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Sushi and noodles are all the rage at this cool lunch spot. Handsomely presented "torch rolls" with conch, scallops, salmon, tuna and sriracha are luscious, while spicy red tobiko proffer a proper pop. Bento boxes run the gamut and a bonanza of boba awaits tea-totalers.

Handsome downtown spot diversifies its pan-Asian portfolio to include Turkish fare. The mixed grill of beef, chicken, lamb and shrimp is a kebab-lovers’ delight, though traditional Peking duck, steamed dumplings and beef soup impress as well. Turkish coffee and fresh lychees topped with cream make splendid endings.


Teaser: Handsome downtown spot diversifies its pan-Asian portfolio to include Turkish fare. The mixed grill of beef, chicken, lamb and shrimp is a kebab-lovers' delight, though traditional Peking duck, steamed dumplings and beef soup impress as well. Turkish coffee and fresh lychees topped with cream make splendid endings.

We all know what image the word "buffet" conjures up, and it's not a complimentary one if you're looking for a fine meal. Add "crazy" to that, all sorts of pictures spring to mind that would make the late eccentric filmmaker Ed Wood blush.

So my problem is in finding an alternative phrase for a place called "Crazy Buffet" to describe how impressive it is. Part of a small chain, this location (open since October 2001) has a giant pink facade with a pagoda on top and "gee whiz" decor inside: The black-marble entry, bubbling streams and many dining rooms will make your mouth fall open.

So my problem is in finding an alternative phrase for a place called "Crazy Buffet" to describe how impressive it is. Part of a small chain, this location (open since October 2001) has a giant pink facade with a pagoda on top and "gee whiz" decor inside: The black-marble entry, bubbling streams and many dining rooms will make your mouth fall open.

Called an "upscale Japanese" restaurant, many of the offerings are Chinese, including a not-too-sweet honey chicken, tofu-laden hot-and-sour soup, and crunchy, shell-on salt-and-pepper shrimp. Lo mein fans won't be disappointed; neither will seekers of peppery Szechuan beef.

Called an "upscale Japanese" restaurant, many of the offerings are Chinese, including a not-too-sweet honey chicken, tofu-laden hot-and-sour soup, and crunchy, shell-on salt-and-pepper shrimp. Lo mein fans won't be disappointed; neither will seekers of peppery Szechuan beef.

It's when you find bowls of Japanese udon noodles and crabmeat waiting for a ladle of rich broth, or sweet black-hijiki-seaweed salad, or rich and comforting miso soup, that things become interesting.

It's when you find bowls of Japanese udon noodles and crabmeat waiting for a ladle of rich broth, or sweet black-hijiki-seaweed salad, or rich and comforting miso soup, that things become interesting.

I have had sushi made with higher grade fish locally, but I've also had a lot worse and paid a lot more. The best part for sushi lovers is that you can choose your favorite and eat all you want. Toasted salmon-skin rolls, California rolls, the interestingly different "house" roll that's fried on the outside with moist fish within, broiled unagi (eel), a refreshing, spicy chopped octopus, sweet red tuna -- the assortment changes with supply, but it's all worth a try.

I have had sushi made with higher grade fish locally, but I've also had a lot worse and paid a lot more. The best part for sushi lovers is that you can choose your favorite and eat all you want. Toasted salmon-skin rolls, California rolls, the interestingly different "house" roll that's fried on the outside with moist fish within, broiled unagi (eel), a refreshing, spicy chopped octopus, sweet red tuna -- the assortment changes with supply, but it's all worth a try.

Desserts, particularly the green-tea cake, are a step above the ordinary, and the bread -- always my first indicator of how much a restaurant cares about its food -- is superb.

Desserts, particularly the green-tea cake, are a step above the ordinary, and the bread -- always my first indicator of how much a restaurant cares about its food -- is superb.

Service (yes, there are servers who bring drinks and clear used plates) is attentive and polite. Lunch ($9.95, or $15.95 for weekend brunch) is a great deal for sushi fanatics, and dinner ($18.95 to $21.95, depending on the day) features a one-shot hibachi counter: Pick some vegetables, your meat of choice (chicken, beef, pork or seafood) and a sauce, and it will appear at your table.

Service (yes, there are servers who bring drinks and clear used plates) is attentive and polite. Lunch ($9.95, or $15.95 for weekend brunch) is a great deal for sushi fanatics, and dinner ($18.95 to $21.95, depending on the day) features a one-shot hibachi counter: Pick some vegetables, your meat of choice (chicken, beef, pork or seafood) and a sauce, and it will appear at your table.

Think of it more as Asian communal eating rather than a buffet. And since there are Japanese creatures akin to foxes running wild in their native country, I'll coin a new phrase and say, "Crazy Buffet is crazy like a kitsune."

I'm sure Emeril Lagasse is a nice guy, a boy from small-town Fall River, Mass., who made it good in the food trade. People certainly seem to like him. But from the looks of his second restaurant at Universal Orlando, I get the feeling he has marble fountains and paintings on black velvet in his house.

The gourmet production is called Tchoup Chop (pronounced "chop chop" and named after Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans, home to Emeril's flagship), serving an oddly Polynesian/Thai/Hawaiian fare in the Royal Pacific Resort, which has an Indonesian theme. Giant glass-flower-blossom chandeliers and a central lily pond dominate the wicker and stone room, and each element is impressive by itself but jarring all together.

The gourmet production is called Tchoup Chop (pronounced "chop chop" and named after Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans, home to Emeril's flagship), serving an oddly Polynesian/Thai/Hawaiian fare in the Royal Pacific Resort, which has an Indonesian theme. Giant glass-flower-blossom chandeliers and a central lily pond dominate the wicker and stone room, and each element is impressive by itself but jarring all together.

Much is made of the cocktail menu, which takes up more room than the entrees, but a Bloody Mary with wasabi, soy sauce and sake somehow didn't appeal to me. The dumpling box ($7) was a better choice, steamed dim sum filled with a heavy pork-and-ginger mixture. They were similar to the "pot stickers" ($8), pan-fried shrimp dumplings with dipping sauce. Both were good, but not much different from the acres of dumplings elsewhere.

Much is made of the cocktail menu, which takes up more room than the entrees, but a Bloody Mary with wasabi, soy sauce and sake somehow didn't appeal to me. The dumpling box ($7) was a better choice, steamed dim sum filled with a heavy pork-and-ginger mixture. They were similar to the "pot stickers" ($8), pan-fried shrimp dumplings with dipping sauce. Both were good, but not much different from the acres of dumplings elsewhere.

The "creative clay pot of the day" ($18), offering firm fish (salmon on this night) with vegetables in a deep fish broth and overcooked rice, was an interesting dish but not particularly creative. A shame, since the kitchen is capable of glory. It's wonderful to discover new flavors, and the Kona-glazed duck ($22) was an outrageous combination of rich duck breast coated in caramelized coffee.

The "creative clay pot of the day" ($18), offering firm fish (salmon on this night) with vegetables in a deep fish broth and overcooked rice, was an interesting dish but not particularly creative. A shame, since the kitchen is capable of glory. It's wonderful to discover new flavors, and the Kona-glazed duck ($22) was an outrageous combination of rich duck breast coated in caramelized coffee.

The tuna salad ($9) consisted of ribbons of seared tuna served with sprouts and crisp cucumber in a vinegar/mustard sauce (good with the vegetables but overpowering the excellent fish) and garnished with a pansy blossom Ð and an aphid. I mention this bug incident not to demean the staff (it was a fresh flower and a tiny bug, these things happen), but to emphasize that the service, from manager down, has a long way to go. No apology was tendered, no visit by the wandering "suit"; the price of the salad was deducted from the bill almost as an afterthought.

The tuna salad ($9) consisted of ribbons of seared tuna served with sprouts and crisp cucumber in a vinegar/mustard sauce (good with the vegetables but overpowering the excellent fish) and garnished with a pansy blossom Ð and an aphid. I mention this bug incident not to demean the staff (it was a fresh flower and a tiny bug, these things happen), but to emphasize that the service, from manager down, has a long way to go. No apology was tendered, no visit by the wandering "suit"; the price of the salad was deducted from the bill almost as an afterthought.

There's an air of forced urgency in the constant swarming of waiters, water pourers and plate clearers, so conversation has to be done in bursts, as someone unnervingly appears at your elbow every few minutes to ask, "How is your entree? More water? Anything else?," even to the point of reading the menu to you. There are all the trappings of good service without the finesse. The Emeril folks aren't new to the restaurant trade, they should have learned something about service by now.

There's an air of forced urgency in the constant swarming of waiters, water pourers and plate clearers, so conversation has to be done in bursts, as someone unnervingly appears at your elbow every few minutes to ask, "How is your entree? More water? Anything else?," even to the point of reading the menu to you. There are all the trappings of good service without the finesse. The Emeril folks aren't new to the restaurant trade, they should have learned something about service by now.

Tchoup Chop puts on a good show, but it'll be a long journey until they're impressive.

For around 50 bucks, our table was quickly loaded with more than enough to feed a hungry fivesome – and that's the best thing I can say about a recent visit to Mama Fu's Noodle House in Lake Mary. The rest of the experience – from the food to the service to the ambience – ranged from OK to laughable.

Interestingly, the randomly numbered laminated cards – ours read "one billion 92" – that diners post on their tables (so orders can be matched up) read: "Laughter can make friends remember ... and enemies forget." Everybody's gotta have a gimmick these days, an approach that is working like gangbusters for 38-year-old entrepreneur Martin Sprock of Raving Brands Inc. Dipping into Florida, his ventures include Mama Fu's, Moe's Southwestern Grill and Planet Smoothie, and there are more concepts on the way. While this Mama Fu's is the first in town, fast expansion plans already call for 13 more. It's a good bet that they'll show up in other Stepford-style shopping malls, such as this one, Colonial Town Park, which has the new Dexter's.

Interestingly, the randomly numbered laminated cards – ours read "one billion 92" – that diners post on their tables (so orders can be matched up) read: "Laughter can make friends remember ... and enemies forget." Everybody's gotta have a gimmick these days, an approach that is working like gangbusters for 38-year-old entrepreneur Martin Sprock of Raving Brands Inc. Dipping into Florida, his ventures include Mama Fu's, Moe's Southwestern Grill and Planet Smoothie, and there are more concepts on the way. While this Mama Fu's is the first in town, fast expansion plans already call for 13 more. It's a good bet that they'll show up in other Stepford-style shopping malls, such as this one, Colonial Town Park, which has the new Dexter's.

Walk through the glass doors and you're at the order counter under the wall-board menu of appetizers, salads, entrees and noodle bowls that can be juggled with choices of chicken, beef, shrimp and tofu and veggies. They are not really Asian dishes, but more like a corporate fusion of American tastes and Asian influences, with everything a little too sweet, even the noodles. After ordering a sampling of items, we headed to an outdoor table to avoid the cavernous echo inside – the kind that numbs your senses (and is perfect for letting kids run wild).

Walk through the glass doors and you're at the order counter under the wall-board menu of appetizers, salads, entrees and noodle bowls that can be juggled with choices of chicken, beef, shrimp and tofu and veggies. They are not really Asian dishes, but more like a corporate fusion of American tastes and Asian influences, with everything a little too sweet, even the noodles. After ordering a sampling of items, we headed to an outdoor table to avoid the cavernous echo inside – the kind that numbs your senses (and is perfect for letting kids run wild).

On the OK side of the meal were the seared ahi tuna ($5.99 "mama" size/$6.99 "big mama") and "Bangkok basil rolls" ($3.99/$5.99) appetizers. The sesame-encrusted ahi was served on a bed of fresh spinach with a sharp ponzu dipping sauce. There was an odd spice in the peanut sauce, but the rolls were filled with the finely grated crunchiness of carrots, cucumbers, spring lettuce and rice noodles. And the "Mongolian" with beef ("soy glaze with mushrooms, yellow onions and fresh scallion sticks") was ordered with noodles for an additional 99 cents, instead of the usual rice, at the helpful recommendation of the order-taker. Noodles are the definitely the way to go.

On the OK side of the meal were the seared ahi tuna ($5.99 "mama" size/$6.99 "big mama") and "Bangkok basil rolls" ($3.99/$5.99) appetizers. The sesame-encrusted ahi was served on a bed of fresh spinach with a sharp ponzu dipping sauce. There was an odd spice in the peanut sauce, but the rolls were filled with the finely grated crunchiness of carrots, cucumbers, spring lettuce and rice noodles. And the "Mongolian" with beef ("soy glaze with mushrooms, yellow onions and fresh scallion sticks") was ordered with noodles for an additional 99 cents, instead of the usual rice, at the helpful recommendation of the order-taker. Noodles are the definitely the way to go.

The "spicy basil" noodle bowl with tofu ($6.99) also benefited from the noodles, and the tofu was nicely sliced and fried for a crispy effect. This is one of the spicy-hot dishes, and it did leave a burn on the lips but without any depth to back it up. The "spicy General Fu" with shrimp ($8.99) was served with rice and featured the battered and fried variety that you buy frozen at the grocery store, and its sauce was an overly sweet and sour one.

The "spicy basil" noodle bowl with tofu ($6.99) also benefited from the noodles, and the tofu was nicely sliced and fried for a crispy effect. This is one of the spicy-hot dishes, and it did leave a burn on the lips but without any depth to back it up. The "spicy General Fu" with shrimp ($8.99) was served with rice and featured the battered and fried variety that you buy frozen at the grocery store, and its sauce was an overly sweet and sour one.

On the unpleasant side of the meal, the Thai coconut soup ($1.99/$3.49) and the red Thai curry were curiosities. The base of the soup had a cloying thickness, more like a bisque, and there was not much in the way of the promised black mushrooms and tomatoes. The red curry with chicken ($6.99) had the veggies (carrots, broccoli, zucchini, white mushrooms and red bell peppers), but the sauce was watery and oddly seasoned.

On the unpleasant side of the meal, the Thai coconut soup ($1.99/$3.49) and the red Thai curry were curiosities. The base of the soup had a cloying thickness, more like a bisque, and there was not much in the way of the promised black mushrooms and tomatoes. The red curry with chicken ($6.99) had the veggies (carrots, broccoli, zucchini, white mushrooms and red bell peppers), but the sauce was watery and oddly seasoned.

As for service, we moved dirty dishes off our table and shooed away flies. The items were delivered in the order they came out of the kitchen, so appetizers, soups and entrees all piled up at one time. Then we had to track down missing items from the student-age servers, who looked unhappy. The fictitious Mama Fu isn't fooling anyone with this venture.

The sheer variety and low price point of the assorted dishes makes this hub of pan-Asian small plates a popular draw, but it's better for snacking and drinking beer with a group than sitting down to a trad meal. The menu attempts to replicate the feel of a Singaporean street-food market with an array of tiny, tasty Chinese, Malay, Viet and Indian dishes. The place packs ’em in, so call ahead or risk waiting.

Fresh ingredients, genial service and sheer variety help make this Winter Park hot pot joint an option for these looking for a change in their restaurant routine. Meats aren't too out of the ordinary, though live blue crab, lobster, shrimp and bass keep it interesting. Stock base and spice levels can be adjusted according to taste, though "numb-spicy" isn't as excruciating as you might think/hope. Open daily, and until 5 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.


Teaser: Fresh ingredients, genial service and sheer variety help make this Winter Park hot pot joint an option for these looking for a change in their restaurant routine. Meats aren't too out of the ordinary, though live blue crab, lobster, shrimp and bass keep it interesting. Stock base and spice levels can be adjusted according to taste, though "numb-spicy" isn't as excruciating as you might think/hope. Open daily, and until 5 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
Mamak brings a semblance of Malaysia’s food-stall culture to Mills 50 with plenty of pan-Asian noodle soups, wok-fired delicacies and small plates. From beef bulgogi and seasoned cod in black bean sauce to char kway teow and kari mee, the dishes here are exemplary and thoroughly gratifying. Get a plate of stir-fried green beans to nosh on throughout your meal. To end, sweet ice kacang is a cold comfort.

Fast food sure ain't what it used to be. These days, urban slackers have clusters of "fast-casual eateries" to satisfy their immediate demands, like the one in front of Target on East Colonial Drive. First came the drive-through Starbucks, then Chipotle and now the snazzy Pei Wei Asian Diner (prounounced pay-way), operated by P.F. Chang's. And while Pei Wei is a testament to the fact that the convenience market is stronger than ever, their menu has panache and, I'll admit, better choices than the fast food of my Big Mac generation.

The Pei Wei concept was created to be a competitor in the noodle shop trend, but they offer more than just noodles. They also offer rice bowls, salads and an array of pan-Asian "signature dishes" that bring together Korean, Vietnamese, Thai and Chinese cuisines.

Since P.F. Chang's practically put lettuce cups on the culinary map, no visit to Pei Wei is complete without an order of minced chicken ($6.25) or chile-seared pork ($6.25) lettuce wraps. Both have tangy fillings loaded onto cool, crisp lettuce.

Among the noodle dishes, my only disappointment was with the pad Thai ($6.25) – the gummy noodles laced with crushed peanuts were missing flavor that could have been remedied with a few turns of fish sauce. The lo meins ($6.25) with shiitake mushrooms and pungent garlic sauce were comforting and satisfying, just what a bowl of noodles should be.

The rice bowls, which come with either brown or white rice, are gracefully simple, such as the shrimp with lobster sauce bowl ($7.25), which looked tempting. But I stuck to the array of hugely portioned signature dishes – like the blazing noodles ($7.25) – which all come with high-quality meat and interesting sauces. This is my kind of fast food.

If someone said, "Let's go to Roy's for dinner," you might think they were referring to a chicken shack. But you should hope they're talking about Roy's Restaurant, the latest entry in fine dining along the amazingly fertile Sand Lake and Dr. Phillips intersection.

Restaurants and shops are springing up like weeds along this stretch of land that was formerly filled with, well, weeds. Roy Yamaguchi, cookbook author, TV host and restaurateur, has opened the latest branch of his empire on it.

Restaurants and shops are springing up like weeds along this stretch of land that was formerly filled with, well, weeds. Roy Yamaguchi, cookbook author, TV host and restaurateur, has opened the latest branch of his empire on it.

From the hype, I expected someplace fancier. The decor varies: a bistro feel with quilted copper panels above an open kitchen and a smattering of small tables; upscale diner with booths and bare wood tables against a beautiful river-rock wall; and a section of wine-cellar gone mad, with enormous glass-walled wine racks. A key ingredient in the Roy's experience is wine. The chain (there's more than a dozen) has partnerships with wineries that put the "Roy's" label on select bottles and sell him truckloads of premium vintages. The guy buys 1,100 cases of Pinot Gris at a time, so you'll have lots of choices.

The food also gives you choices. The menu reads like a primer in Hawaiian and Asian cooking and combinations thereof. Inamona sauce (candlenut kernels from the island of Hana) is served with ahi tuna. Shutome swordfish is basted in Thai curry sauce. I had a lovely serving of hebi (Hawaiian spearfish), a dark, oily meat that's firmer and more pronounced in taste that tuna, nicely grilled with cilantro leaves ($25). My companion had the "surfah" combination ($25), seared mahi with macadamia lobster sauce along with triple tails with Parmesan crab sauce. Unfortunately, it was presented with the two fish stacked on each other, and the sauces sort of blended around them. They were damn good sauces, even though the fish seemed a bit too bland to carry them.

Appetizers were beautiful in presentation but ordinary in taste. Coconut shrimp sticks weren't any better than standard Chinese-restaurant fare. The topping on the "dynamite" oysters reminded me of broiler-browned mayonnaise.

Certain desserts take 20 minutes to prepare. If you're like me (and of course you are), you probably can't think about dessert so far in advance, so just order the "haupia," coconut pudding in a chocolate shell that looks like a little coconut.

Certain desserts take 20 minutes to prepare. If you're like me (and of course you are), you probably can't think about dessert so far in advance, so just order the "haupia," coconut pudding in a chocolate shell that looks like a little coconut.

Roy's prides itself on "aloha service." In this case, "aloha" must be the island word for "waiter hovering over you at alternate mouthfuls." Maybe I'm getting curmudgeonly in my old age. Maybe that's why Roy's has so much wine.

Don't let the fuchsia hues and J-pop-themed decor fool you ' Sushi Pop takes its fare seriously. Stellar sushi and sashimi complement a variety of rolls, entrees and whimsical desserts flourished with notes of molecular gastronomy (blue cheese powder or liquid nitrogen sorbet, anyone?). Sake fans have the privilege of consulting an in-house expert.

The name is misleading, but Teriyaki House is the place to come to for real-deal Taiwanese fare. Skip the paper menu and focus on the photo menu: Sweet sausage, fatty pork belly and grilled milkfish all delight, but stinky tofu is lamentably easy on the nasal passages. Ask for three-cup chicken, a Formosan fave that'll have hot-pot hounds salivating.

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