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    A 22-seat restaurant modeled after a dinner party gives one of the more interesting dining experiences in the city. A sumptuous five-course meal with hors d’oeuvres and wine pairings await those willing to foot the all-inclusive $100 per person bill; some wine choices can be puzzling, but the food is deftly and deliciously executed.

    We didn't review this location but you can check out the review of the Taste of Jamaica Restaurant in Winter Park.

    You've experienced this scene before. An absurdly attentive waiter with a thick Italian accent keeps returning to a flabbergasted customer's table, bearing plate after plate of delicacies in quantities no ordinary diner could possibly deserve.

    Got it? It's a bit in Albert Brooks' great film comedy Defending Your Life. ("You like pies? I'm a-gonna bring you nine pies.") Now, Altamonte-area gourmands get to experience the fantasy for real with the opening of Terramía Winebar/Trattoria, restaurateur Rosario Spagnolo's follow-up to Winter Park's Allegria. And as in Brooks' vision, the beautiful excess starts with the very first course.

    At least it does if you opt for the trademark "antipasto Terramía" ($8.50), the first in a series of lucky orders we placed on a recent visit. We were beyond pleased with the initial plateful of warm-up foods, which ran the gamut from succulent roasted peppers to an octopus and-cucumber medley that was delightfully chewy. But no sooner had we conquered that formidable array than our waiter arrived brandishing a second platter of bruschetta with a variety of toppings, including savory chopped mushrooms and a terrific corn polenta with a full-bodied, cheesy flavor. We glanced toward a table to the immediate right of the front door, where all the available antipasto items were laid out for perusal. The sight made us worry that we'd be fending off new arrivals until kingdom come. Where would we find room for the nine pies?

    It was all we could do to dig into the "insalata Terramía" ($5.50), whose sun-dried tomato vinaigrette turned out to be that sought-after miracle of salad dressings: oily in taste but not in texture.

    We recovered in time for the entrees. We noticed that our chosen pasta dish, the homemade tagliolini with grilled shrimp and cherry tomatoes ($14.50), was served in a tortilla shell that struck us as more south-of-the-border than Mediterranean. Our waiter, acknowledging the incongruity, said the flaky horn of plenty was mostly "for show." (Eat it anyway.)

    The tasty dish arrived on two plates, simply because we had mentioned our desire to share our meal. Impressive. Similar bifurcation was visited upon the roasted chicken breast ($13.50), whose embellishment with Parma prosciutto and fontina cheese enhanced its mouth-watering moistness. In each case, the "sharing plate" could have passed for a full order.

    That aura of lavishness persisted unto dessert, with the berry cake ($5.95) overflowing with fruit. The creamy cannoli ($5.95) was separated into portions of about two bites each – perhaps in recognition of the dining axiom that, all other things being equal, folks don't feel so guilty about wolfing down food that comes in sections.

    The excellence of the service was codified during the coffee course, when our waiter took it upon himself to replace the saucer right out from under our cup, merely because he noticed that it had been defiled by spilled beverage. Yeah, that sort of thing can just ruin a dinner.

    If you can manage to avert your gaze from your plate at any time during your meal – and somehow, we managed to – you'll notice that Terramía's interior design makes the most of its location in an Altamonte strip mall ("just past Pebbles," a voice on the phone had clarified – talk about being unafraid of the competition). Laid out in an L-shaped arrangement that makes the halves of the seating area nearly invisible to each other, it's lit predominantly by low-hanging, red-hued fixtures that impart a mood of cozy intimacy. The room is dominated by a large wooden bar bearing bottles upon bottles of the vino that accounts for 50 percent of the establishment's identity. (Confused? Check out that name again.) But there's still room in the corner for a musician to wheeze background melodies out of everybody's favorite instrument, the accordion. (Look carefully, and you may notice that the music doesn't always stop exactly when he does. Technology: It's a good thing.)

    Still, authenticity is a big issue at Terramía. Our server hailed from Naples, which he proved by reciting the day's specials in a dialect so old-country rich that we could just about make out the base ingredient of each concoction. Not that it mattered; we got the impression that taking a chance on any given menu item would have yielded equally satisfactory results. Maybe he was just asking if we liked pies.

    On our way to Oviedo for some culinary adventuring, we drove down roads forged through what was formerly a canopy of pine trees. Instead of our usual downtown Thai favorites, we were headed to a different neighborhood to give Thai Basil a try. Imagine our shock when we walked in the door and found a familiar face.

    Irene, who had waited on us often at Thai House, greeted us with her ever-present smile. Remembering that the last Thai place I reviewed, Red Bamboo on Kirkman Road, was also connected to Thai House, I started wondering if maybe there is a Thai-restaurant conspiracy operating here in Orlando. But one thing is for sure, this "family" makes great food.

    The dining room was altogether more stylish than the ones in our neighborhood. The rich purple- and avocado-colored walls struck a statement; sleek design elements such as silver-patterned ceiling tiles, mixed with warm, frivolous pieces, like miniature watercolors hung from gossamer ribbons with opulent bows. Nine modernist, cubed wall-hangings clung to the back wall trying to look cosmopolitan. The way it was put together so tastefully – in that Pottery Barn kind of way – reminded me that we were in the suburbs.

    Irene opened Thai Basil seven months ago, and chose Winter Springs because she wanted to carve out new territory in the Thai restaurant scene without competing with her former employers. She brought along some co-workers from Thai House, and although most were welcoming and accommodating, none were as friendly as Irene.

    We started our meal with smoky-sweet Thai iced tea, the culinary version of tasty pipe tobacco. I also ordered a glass of tropical fruit juice, a blend of mango, papaya and carrot, because a waiter had breezed past with one moments before.

    The green papaya salad ($8.95) was a refreshing appetizer whose flavors – lime juice, chilis, papaya and tomatoes – came together as something wholly different than merely the sum of its parts. The pad Thai ($8.95) was also very good – nicely savory, with a hint of sweetness hovering over the acidic twist of lime squeezed in at the last minute. And, something else I appreciate, the pad Thai wasn't overly eggy and but was more than a little saucy.

    The tom kha gai soup ($3.50), a coconut-milk soup with chicken, was worthy but a little watery. Plentiful onions and mushrooms enhanced the broth and gave texture. Small cilantro leaves floated on the top.

    A dish that didn't fare as well was the Panang curry. My husband described it as "spicy enough to be interesting," but I thought it needed a heaping dose of salt. The choice of chicken, beef, pork or tofu was superfluous, because although we ordered beef, there was hardly any in there. Instead, beautifully cooked vegetables – just-shy-of-crisp snow peas and bell peppers – filled the sauce.

    Winter Springs is lucky that Thai Basil has joined the arsenal of dining options in the area. I'll stick to my own neighborhood Thai restaurant, but strongly suggest that Winter Springers stick to theirs.

    We didn't review this location but you can check out the review of the Tijuana Flats in Downtown Orlando.

    We didn't review this location but you can check out the review of the TooJay's Deli on Colonial Drive.



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