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.