Note this entry is a continuation of my input on several meals that Id had while I stayed in Orlando during a convention in May. Please scroll down to see the earlier entry before starting here.
Day 6: Again, I had to change dinner plans to dine at Normans rather than Chez Vincents - meaning my original party joined another host so that I could dine at Normans. I dont think that anyone in my party was disappointed but let me get the negative stuff out of the way since there were a few complaints. My first and only major problem was that I felt the dishes were much too large for a multi-course menu. Our entire party ordered the Prix fixe menu and we had all expected each course to be scaled down somewhat not so. Not a single person in our party finished the entree. My second problem was that I felt the dessert was a bit underwhelming and seemed pretty basic - it was a cooked banana dessert with brittle (aka New World banana split). And lastly Id have to say that the foi gras dish was not altogether outstanding nor was not well designed (in terms of texture and flavor). By that I mean that the components didnt marry well with the foi gras the dish was composed of two large hushpuppies that were gritty (from the cornmeal) and not as delicate as Id expect with the foi gras. Also I didnt feel that there was enough sauce to compliment the duck liver dish. Foi Gras can be a dish that will be outstanding or poorly done ours was poorly done. Now the good stuff ..
I had one of the best bisque soups Id ever had in my life here! Cracked conch bisque was heavenly (so well prepared, delicate, balanced, and fulfilling). I dream of that dish and will attempt to have it once again in my life before I stand in the buffet line in Heaven. The Key West Yellowtail was pure BUTTER! I could not have had a more perfectly prepared piece of fish and again, all components were delicately balanced and dead on. Let me regress and mention the Ahi Tuna Ceviche and the James River oysters both were yummy, full of bold flavors, and well composed. BRAVO! The rest of the tasting menu consisted of roasted pork Havana which was delicious but just too much food disappointing because it was so full of deconstructed flavors, textures, colors, and a well cooked (medium-rare) piece of pork tenderloin. The grits on the pork dish were interesting and vibrant w/ fresh corn flavor and the sauce was delectable.
I will admit that I had one chef companion (dining on a different night) whod said that she was disappointed and felt that Normans Orlando was definitely missing Normans hands but felt the meal was good just not great. I dined w/ three other chefs and I think we are all very pleased with the composition of the dishes, the quality, freshness, intricacies, skill, wines, and service. I give Normans a four out of five and would highly recommend. We were not disappointed.
Day 7: Some people think that being a chef is exciting, intriguing and, fun. We get to cook exotic food but best of all we get to eat at great restaurants. There are times when being a chef is no longer glorious namely when a chef starts to put on weight, accumulate health problems, and/or eat when hes not hungry. By day seven I was pretty tired of dining out and I was looking forward to my last meal in Orlando before heading home to Chicago for some simple home cooking. I admit that I had some great meals in Orlando and would conclude that the restaurant help here is of high skill as the majority of the food I ate in Orlando was well executed. That is saying a lot (especially coming from me).
On Day seven I chose to eat at Roys (of Yamaguchi fame). What a great meal! Two of my regular companions were so tired of dining out that they chose not to dine out w/ me so I was stuck w/ a couple of professionals that I did not know very well. All-in-all the dinner was excellent (including the company). The kitchen got wind that I was a chef and before I knew it our party was inundated with gratuitous appetizers leading up to our meal and then finishing w/ desserts that were sinful. Because we had so many different dishes let me just tell you what I didnt like I had the braised short ribs as an entrée. I thought that the meat was a little dry and just slightly undercooked the undercooking resulted in a piece of meat that was slightly chewy and because of the lack of moisture the meat lacked the layers of flavor that should have prevailed. Everything else was delicious and among the standouts were the Ahi tuna poketini and the chocolate soufflé. Although both dishes may have originated or saw their rise through Roys the tuna and chocolate soufflé have become standards across the country but both were excellent renditions. Again, we had great service, fresh food, and a quality dining experience that every other city in America should strive toward. I give Roys a four out of five rating and would recommend.
Overall: Great meals abound in Orlando. I was really disappointed w/ the taxi service since every cabby had an excuse for not taking credit cards although it is not the customers fault that each cabby has to pay the credit card fee (which sounds illegal to me) the situation should not be taken out on the clientele.
I must mention two great room service breakfast meals at the Peabody Orlando and would have to think that they could only have been better in the dining room. I mention this because I believe that breakfast is the most difficult meal to execute consistently. I would recommend breakfast at the Peabody.
I look forward to my return to Orlando only for the good food (not the work I have to do while Im there). You Orlandoites are lucky arent you?