Dylan’s Deli & Bistro
1198 N. Orange Ave., Winter Park
It’s inspiring to converse with someone with a zeal for food and cooking, especially if that someone happens to be the chef-owner of a restaurant in which you find yourself dining. That sort of spirited devotion, sadly, isn’t a bred-in-the-bone attribute of many restaurateurs, whose enthusiasm for the culinary arts is all too often curbed by the economic, logistic and socio-gastronomic realities of being in the biz. More often than not, the drive to expand and pad one’s bottom line becomes an all-encompassing pursuit, leaving passion, technique and ingenuity in its wake. But such frustrations haven’t fazed Arnaud Dupont. The chef-owner of Dylan’s Deli talks excitedly of his journey to restaurantdom – of familial mealtime rites, days spent in culinary school in France and opening a successful catering business in Orlando. Soon after his son Dylan was born, he and his Spanish wife, Noemi, took the plunge and opened their son’s namesake café.
Dupont completely renovated the space, much of it with his own hands. Wood beams, pointed archways and terra-cotta hues give Dylan’s the feel of a dining room in a medieval French abbey (if you squint past the conspicuous Coca-Cola-emblazoned icebox). The deck outside, also hand-fashioned by Dupont, is an inviting area for alfresco diners, but it being July, we opted for a seat at one of the high-tops inside. Dupont described his French-Spanish dinner menu, comprising montaditos (or canapés), quiches, charcuterie and tapas items – soups and sandwiches are only served for lunch, we were told, but that didn’t mean we couldn’t fully enjoy Dupont’s wonderful bread. Baked in DeLand using Dupont’s own recipe and delivered fresh daily, the bread makes premier platforms for tapenade ($2.50), pear and gorgonzola ($2.50) and steak and churrasco ($3). The canapé de résistance came in the form of lightly smoked brisket with Swiss cheese ($3). To you, Monsieur Dupont, I say, “Vive la brisket!”
Even breadless bites, like juniper-flavored speck and figs ($3) and scallops wrapped in bacon ($3), warrant mention, though you could wrap cardboard in bacon and it would taste good. Real men, take heed: Try one of Dupont’s homemade quiches. After sampling the supremely flaky crust of the caramelized leek quiche ($2.20), I wouldn’t be surprised if it became the official snack of the NFL … or CFL … or even the LFL. Regardless, the pastries, which come in assorted varieties, sell out fast. From the tapas section, the artichokes stuffed with a foam of potato, mushroom stems and parmesan ($6) was an umami blast, while meaty chunks of duck magret ($8) glazed with orange sauce were cooked to a perfect medium-rare.
We had to sample the desserts that Dupont had flown in from France not 48 hours before we ordered them, but while the chantilly and berries cake ($5.95) was a spot-on ending best enjoyed with a cup of bombon ($3.75) – house-roasted espresso with condensed milk – the thick, bitter and overly sweet tiramisu ($5.25) was very much a disappointment, and the sole pock in an otherwise unblemished evening. But Arnaud, ever gracious, dedicated and passionate, was kind enough to pour us a couple of glasses of fortified Pineau des Charentes, a sherry-like digestif that ended our meal on a high note. One thing’s certain: Dylan’s may be a complete unknown, but Dupont is no rolling stone.