You searched for:

Start over

Search for…

Narrow Search

152 results

I've known about Amazonas Latin Grill for quite a while, but their cafeteria-style method of service didn't make me want to rush to visit. Also, I assumed, quite wrongly, that because Amazonas was located in a brutally unappealing strip-mall plaza anchored by a Wal-Mart, the fare would be equally unappealing.

But when a friend extolled the virtues of their Venezuelan-inspired cuisine, I swallowed my pride ' and, ultimately, everything on my plate. Since that initial visit, I've been back scores of times, and their meals have never failed to impress. Most remarkable is how delightfully cheap everything is, which may also explain the long line that forms at noon. In fact, they close relatively early ' 7 p.m. on weeknights and 8 p.m. on weekends. With all the businesses in the Sand Lake Road'John Young Parkway corridor, it's no surprise that it gets busy at the lunching hour. What is surprising is how appetizing the array of dishes in the steam table looks. Owners Enrique and Gabriela Vuolo appear committed to serving quality food ' just take a look at the heaps of glistening yellow rice, perfectly caramelized plantains and saucy shredded meats behind the counter and you'll be convinced.

Amazonas is a place you love taking newcomers to ' particularly those apprehensive about the quality. There's a pleasure in witnessing their conversion after a bite of the tender, chunky shredded pork ($7.99 with two sides), the superbly spiced shredded chicken ($7.99 with two sides) or the salty shredded beef ($7.99 with two sides). Even those who'd rather play it safe will find gratification in an order of grilled chicken ($6.49 for quarter-chicken with two sides) ' moist, tender and nicely seasoned. A rare disappointment: On my last visit, the side of cilantro roasted potatoes wasn't very flavorful.

Sandwiches are another specialty, whether it's a traditional pabellón ($6.99) ' a hoagie filled with shredded beef, french fry sticks, plantains and cilantro mayonnaise ' or the Venezuelan burger ($5.99), a must for diners with a penchant for protein. A fried egg and ham add to the meatiness of the burger, which also includes avocado, white cheese, lettuce and tomato. The churrasco ($8.99 with two sides) is a hefty slab of beef, and a wonderfully tender one at that; the price would lead you to think otherwise, but the steak is one hell of a deal. (Be sure to ask for some chimichurri sauce and a cup of their homemade hot sauce for an added kick.) Smaller items, like doughy ground-beef-filled potato balls ($1.50) and crispy chicken arepas ($4.99), are nice options for those who don't want as filling a meal. I wasn't so impressed with the flan ($2.49), but the tres leches ($2.99) and bienmesabe ($2.99), a spongy, creamy coconut-rum cake, made scrumptious endings. Same goes for the marquesa de chocolate ($2.99), a layered chocolate-cookie cake that's rich, but not too rich.

The fact the joint is always packed at lunch is a testament to the kitchen's prowess in churning out massive quantities of food ' good food ' in so short a period of time. The diverse patronage that patiently waits in line serves as an affirmation for uninitiated diners, and guarantees a return visit.

After a slowdown from the sushi overload of last year, several new restaurants have opened lately in various parts of town. Gracing the dining hot spot of Sand Lake Road is a familiar name in new clothing: Amura.

Owned by the same folks behind the cozy Church Street location, Amura on Sand Lake is upscale and reservedly glitzy. It's to their credit that, despite some stiff competition and the shaky state of Church Street, Amura has thrived enough to expand.

Owned by the same folks behind the cozy Church Street location, Amura on Sand Lake is upscale and reservedly glitzy. It's to their credit that, despite some stiff competition and the shaky state of Church Street, Amura has thrived enough to expand.

This venue includes teppan tables, secluded on one side of the restaurant from the main room; judging by the appreciative noises coming from that end they seem to go over well. The new Amura is a gorgeous space, with backlit glass walls, rich marble flooring and tiny halogen lights suspended invisibly overhead like stars. But oohs and aahs at the decor quickly turn to gasps at the pricing – $21.99 for boring salt-coated scallops? A "deluxe Isleworth boat" sushi assortment for $99.98?

This venue includes teppan tables, secluded on one side of the restaurant from the main room; judging by the appreciative noises coming from that end they seem to go over well. The new Amura is a gorgeous space, with backlit glass walls, rich marble flooring and tiny halogen lights suspended invisibly overhead like stars. But oohs and aahs at the decor quickly turn to gasps at the pricing – $21.99 for boring salt-coated scallops? A "deluxe Isleworth boat" sushi assortment for $99.98?

The quality of the sushi does remain high, and it's particularly nice to see varieties of fish that have a low environmental impact, like hamachi (yellowtail, a kind of amberjack) and saba (mackerel). The saba is particularly good, with a slightly pickled taste that complements the firm rice. I recommend any of their nigiri sushi or sashimi, which glistens like jewels under those lights, except for the sashimi appetizer ($8.99), which includes a piece of surimi (that horrible fake crab). Surimi also turned up in the sunomono salad ($7.99) – shame on them.

The quality of the sushi does remain high, and it's particularly nice to see varieties of fish that have a low environmental impact, like hamachi (yellowtail, a kind of amberjack) and saba (mackerel). The saba is particularly good, with a slightly pickled taste that complements the firm rice. I recommend any of their nigiri sushi or sashimi, which glistens like jewels under those lights, except for the sashimi appetizer ($8.99), which includes a piece of surimi (that horrible fake crab). Surimi also turned up in the sunomono salad ($7.99) – shame on them.

The rolls didn't fare as well as the sushi. The "bamboo wine roll" ($8.99) of white tuna wrapped in avocado was limp and tasteless, the avocado overwhelming other flavors. And the "Magic roll" ($7.99), with shrimp, crab and asparagus was so soggy with a sweet, watery sauce, that it was almost impossible to pick up.

The rolls didn't fare as well as the sushi. The "bamboo wine roll" ($8.99) of white tuna wrapped in avocado was limp and tasteless, the avocado overwhelming other flavors. And the "Magic roll" ($7.99), with shrimp, crab and asparagus was so soggy with a sweet, watery sauce, that it was almost impossible to pick up.

It's when we get to the kitchen that everything falls apart. Not everyone likes the same thing, but I'll bet very few people enjoy oily and lukewarm shrimp tempura, with batter-dipped vegetables that are either undercooked or in such large pieces, like the broccoli, that raw batter sits inside as an unpleasant surprise. All that for $16.95. "fiery garlic chicken" ($15.99), a small portion of chewy chicken bits, was more overseasoned than fiery. The "geisha shrimp" ($18.99) were battered, then covered in an odd white sauce, with a bitter, burnt garlic taste that lingered for hours.

It's when we get to the kitchen that everything falls apart. Not everyone likes the same thing, but I'll bet very few people enjoy oily and lukewarm shrimp tempura, with batter-dipped vegetables that are either undercooked or in such large pieces, like the broccoli, that raw batter sits inside as an unpleasant surprise. All that for $16.95. "fiery garlic chicken" ($15.99), a small portion of chewy chicken bits, was more overseasoned than fiery. The "geisha shrimp" ($18.99) were battered, then covered in an odd white sauce, with a bitter, burnt garlic taste that lingered for hours.

If you go, stay with what Amura knows best – sushi – and let the kitchen staff take a break.

'Our pizza is well done,� state the numerous 'warning signs� at Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, an upscale chain in the Whole Foods plaza specializing in Brooklyn-style thin-crust pie. The 'well done� here amounts to a slightly blackened undercrust with a flavor akin to charred toast. Now, I like the taste of charred toast, but when tomato sauce (more sweet than herbaceous) and mozzarella is thrown into the mix, the resulting flavor takes some getting used to. 

I did ultimately finish the cheese pizza ($6.50 lunch portion), so that has to count for something. And the pies are baked in just four minutes inside 800-degree ovens using eco-friendly anthracite, so you won't have to wait long. 

Another plus: the simplicity of the menu. You have pizza, coal-oven-roasted chicken wings (the plump numbers are topped with grilled onions), Italian salad, a couple of focaccia sandwiches and New York'style cheesecake (though my dessert preference would be to skip the cheesecake and head across the parking lot to Piccolo Gelato for a post-pizza affogato). Waitresses are wonderfully bright and cheery and you will be too before your meal's over. 

Another plus: the simplicity of the menu. You have pizza, coal-oven-roasted chicken wings (the plump numbers are topped with grilled onions), Italian salad, a couple of focaccia sandwiches and New York'style cheesecake (though my dessert preference would be to skip the cheesecake and head across the parking lot to Piccolo Gelato for a post-pizza affogato). Waitresses are wonderfully bright and cheery and you will be too before your meal's over. 

Seemingly everything is imported from Italy, from the glassware to the tile. Drink prices are the usual Sand Lake high, but low traffic to this second-floor restaurant means you'll have the bartender's undivided attention. The bar features a walk-in wine closet and flat-screen TVs, and there's live entertainment on weekends.

What do you get when you cross Starbucks with Ron Jon's Surf Shop? A coffeehouse with a faux molten volcano, 3-D surf wave, saltwater aquarium and brews with an attitude, aka Bad Ass Coffee Company.

The fantastical decor of this Hawaiian-rooted chain fits right into its I-Drive location, south of Sand Lake Boulevard – so much so that owners Tom and Linda Clark haven't heard so much as a boo about the Bad Ass name (even though there was a bit of a "brewhaha" over the Tampa store), since they opened their family business in February. The Ass reference pays homage to the donkeys used to transport the harvested beans out of the mountains. They're not just talking dirty.

Being good parents, the friendly Clark couple invested in the store so that daughter Jennifer, a fresh Florida State University graduate with a master's degree in tax accounting, could follow her dream to open a coffeehouse, because she didn't really like numbers, after all. And it's the only Bad Ass in town.

This is the place to purchase genuine Kona beans – the only coffee grown in the United States. If you're late to the Kona controversy, there's been much to-do about the sale of fake or blended varieties, even by heavyweights such as Starbucks. The hoopla comes from the fact that Kona beans only grow on a 20-square-mile area on the island of Hawaii. The constant cloud cover and rich soil generate the distinctive low-acid, full-bodied beans that claim top dollar around the world.

Bad Ass carries a variety of 100 percent Kona roasts, from lightweight American to robust French. The ultimate delicacy in the store is the "Peaberry medium-dark roast" – $22.95 for a half-pound bag, which is a totally reasonable price. Most coffee beans have two halves, but the pea berry has a single core – a natural anomaly – and they are handpicked out of the processing line. A fresh crop won't be in until February, so there's little Kona (much less pea berry) to be found anywhere, except at Bad Ass, which stocked up for the holidays.

The store carries a lighthearted line of Bad Ass-branded mugs, T-shirts, calendars, even thong underwear. There's a limited menu of "Donkey Feeds" that includes pastries, sandwiches and ice cream served seven days a week.

The website (www.badasscoffeeorlando.com) is ready for mail orders and shipping is free until Dec. 15.

It's a Friday night and Bar Louie is packed with an oddball mix of middle-aged golfers, nuclear families and metrosexual man-cougars on the prowl. Its walls are lined with photographs evocative of jewelry adverts, accentuated with the eyes and teeth of models reflecting a bourgeois ideal steadfastly preserved by this raucous joint. It being happy hour lent to an increased decibel level, primarily centered in the periphery of the sizable rectangular bar where said patrons gaped at plasma screens and sloshed down draft beer ($3), wine ($4) and cocktails ($5) at happy-hour prices. Others sat in the patio overlooking the Rialto's scenic parking lot while some, like my guest and I, opted for a table in the center of the airy dining room in which to enjoy the array of half-priced small plates.

Bar Louie's reputation for serving above-average food certainly preceded it ' the eatery is run by Restaurants America, a Chicago-area-based consulting group operating more than 60 upscale restaurants covering 10 different concepts around the country. (The only other local representative is the Red Star Tavern at Orlando Fashion Square mall.) Given the chain's credentials, I wanted to believe the hype, but the dishes we sampled were for the most part ordinary and fell well short of inspiring.

As avenues to sobriety, however, the dishes exceed expectations, particularly the doughy Bavarian pretzel sticks ($3.50) with cinnamon butter, queso and honey-mustard dips, which even lucid diners will enjoy. As avenues to drunkenness, several libations can help facilitate the condition ' we sampled a smooth and sweet 'kokomojitoâ?� ($5), splashed with pineapple rum, and a more offensive, lime-heavy caipirinha ($5) served on the rocks. Cocktails are taken quite seriously here, and bibulous barflies can opt for a variety of signature drinks, martinis, margaritas, cosmopolitans and mojitos. Bruschetta ($3.50), served in an obnoxiously large martini glass, acts as a booze sponge with grilled country bread surrounding a mound of chunky pomodoro. But the cup of New Orleans chicken gumbo ($1.50) was an insipid mush, and the macaroni and cheese ($9.99) could've been replicated by college kids with some Velveeta and bread crumbs. The congealed, gluey consistency of the four-cheese concoction made it immediately forgettable. The Blue Moon'battered fish sandwich ($9.99) fared a bit better ' the tilapia cut was wonderfully mild and fleshy, but the overdone beer batter wasn't golden-brown as promised. While the accompanying side of fries was satisfactory, we both reacted adversely to the not-at-all-tart tartar sauce. Another very ordinary item from the bill of fare: the blackened chicken muffuletta pizza ($9.99), layered with an olive mix and Cajun seasoning. The flabby crust was a disappointing feature ' it had the taste and texture of Pillsbury dough, not proper pizza dough.

This may seem like a harsh indictment of Bar Louie's kitchen, but it's fair given that they cater to a sophisticated clientele with sophisticated palates in a sophisticated neighborhood. From a diner's perspective, the food doesn't raise the bar by any means; but from a drinker's perspective, it certainly holds water â?¦ and hooch.

Using market indicators has always been essential to making wise financial choices, and that doesn't change when making dining choices. The realization that we were the sole non-Koreans inside this unpretentious Korean restaurant, the broken English spoken by the waitress who greeted us and the comforting aroma emanating from tabletop grills were all sure signs that we were about to make a sound culinary investment.

The large, colorful photographs of menu items scattered about the place were tacky, albeit effective, ploys to kick-start the salivary glands ' after laying eyes on the glossy snapshot of bulgogi simmering on the grill, the desire to order the 'fire meatâ?� proved too tempting to pass up. But before the soy-, sugar- and garlic-marinated strips of sirloin were situated over the grill, we indulged in a bottle of Bohae Bokbunjaoo wine ($15), a potent black-raspberry potable that'll have you slurring like a tipsy totalitarian if you're not careful. The wine did, however, complement every mouthful of barbecued bulgogi ($16.95) seared with scallions and sesame seeds, as did the white rice, a necessary starch. Sampling from the seven side plates of panchan subtly, or not so subtly, altered the attributes of every bite ' kimchi (cabbage and radish) added a spicy-sour smack, while fish cakes and crispy anchovies added a bold dimension of flavor. Bean sprouts in sesame oil, potato salad with apples and thinly sliced radish rounded out the side dishes.

One particular section of the menu drew our interest, as no English translation was provided next to the items. From what we could surmise from the waitress, they were fish dishes, so after pointing to one with reckless abandon, we anxiously awaited for the 'fried fish,â?� which turned out to be a beautifully grilled mackerel ($14.95). The salty fillet was skillfully deboned and ultimately picked clean by my dining partner. I, on the other hand, focused on devouring the bibimbap ($13.95), served in a sizzling stone pot. Zucchini, bean sprouts and other assorted veggies were mixed with beef, rice and multiple squirts of fiery gochujang. A raw egg crowned the top of the delectable mélange, but of particular note was the toasted layer of rice at the bottom. The fragrant bowl of clear soft noodles ($9.95), or japchae, was animated with bulbs of garlic; while filling, it paled in comparison to other dishes we sampled. If you opt to take the noodles home, take heed: The pungent aroma will rapidly suffuse every square inch of your fridge.

My attempts to linguistically reciprocate with the two phrases I know in Korean ('helloâ?� and 'thank youâ?�) seemed to have a positive impact on the service we received, though in the midst of our dinner, our waitress was replaced by another server ' just as pleasant and eager to please as our initial waitress, but fluent in English. When the words 'red-bean ice creamâ?� ($3.90) spilled from her mouth, we excitedly ordered a scoop, along with a scoop of green-tea ice cream. While we fought for every last bit of the former, the latter was left to melt. My advice: Get two scoops of the red bean.

The space, it should be noted, isn't in a propitious locale ' previous tenants Pannoli and PJ's Asian Bistro struggled and couldn't quite muster the following needed to keep them going. Here's hoping once Beewon's secret is out, they'll be poised to reverse the curse.

'Business casualâ?�: It's a conundrum that most of us have had to wrap our brains around in the last five years or so. Where once there was a uniform for work (suit, tie; pantyhose, pumps) and one for hanging out (either looser or tighter than the daily monkey suit, depending on your proclivities), now we have to parse a version of our home selves that will fly at work. Food has gone through a similar makeover ' once it was split between expensive white-tablecloth restaurants and greasy spoons, but now the lines have blurred. We want to dress up our Gap-khaki turkey sandwiches with dry-clean-only caper pesto.

Bella Café doesn't redefine the spiffed-up sandwich; it just prepares them very well. No surprises here; the upmarket salads and sandwiches aren't especially creative, but they are put together with care and quality. The board of menu choices can be overwhelming ' everything's been assigned an Italian title, and the descriptions are hard to read ' but there really are no wrong choices.

Two in our trio went for panini: the 'Montianoâ?� (roast beef, provolone and caramelized onion daubed with super-sweet honey mustard; $7.50) and the 'Tuscanâ?� (juicy grilled chicken breast ' the real thing, not the icky cold-cut variety ' fresh mozzarella and roasted red peppers; $7.50). Both were satisfying, but the real mouth-watering winner was our third companion's choice, the 'Marlianaâ?� ($7.95). A soft baguette ' well, the menu calls it a baguette, but a Frenchman would sneer; I'd label it a crusty roll ' barely managed to contain moist, tender pot roast touched with horseradish and blanketed in cheddar. It was like a portable Sunday dinner. All that was missing was the roasted carrots and potatoes.

Luckily for me, this companion has a dainty appetite, and I was easily able to talk him out of half of his sandwich. He fell back on his bowl of creamy lobster bisque ($2.99). It was thick as pudding and the color of Thousand Island dressing, lacking the delicate nature one might expect from a usually refined soup, but there were tangible shreds of crustacean.

On our way out the door, we had to have a bit of gelato ('to settle the stomach,� as my ice-creamaholic father would say). Bella Café serves several flavors of gelato from downtown's Il Gelatone. After sampling tiny spoons of peanut butter and chocolate, we settled for a scoop ($3.25) of dulcet ripe banana and one of raspberry ' studded with tiny crunchy seeds and intensely sweet-tart. After a business-like lunch, we were ready to get back to the casual Orlando Weekly office.

Despite Bella's distant (to me) location in a busy MetroWest strip mall, I might return soon â?¦ half of that pot-roast sandwich just wasn't enough.

We didn't review this location but you can check out the review of the Ben & Jerry's in Oviedo.

152 total results

Calendar

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

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


© 2018 Orlando Weekly

Website powered by Foundation