I just spent a week in Orlando and took some advice from this board. Here is my follow up on my dining experiences.
Let me start by validating my opinions: I am an extreme foodie. much so that I decided to become a chef. I have received many accolades for my cooking and I now work for a very large corporation (so large that I cannot let my opinions be associated w/ the company so I must remain anonymous). I will admit that all my dining was OPM w/ a couple of company dinners thrown in. I also did not drink alcohol at any of my meals. here it is hope it helps...
Day 1: Got stuck at the local Red Lobster in Orlando - not much to say but the cheese biscuits are very tasty.
Day 2: After an exhausting day I was invited to the JW Marriott (Grand Lakes) dining room to the restaurant Primo - I was pleasantly surprised by the food and service since it was a hotel restaurant coupled w/ the fact that it was a Marriott. Although there were minor flaws in execution overall the meal was great. Our amuse (free) was a clam in the Rockefeller style - it was terribly overcooked, cold, and dry. A minor oversight by the kitchen but as an introduction it prepared me for the worst. I ordered the Tomato/Mozzarella salad w/ balsamic dressing that was well executed but not exciting I chose this after perusing a somewhat boring appetizer menu. One of my companions ordered a pizza appetizer that would have been delicious on its own for lunch but it was oddly placed amongst the appetizers since it was at least 10. The crust was obviously made in-house and it was crunchy, thin, and flavorful. As an entrée I chose the Jamison Farms lamb chops. I asked that the accompanying crust of coriander and cumin be left off of the lamb as I felt it might be an odd combination w/ the rest of the dish (I rarely go against a chefs decision). I asked that the chops be prepared simply with salt fresh pepper and cooked rare. The kitchen neglected any seasoning but the chops were dead on and so yummy! It was some of the best lamb that Ive ever had although the sauce that came w/ was a bit too tomatoey and basic for such a delicious protein. My 3 other companions raved over their meal. Overall Id rate the place a four out of five stars and would recommend. My guess is the check average is about 50 bucks per person. Bread was nice, service was prompt, the chef has a garden on property, and there was a nice selection of wines.
Day 3: I had a meal planned at Todd Englishs place and ended up backing out since our party of 4 grew to a party of 12. Not that Im opposed to the company but I know that a great meal cannot be had with such a large party. I took 2 other companions for a taxi drive and we stumbled on a place called Salt Island since everyone in our party wanted fish. The restaurant was another delightful surprise with an outstanding décor and very high quality food - Another plus that most of the food was prepared on an oak wood grill. My only complaint was that the menu was a chophouse style and there were few composed dishes which meant that you had to choose your starch and vegetable for most items. I started with a spinach salad (again going against the chefs suggestion of green goddess dressing and chose champagne vinaigrette after twisting the waiters arm to change it for me). It came with a dollop of deviled egg that was by far the best deviled egg Id ever had. I could have eaten the egg just by itself but the entire salad was fresh and well composed. I had the salmon as an entree and chose the crab butter sauce - the dish was to die for after the kitchen skillfully prepared the fish medium rare for me. The side potatoes needed a little work and did not stand up to the rest of the good food that Id had. Portions were large and (because I had such a good meal the first time) upon returning for a second time a few days later not one person in either party ordered the steaks which looked to be of high quality and cut fresh in house. Both times our waiter stumbled a bit on each approach and a bit too relaxed although the restaurant did not feel stuffy anyway. I mention our initial taste of the restaurant, albeit the first, in the tradition of saving the best for last. The bread served at the table was phenomenal (I use that word very sparingly to describe food). It was a house onion baguette although it had a lot more texture, crust and crumb than a normal baguette and my only complaint about the meal was an odd pairing of the bread with a coconut dipping sauce and some sort of tomato sauce both of which overpowered the beautiful bread. I recommend asking for olive oil or butter. Overall I rate it four stars for freshness, quality, ambiance, and the fact that my fish was prepared perfectly over the oak wood grill. This was the one restaurant that I repeatedly recommended on my trip as I felt the prices were reasonable, the food was good, the steaks and fish were cut in house, and there were a lot of cute chicks in quasi-mermaid outfits.
Day 4: we had a group dinner at a place called Bice at the Portofino hotel. Our group consisted of almost 40 people and as a chef I know that it would be unfair to rate the place based upon this meal since cooking for this many people at once is not a clear indication of what the chef and crew can do. I will say however that I was disappointed with most offerings and especially perplexed at why the chef had such a bad rendering of Zabaione with berries. (it was an Italian restaurant). I would not recommend based upon my limited experience and refuse to rate it because of our large party size.
Day 5: Once again I found myself backing out of a dinner since it was again a large party size Vitos chophouse was the first choice and Id heard many compliments afterward. I returned to Salt Island for another delicious meal this time trying the crab cakes and calamari as appetizers. Both were well prepared and tasty. (see above for a full review). If you have room for the key lime pie get it! I will have dreams about that pie until I return again to eat some.
To be continued .
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