped in the mouth. The accompanying dijon ice cream was - well - CRAZY. I thought it was just called ice cream, but it was actually cold ice cream, textured just like your dessert kind, but tasting of dijon mustard. The contradiction of flavor with temperature and texture was quite an experience. I loved, my wife was put off by it. In fact, I'm not even sure if it had a hint of sweetness or if it was a mind-trick due to the ice cream texture. You need to try this if it's on the menu when you visit. The crab was also great, but IMO I think it would have been better without the sticky mayo. The crabmeat was so good and offset by the avocado and tomato that the mayo overpowered what should have been a sublime taste blend. Other options for Small Plates we didn't get were cold water oysters, wood fired pizzas and flatbreads (with unique ingredients), salads, panzanella (a tomato salad that seemed very popular with other guests), calamari fries, ravioli, mussels, goat cheese, steak tartar, hamachi, a pasta dish and a burger. Out server let us know the pizzas/flatbreads are pretty large.
For our Main Dishes ($17 to $23), my wife had a salad and the Gazpacho from the Small Plates menu and I had the Scallops. My wife's Gazpacho was HUGE and very good, but not as good as the best we've had elsewhere. She got the Hearts of Romaine salad (an eggless caeser really), that she loved and pretty much licked the plate clean. It came with a white anchovy, smoked bacon, croutons and parmesan reggiano. My Scallops consisted of four plump good-sized pillows on a plate, dusted with fennel and drizzled with a tapenade and served on haricot vert (which I susbstituted for the onion compote). The scallops were great, I highly recommend. Other Main Dishes offered were salmon, halibut and nice looking cod (with haricot vert, chorizo and sherry soy), a pork porterhouse, a Niman Ranch sirloin with gorgonzola, venison, duck and chicken.
The back of the menu was the wine list, a decent selection of common options organized in four price tiers ($20, $30, $40 and $50 per bottle) with all available by the glass. They also mention more premium options are available by request.
Desset options were grand: most tables got the tiramisu, served in a super-tall martini glass with the ingredient piled in and layered, big enough to share. We opted for the warm chocolate truffle cake, with roasted banana ice cream, mascarpone sorbet and chocolate cinnamon soup. Yummy and not too big, perfect to share for two.
Service was solid for such a new establishment, especially in this town where it usually sucks (sorry, that's the best word for it). Other than forgeting our special occasion, we were seated promptly, served immediately and checked upon regularly. My wife's request for no anchovy was overlooked, but when pointed out immediately corrected and we were apologized to by a higher-up. Our water was filled and our plates cleared immediately. The server's knowledge of the menu and sophistication needs to improve, but I am confident it will as the staff gains experience. I saw some teaching going on throughout the night, so I am confident it will continue to improve.
So overall, considering it was the first public weekend, we really loved the place and the value and will return. The menu has some adventurous options but still is grounded in standards enough to appeal to anyone, and the space is beautiful (if it is not being used, ask for a quick tour of the cellar private function room - it used to be the bank vault and is now a great private space for 50 surrounded by the wine collection). Luma is a great new addition to the Orlando dining scene, so check it out.
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