click to enlarge bartlettimage-chroma-4752.jpg

Photo by Rob Bartlett

At Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen, chef Jason Bergeron serves time-honored small plates in an ultra-modern landscape 

Back to the future

If you've been meaning to pay a visit to Brasilia but a trip to Futurism's poster city isn't in the immediate offing, then a drive to the Lake Nona Town Center might be in order. There, technology and architecture collide in a mesmerizing neo-futurist landscape that's as discomfiting as the last 10 minutes of 2001: A Space Odyssey. Illuminating the town center is the Beacon, a six-story smokestack of luminous projections, and on the stark and sterile parking garage is the Code Wall, a specialized dichroic glass skin depicting moving messages in binary code.

Upon exiting our motorcar, we whisked directly to our intended destination, Chroma Modern Bar + Kitchen. The drive left us famished, and perusing the menu in the dim light beneath Chroma's very high ceilings only deepened our appetites. The contemporary design of Tavistock Group's latest concept plays like a millennial's dream – open kitchen, showcase bar, Edison bulbs and all – but I get the sense executive chef Jason Bergeron, an experienced chef and CIA graduate, would rather his servers wipe sticky spots clean off tables; know what the "local catch" is; and understand that "wagyu" isn't a cut of beef "like ribeye."

Those missteps didn't stop us from giving Bergeron's menu of small plates the careful study it deserved. It's a lengthy bill of fare, and much of the food is very, very good.

Dishes are served right after they're prepared, so we soon found ourselves amid a mess of plates, gnawing on wonderfully charred lamb ribs ($11) and scooping rich marrow ($13) out of a canoe-cut bone onto rustic bread, before moving on to a heap of skillet-roasted littleneck clams ($11) in a buttery pool of garlic and citrus. The future, as far as this meal was concerned anyway, looked bright, even after biting into a somewhat mealy, yet perfectly formed, yuca croquette ($9) preggered with a quail egg.

Bergeron's got the chops, no doubt, and we chose succulent "three-bite" short-rib sliders on brioche ($9), charred shishito peppers with a buttermilk dressing ($9), and patatas bravas ($7) with San Marzano sauce and garlic aioli as the second half of our meal.

The praiseworthy sliders (which took us five bites to finish, by the way) shot to the top of the list of better burgers we've had in recent memory. Save for the patatas bravas lacking some requisite bravas, the combination of those three dishes couldn't have made for a more gratifying end to dinner.

I just wish I could say the same about the actual end to our meal. Desserts were showcased to us like we were at Seasons 52, but the Key lime pie ($4) was a real downer. I expected it to be similar to the superlative one served at Chroma's sister restaurant Canvas, but the flavors of this graham-cracker-lacking capper went from tart to acidic to bitter. A caramel bread pudding ($4) with ice cream was the failsafe "decadent" option. But even this less-than-inspired outro wasn't enough to tarnish Chroma's luster; the Tavistock Group works hard to maintain that sheen, as they know all too well that in the fickle world of restaurants, the future is now.

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