Locations in Orlando

Clear Filters
Loading...
88 results

    A few weeks ago, I mentioned how chefs in this city haven't ventured outside the frontiers of traditional Indian cookery, opting instead to stick to conventional, time-honored plates. Well, things have taken a turn for the better thanks to Shabber Chowdhury. The U.K.-trained chef (by way of Bengal) is raising the bar for Indian cuisine in Orlando, and it's about bloody time. His restaurant, Tabla, poses a more ambitious undertaking than any other Indian restaurant in town. Chowdhury's brand of "Indian fusion" transcends the humdrum, but food alone does not a good restaurant make. There are clear deficiencies in the service, and the kitchen isn't beyond reproach, but let's give credit to Chowdhury and proprietors Anshu Jain and Abhay Goel for bringing Indian fare to a level of refinement heretofore unseen in Central Florida.

    The interior, though tastefully appointed, doesn't befit the sophistication of the fare. The focus is on the food, and most dishes on the lengthy menu are handled with aplomb. Chili pakoras ($4), for example, are a South Asian take on jalapeno poppers and exhibit a remarkable touch with hot oil. Anaheim peppers are stuffed with cheese, coated with panko and deep-fried to a greaseless crisp, as are the quartet of dense, bite-sized samosas ($5), generously stuffed and drizzled with tangy tamarind chutney.

    Skewered chicken shashlik ($8) held much promise; that is, until I came across a few morsels of uncooked bird. Instead of taking the dish away, my server asked me to check the other pieces. I did and came across more uncooked chicken. The plate was finally taken away, but when the bill came, I was charged for the dish. On two separate visits, I got the same well-meaning yet woefully inexperienced server, who didn't seem to know anything about the menu items. A third visit proved better, but a knowledgeable wait staff would really elevate the experience.

    Thoughtfully executed mains underscore Chowdhury's approach to East-West fusion and get matters back on track. Kesari murgh ($12) marries homemade pesto and saffron sauce in an aromatically colorful union that upstages the cheese-stuffed chicken breast. Lamb do piazza's ($15) heady curry is made all the more assertive with cinnamon sticks, shaved almonds and strings of fried onions. Doughy sesame-seed-flecked tabla naan ($3) makes an ideal utensil for sopping up the cultivated curries, as does rice jazzed with cashews, saffron and cardamom.

    For meat-lovers, the mixed tandoori grill ($32) is a gorgeous presentation fit for the most ravenous of rajahs: tender marinated lamb chops served with mint-yogurt chutney; breadcrumb-coated, fenugreek-essenced chicken cubes; perfectly charred pieces of wonderfully seasoned shola lamb kebab; flawless chicken tikka; and a fiery red fillet of sour, tangy tandoori kingfish. Meatless wonders include paneer Akbari ($14), Indian cheese stuffed with cashews in a luscious tomato sauce, as well as flavor-before-fire paneer tikka masala ($14).

    Even desserts, the bane of Indian restaurants, continue the razzle-dazzling. Toffee pudding cake ($6), sided with stracciatella gelato and garnished with a passionfruit-glazed betel leaf, is a particular highlight. Mango sorbet, coconut gelato and hits of ginger pack a refreshing punch in the "cold n spicy" ($6), while addictive malai kofta ($6) dumplings are given a sweet twist with a chocolate filling. Caramelized Kashmiri chai custard ($6), while intriguing, failed to inspire.

    What does inspire me, though, is chef Chowdhury and his determination to march forward to the beat of his own tabla - the notes of familiarity and innovation set the standard for neo-India

    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.

    The Bay Hill Shopping Plaza, on the northeast corner of Sand Lake and Turkey Lake roads, is quickly becoming a destination for foodies with global palates. India (Memories of India), Vietnam (Rice Paper), China (1-6-8) and now Syria are represented in all their strip mall glory.

    Taboule Café is part market, part diner. Chrome baker’s racks stacked with an assortment of Mediterranean and Middle Eastern foodstuffs, from lemony sumac powder and sesame seeds to fragrant rosewater and Turkish coffee beans, occupy half the space. Refrigerators on the other wall stock frozen goods as well as salty halloumi cheese – delicious grilled with a bit of olive oil, paprika and lemon juice.

    A few tables by the entrance are often filled with diners enjoying pies, kebabs and sandwiches like chicken and lamb shawarma, the succulent meats shaved off mini-rotisseries situated behind the front counter. The falafel ($5.99 for a sandwich), always a true gauge of a Middle Eastern restaurant’s worth, are perfectly crisp, some of the best you’ll find in town. Just as good is the hummus ($1.99) and the kofta plate, kebabs of nicely spiced ground beef ($8.99). Kibbeh, fried balls of bulgur wheat and ground beef ($8.99), weren’t the best I’ve had, and while the cheese pie ($1.99) didn’t compare to its Greek counterpart, it still made for a worthwhile snack.

    Early risers can opt for traditional Syrian breakfast staples like foul mdamas (fava beans with tahini), teskia (a hot bread made with chickpeas, tahini
    and garlic) or scrambled eggs served with nakanek, a seasoned beef sausage. Whatever you choose, a cup of Middle Eastern coffee is sure to supercharge your day.

    (Taboule Café, 7645 Turkey Lake Road, 407-226-3111)


    You won't find a neighborhood cantina with the sort of loyal patronage and longevity of Paco's in Winter Park, but Tacos El Rancho, as clean, bright and simply accoutered a taqueria as you'll find, has certainly laid a foundation for a healthy future (if not for its patrons, then certainly for itself). Locals in Conway seem to like their eatery's low-profile status ' I even ran into a couple of acquaintances at the counter, both of whom happened to live in the area, and listened to them reservedly extolling the virtues of the kitchen. After sampling the fare, it's easy to see why they'd want this little taqueria all to themselves.

    Offering the established canon of Tex-Mex staples ' burritos, enchiladas, quesadillas and specialty tacos ' the restaurant appears focused on doing those items right, even if some items, like lengua tacos ($2.25) may turn off diners. But tongue isn't as repulsive as it may sound. The buttery cubes of beef lick the palate softly, with onions, cilantro, tomatoes, cheese and sour cream layered atop two soft flour tortillas providing the textured tang. All soft tacos are doubled up in a similar fashion (you'll go solo with hard-shells); if you're on a tight budget, a couple of soft tacos and a drink will fill you up without emptying your wallet.

    For six bits more, you can splurge on the fish tacos ($3). The nicely seasoned mahi fillets weren't fishy-smelling in the least ' always a determining factor in the quality of a good stuffed-to-the-gills fish taco. Aromatic tacos al pastor ($2.25) are done Mexico City'style, with the pork capturing its essence from a pineapple marinade. Those who like their ground beef minced fine will enjoy every bite of the tacos molida ($2.25). Tacos asada ($3) weren't as tender as the tongue, but
    the steak packed plenty of flavor nonetheless.

    Ground beef burritos ($5.50), crammed with rice and a choice of black, pinto or refried beans, offer a more substantial meal, but aren't as substantial as the bulbous gold chimichanga ($6.99). The deep-fried burrito, simultaneously crisp and soft, is an effort to finish in one seating, but the spicy chicken, splashed with a smooth green sauce and a snappy red, is only improved by an ample ladling of tangy queso on top. That cheesy sauce was a hit with all parties at the table ' the chimi may have been too much to finish, but that sauce was lapped clean. I've always thought of guacamole as being essential to enjoying a Tex-Mex meal, and the tub ($1.60) offered here does just that. Accompanying tortilla chips ($0.75) are properly warm and subtly oily.

    They were out of tres leches cake, but milky horchata ($1.60), a rice-based beverage flavored with cinnamon and vanilla, simulates the cake's flavors, though it was a little too sweet. I enjoyed the sizable slab of flan ($2), redolent with the essence of vanilla.

    The mood is pleasantly festive here, with a steady stream of patrons chatting away beneath sombreros dangling on terracotta-colored walls. Just beware of any prodding sticks on your way out ' you're likely to be mistaken for a stuffed piñata.

    We didn't review this location, but here's our take on their sister location: "Winter Park finally gets a straight-up Indian restaurant, and Tamarind's familiar, fiery and focused dishes are worthy of the hamlet's food-driven denizens. Samosas and sizzling tandoor-fired lamb chops are the way to start; sample the "Tamarind special chicken" and bold salmon tikka for mains; then end with exotic falooda kulfi, ice cream made of condensed milk, rose syrup and crushed pistachios. Beware potholes when negotiating the Kmart plaza parking lot."

    Winter Park finally gets a straight-up Indian restaurant, and Tamarind's familiar, fiery and focused dishes are worthy of the hamlet's food-driven denizens. Samosas and sizzling tandoor-fired lamb chops are the way to start; sample the "Tamarind special chicken" and bold salmon tikka for mains; then end with exotic falooda kulfi, ice cream made of condensed milk, rose syrup and crushed pistachios. Beware potholes when negotiating the Kmart plaza parking lot.

    Just when Thai cuisine in this town was on the verge of settling into a shiny bowl of complacency, along comes Tang’s to revitalize a scene that, in my opinion, was getting about as stale as a day-old spring roll. You won’t find an interior subjected to overzealous ornamentation, or one made to look like a set from The King and I. Here, the square dining space is graced with just enough feng shui savoir-faire to impress its upper-crust clientele, and a suffusion of warm orange furthers its aim of refined relaxation.

    Chef Eddy Phooprasert, a product of the Orlando Culinary Academy’s Le Cordon Bleu program, certainly applies a bit of that Gallic flair in his first-rate take on Bangkok’s eaten path – everything from preparation to plating to price differentiates his dishes from those served at other Siamese sit-downs in the city. That’s not to say pretense supersedes palatability here; it doesn’t. The presentation of the short ribs massaman ($24), decorated with an edible orchid, almost made it too pretty to eat, but tearing into this beautifully packaged dish yielded perfectly braised beef sautéed in a sweet chili paste sweetened further by tamarind, bell peppers and coconut milk. A tableside rice service offers a choice between white jasmine rice and, depending on when you visit, either yellow curry rice or herbaceous green basil rice. The latter proved to be my favorite of the three.

    Aesthetics also play a part in the delightful plaa lad prig (market price), which tonight was a plump filet of Chilean sea bass pan-seared in a garlic-chili sauce, baked to a delicate crisp and garnished with shaved parsnip. Textural contrast was provided by zucchini, carrots and bell peppers. Velvety chicken red curry ($16) was infused with the essence of sweet basil and came adequately spiced without my having to ask.

    Chicken pad thai ($16), conversely, failed to excite. Two grilled shrimp impaled on crackers sat atop the mound of noodles, with sprouts, crushed peanuts and a lime wedge sharing space on the square plate. A shiitake-soy reduction gave the barbecued skirt steak ($14) a glossy sheen; each sesame seed-flecked strip proved irresistibly succulent. An accompanying puck of rice was served over a bed of carrots and cabbage; I just wished the dish came with more medium-grilled strips of beef. Curry puffs ($7) resembled miniature empanadas, and though the flavors of chicken, garlic and onions harmonized nicely inside, the pocket itself was a tad oversaturated with oil.

    Bite-size morsels of pillowy, sticky doughnuts ($6) were as comforting unadorned as they were when coated in a sweet pastry sauce of vanilla-tinged condensed milk. Chocolate mousse cake ($9) masked its density well, and artful drizzles of raspberry coulis and crème anglais once again played up the importance of visuals.

    I’ll admit I’ve been a little burned out on Thai cuisine, but after dining at Tang’s, my enthusiasm for the cuisine has been rekindled, and all it took was a chef with a delicate hand and a determination to defy the status quo.

    I’ll admit, I wasn’t exactly salivating at the thought of dining at a restaurant catering to that oft-forgotten demographic of aging golfers and their silver-coiffed spouses. The Tap Room at Dubsdread, after all, is on the grounds of Orlando’s oldest public golf course; more than a few of its patrons are as well-worn as the ancient golf shoes encased in the display behind the hostess stand. The whole joint is made out of wood, including the ceiling, and the rustic touches and Shaker-style furnishings play up the historic angle. But the restaurant exudes a relaxed swagger – casual, yet unrelenting in its quest for perfection.

    In comparison to 19th holes at other public golf courses in Central Florida, the Tap Room is on a whole different playing field. Offering a mix of bar-and-grill bites and gourmet fare, the kitchen unquestionably takes pride in its efforts, plating simple, impeccably prepared dishes. To wit: creamy chicken vegetable soup ($4.95), a chowder-like potage with corn and potatoes that made it a struggle to pass up a second bowl. The soup was a special of the night, but should they offer it on your visit, do yourself a favor and order two.

    I was looking forward to sampling the jumbo lump crab cake, but they had evidently run out of crab, so I opted for the tenderloin steak flatbread ($11.95) instead. Cubes of medium-rare beef weighed down a long rectangular sleeve of crisp flatbread flavored with caramelized onions, wild mushrooms and a layer of mozzarella. Not a bad choice at all. I missed the berry compote more than I thought I would while enjoying baked brie ($12.95), though slices of pineapple, cantaloupe, melon and red apple, along with a small cluster of seedless red grapes, offered a properly fruity complement. The buttery-soft baguette was worth half the price of the dish alone.

    I thoroughly enjoyed the simply grilled onaga ($24.95), a ruby-red snapper from Hawaii noted for its soft, slightly fatty flesh. The generous puck of liquefying lime-dill butter atop the ample fillet proved to be the sole fault of this special, but it’s a nitpicky charge. Fluffy yellow rice and perfectly grilled asparagus accompanied the dish. If you’re a meat-and-potatoes man, the pot roast ($15.75) won’t disappoint. The slow-roasted slab of beef is enveloped by a wonderfully thick moat of peppery gravy, with potatoes, carrots and celery added to the comforting mix.

    Desserts are all made in-house and supply toothsome coups de grace. Shaved rinds add a touch of class to simply divine key lime pie ($4.95), while even the most ardent of chocoholics will be hard-pressed not to feel buzzed from the thick, rich chocolate cake ($5.95).

    Service could use a bit of polishing: I can see how the bucolic view lends to a leisurely pace, but letting 10 minutes pass before taking a drink order is just plain shoddy. That, coupled with a front of house I found to be somewhat harried, can dampen the mood and may keep the Tap Room from being a destination for the city’s fooderati. Yeah, the short game may be a little off, but the kitchen, thankfully, has its act together. That’s more than enough to keep the Tap Room in the game.

    When judging Mexican food, it helps to have some ex-Californians in your camp. So when I headed over to the Taquitos Jalisco near MetroWest, I called on the most suitable contender I know – my mother. This is a woman of the belief that you can't grow up in Los Angeles without knowing what real Mexican food tastes like. So she dragged us to a veritable shack on the corner of Melrose and Vine weekly, and it was there that my relationship with Mexican food began. Today, my Mexican connoisseurship flourishes except for one problem – there are so few true Mexican restaurants in Orlando. With Mom's approval, Taquitos Jalisco is now on my shortlist.

    For those on the west side of town, the sizzling platters and the mariachi band at the flagship Taquitos Jalisco in Winter Garden (1041 S. Dillard St., 407-654-0363) are still wildly popular and worth the drive. But the new Hiawassee Road location opens up the restaurant's authenticity to a new audience.

    One of the things I love about a Mexican restaurant is the instant-gratification factor: Sit down to a basket of chips and bowl of salsa and start eating. Unfortunately, chips and salsa, like the breadbasket, often fall under the obligation curse. Salsa should taste magical – the alchemy of plump ripe tomatoes, fresh green cilantro, spicy peppers, sweet onions and the hand of someone special – and Taquitos' does. I couldn't stop piling it onto their warm chips and popping it all into my mouth.

    When I opened the menu, my eyes immediately fell on the enchiladas ($8.25), and there was no resisting the pull of childhood temptation. These three soft corn tortillas were stuffed with Mexican cheese – briny, stretchy and tangy all at once – and then set in a sea of delicately smoky enchilada sauce. My husband, also a former Californian, ordered three delicious tacos ($5.99): the carne asada (grilled beef), the pollo (chicken) and, my favorite, al pastor (marinated roast pork.) My mother went for the mole poblano ($8.99), and it was undoubtedly one of the best I've had in town. The deftly layered spices were balanced, the top note being chocolate; Taquitos Jalisco's mole coats the tongue like a soft piece of velvet.

    We all remarked on the tastiness of the refried beans, another dish that many Mexican restaurants treat as an afterthought; this kitchen has it mastered. We finished our meal with a smooth and lush flan ($2.75).

    Here's a definite sign of the true Mexican restaurant: Menudo is featured on their weekend menu. Only an authentic Mexican restaurant would venture into the strange and tumultuous land of dishes made out of a cow's stomach lining. A Mexican friend once told me that menudo is the best cure for a hangover – I vowed to come back on a hung-over Saturday.

    Taquitos Jalisco knows that simplicity is the name of the game in good Mexican cooking. Fresh, quality ingredients are mashed and molded and smoldered into something transformative. They make you feel like whoever made them enjoyed an afternoon in some outdoor Mexican kitchen grinding spices, roasting peppers, hanging out with family, living the simple life. Mom totally agrees.

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

    Kevin and Laurie Tarter expand their culinary empire within the confines of the Edgewater Hotel's ground floor, also home to their Chef's Table. Small plates take on Big Easy flavors with liberal doses of spice; smoked fish dip, boudin balls crowned with runny egg yolk and Asian beef skewers are stellar, and sublime sauces elevate both shrimp & grits and chicken livers. Dessert shooters satisfy without oversating.


    Teaser: Kevin and Laurie Tarter expand their culinary empire within the confines of the Edgewater Hotel's ground floor, also home to their Chef's Table. Small plates take on Big Easy flavors with liberal doses of spice; smoked fish dip, boudin balls crowned with runny egg yolk and Asian beef skewers are stellar, and sublime sauces elevate both shrimp & grits and chicken livers. Dessert shooters satisfy without satiating.

    Perhaps it was Asian inspiration, or maybe the work of skilled restaurateurs. But on a busy Friday night, when the house was nearly full at Tasty Thai Cuisine, the atmosphere remained genteel and serene, orderly and focused. The neighborhood secret must be getting out: Something special is going on in the kitchen here.

    The minimal interior of pale walls and bamboo furniture is a perfect foil for exploring a complex menu; flavors of the Far East come together in warm, sweet, surprising ways at Tasty Thai. Grilled, roasted and stir-fried meats merge with combinations of lemon grass, curry, chiles, cilantro, ginger and coconut milk. The results include dishes like namprik pao seafood ($10.95), an array of calamari, shrimp, mussels and scallops stir-fried with garlic, carrots, onions and bell peppers, served with roast pepper sauce. And salads, such as yum woon sen ($6.95), clear noodles, shrimp and ground pork, tossed with red onion, scallions and cilantro in a spicy dressing.

    The minimal interior of pale walls and bamboo furniture is a perfect foil for exploring a complex menu; flavors of the Far East come together in warm, sweet, surprising ways at Tasty Thai. Grilled, roasted and stir-fried meats merge with combinations of lemon grass, curry, chiles, cilantro, ginger and coconut milk. The results include dishes like namprik pao seafood ($10.95), an array of calamari, shrimp, mussels and scallops stir-fried with garlic, carrots, onions and bell peppers, served with roast pepper sauce. And salads, such as yum woon sen ($6.95), clear noodles, shrimp and ground pork, tossed with red onion, scallions and cilantro in a spicy dressing.

    On my first visit I sampled the "Tasty combination" ($9.95), more than a dozen fried delicacies. Goon sa-rong was visually intriguing: skewered shrimp wrapped with ground pork and wonton skins, twirled with egg noodles, then deep-fried so the noodles were frozen into place -- kind of like rings around a planet. Goon ka-borg and fried wonton were dumplings stuffed with shrimp and ground pork, and both were very good. There also were simple, fried shrimp, enhanced by a mild sweet-and-sour sauce.

    On my first visit I sampled the "Tasty combination" ($9.95), more than a dozen fried delicacies. Goon sa-rong was visually intriguing: skewered shrimp wrapped with ground pork and wonton skins, twirled with egg noodles, then deep-fried so the noodles were frozen into place -- kind of like rings around a planet. Goon ka-borg and fried wonton were dumplings stuffed with shrimp and ground pork, and both were very good. There also were simple, fried shrimp, enhanced by a mild sweet-and-sour sauce.

    Cucumber salad ($1.50) was outstanding mainly because of the fine, fruity vinaigrette dressing that bathed the crisp chopped cucumbers, bright green scallions, deep red tomatoes and onions. And satay ($3.95) made a fine appetizer, with four skewers of pork strips marinated in fresh coconut milk and spices, then char-grilled and served with spicy peanut sauce.

    Cucumber salad ($1.50) was outstanding mainly because of the fine, fruity vinaigrette dressing that bathed the crisp chopped cucumbers, bright green scallions, deep red tomatoes and onions. And satay ($3.95) made a fine appetizer, with four skewers of pork strips marinated in fresh coconut milk and spices, then char-grilled and served with spicy peanut sauce.

    On another visit I had gaeng kaew warn ($6.95), a thick, green curry gravy blended with chicken, peppers, tender bamboo shoots and basil leaves. Ladled over steamed white rice, it created a textured sensation on two levels: the spice intensity and the heat quotient.

    On another visit I had gaeng kaew warn ($6.95), a thick, green curry gravy blended with chicken, peppers, tender bamboo shoots and basil leaves. Ladled over steamed white rice, it created a textured sensation on two levels: the spice intensity and the heat quotient.

    Service was gracious and thoughtful. (On one rainy visit, hostesses sought out departing customers to ask if they needed umbrellas for the walk back to their cars.) Even after I left the tip on my table, I walked away with the impression that it was I who had been thanked.

    I found myself uttering the common Cantonese refrain m'goy (or 'thank youâ?�) repeatedly at this modest corner noodle house where roasted birds dangle as freely as modifiers in a high school English essay. No matter the language, the dishes here ' cheap, authentic and downright delicious ' speak for themselves.

    Curry-infused Singapore rice noodles ($9.50) ruled, each pan-fried thread pungent with the essence of the wok and with enough shrimp and pork to realize a Levitical nightmare. A swell of thick, flat noodles glistened in the beef chow fun ($9.50), textured with a bushel of crunchy scallions and bean sprouts and layered with tender slices of beef. As far as the suspended fowl is concerned, appetizer portions of roast duck ($5.95) and chicken ($5.25), hacked into bite-sized chunks and served with a secret dip ' soy sauce and sesame oil were the only ingredients I was able to glean ' offer a proper juicy-to-crisp ratio.

    Adventuresome gastronomes can have a field day with dishes from duck feet to jellyfish to beef tendon congee, while daily specials are handwritten and posted on a rack near the kitchen. The space is small, relatively unadorned and perpetually bustling with families, though heads are typically buried in bowls. The red-and-black-clad waitresses are quick, efficient and always poised to educate the uninitiated, but if you're really craving a Sino-American staple, you can get your fill of General Tso's chicken too.

    If you think that any restaurant bearing the name of a sports legend has to be adorned with flat-screen TVs that only show ESPN and serve only heaping plates of chili cheese fries: think again. Dan Marino’s newly refurbished Tavern on the Lake is one classy joint with some killer comestibles.

    Whoever designed the two signature martinis should be given a medal. The Rose Petal martini ($10) is a sweet-smelling bouquet of vodka, rosewater and Cointreau with a lingering lychee flavor. The sweet and fiery Thai chili martini ($10) is edgier. Using mango juice as its base, the cocktail comes in a glass sporting quite a bit of hot chili powder around the rim.

    While the beverages are sure to please the complex palate, be careful what you order for dinner. Some plates are true touchdowns, like the Tavern mac and cheese ($8.25), a home-style serving of the classic dressed up with earthy white-truffle oil and smoky applewood bacon crumbles. However, some dishes still need honing. The quail appetizer ($12.25) displayed an overwhelming amount of elements on one plate: grilled quail (a little overdone and dry for my taste) atop haricots verts, crumbled goat cheese, dried cranberries, pine nuts, butternut squash and a cumbersome oven-roasted half Gala apple (unseeded) that had little integrity and even less flavor. The unremarkable dessert menu proffers only unimaginative key lime pie, crème brûlée and molten lava cake. Snooze.

    Tavern on the Lake is located in the shopping district of MetroWest, but if you don’t drive a luxury vehicle, don’t feel embarrassed. The clientele, mostly men in their 40s, could use some young, hipster Volvo-driving blood to spruce up the place a little. But the combination of the modern décor, warm service, and cool ambience could make Dan Marino’s newest permutation a welcome addition to Orlando fine dining.

    The extreme makeover underway at Pointe Orlando has given rise to a number of upscale chains inside the sprawling entertainment complex – Tommy Bahama’s, Capital Grille and the Oceanaire Seafood Room to name but a few. But the latest, a grand whitewashed edifice at the very heart of the Pointe, sits like the Parthenon atop an Acropolis of tourist dollars, its aim to attract the hungry to its temple of Dionysian, not Athenian, feasts.

    And vacationers will, undoubtedly, eat this place up. The platters of Greek and Mediterranean specialties are first-rate, but the food takes a back seat to the atmosphere which, for the most part, resembles a Mykonos discotheque more than it does a quaint Aegean taverna.

    Here, ladies who are not so big, nor fat, nor Greek, gyrate atop tables to thumping beats; belly dancers perambulate around the octagonal dining room urging dorks to dance; and the raucous clapping, napkin-tossing and repetitive shouts of “Opa!” distract even the most focused conversationalists. A place to dine on a first date it’s not, but for birthdays and celebrations, there’s no better place.

    Dinner began with a 20-something waiter clad in black scurrying to my table with mortar and pestle in hand. In it were a few simple ingredients – chickpeas, garlic, thyme and olive oil – which I was encouraged to mash into a rustic chunky hummus. Quite the clever (and labor-reducing) tactic to get diners immediately immersed into the Opa experience, but, more importantly, the hummus and warm pita bread made for a uniquely fresh complimentary appetizer. Such appetizers (or meze) comprise half of the enormous menu, a concept not unlike that of Spanish tapas. The keftedes ($4), a hot meze plate of three broiled balls of ground beef, were an herbaceous trio thanks to the liberal usage of oregano. The meatballs are served naked but, surprisingly, they didn’t need a starchy accompaniment.

    A flutter of napkins rained down on my table just as I took a bite of saganaki cheese ($9). It seems that the servers are prone to random yelps of “Opa!,” necessitating a chuck of serviettes. Nevertheless, the big salty slab of fried kefalotyri cheese was enjoyably chewy, and a splash of lemon provided a righteous zing. To my amazement, the cheese, layered with metaxa brandy, wasn’t flambéed tableside as part of the spectacle. “The servers just aren’t experienced enough yet, and I don’t want to run the risk of patrons leaving with singed eyebrows,” the owner openly confided.

    There’s no chance of such a conflagration with the mussels and ouzo ($8). The mollusks were huge, and the tomato-basil-oregano sauce was huge on flavor. The licorice essence of ouzo, however, wasn’t as pronounced as hoped; in fact, I could barely taste it all.

    Most of the entrees are borne out of the wood-fired grill, but if you’re a sucker for moussaka ($12), the version offered here was just average. Layers of roasted eggplant, potatoes, ground beef and béchamel couldn’t compensate for the lack of seasonings, plus the dish was served tepid. The meat platter ($23) is truly a carnivore’s delight, but when mine arrived sans gyros, I was duly compensated for the oversight with complimentary shots of ouzo. “Opa!” indeed. Back to the platter, the soft, luscious cube of beef tenderloin was as good as I’ve ever tasted; I just wish they’d serve more than one cube. All the meats – pork loin, c

Calendar

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

© 2019 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation