I had not reviewed A Land Remembered, the curiously named steakhouse at the Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, since its original chef, James Slattery, left. Slattery helped open the restaurant in 2007 but then left last year to open Circa in Winter Park. He left that restaurant several months ago.
According to A Land Remembered’s Web site, Dan Nestor is the chef of record. Nestor (pictured here) also opened Shingle Creek as chef at Cala Bella, moving from Rosen Centre where he had overseen all culinary operations for that hotel, including its signature restaurant, Everglades.
Accompanying me on my revisit to A Land Remembered recently were John and Rita Lowndes, who won me in an auction benefitting Orlando Shakespeare Theater in Partnership with UCF. Well, rather they won the opportunity to join me on a visit to a restaurant with the promise that I would use their comments in the review. Actually, the silent auction item was for dinner at Luma on Park, and was bought outright by Bobby Mandell. You can find that review here.
But then the Lowndes stepped up and said they wanted to buy a dinner, too. Thanks to the largesse of Frank Santos, Rosen chief financial officer, dinner was arranged at A Land Remembered. (A third dinner-and-review package was also sold, I’ll tell you about that one soon.)
John and Rita should be known to most Central Floridians. He is the founder of Lowndes, Drosdick, Doster, Kantor & Reed law firm; she is best described as a force of nature but is known as the driving force behind Orlando Shakes. They’re also good friends of mine, and we’ve dined together before, but never under these terms.
The Lowndes had arrived ahead of me and were seated in the lounge. Rita reported that they had been greeted by a “very personable young man” who invited them to have a seat in the bar area and offered to change the channel on the television to a football game they were interested in. John agreed. “When we came into the restaurant they couldn’t have been nicer.”
We were shown immediately to a table in a far corner that I suspect is considered one of the best in the house. And it was very nicely situated with a commanding view of the restaurant. However, the spotlights overhead meant to illuminate the table were shining directly in my eyes. I asked our server if he could lower the lights a bit, and he did, but it still wasn’t very comfortable.
As we looked over the menu, Rita immediately claimed the Little Creek frog legs for her appetizer. We also ordered the ahi tuna and Angel City oysters. Rita proclaimed her appetizer, which featured the little legs with a sweet mango rum glaze offset by Cajun spices, to be quite tasty. “I like the frog legs,” she said. “ I am OK with the sweet, and I like the crunchiness of the pea tendrils.”
There wasn’t much that was special about the seared tuna, but the napa and swamp cabbage slaw was exceptional. “The slaw is excellent,” said John.
The oysters, however, were a disappointment. I thought it odd that the oysters, which were breaded in a cornmeal crust, were then served atop toast points. Bread upon bread. The oysters were neither plump nor anemic.
Main courses were much more consistent. Since A Land Remembered is primarily a steakhouse, we focused on meat. Rita had the rack of lamb, and her dismay at seeing it delivered to the table as an intact rack was noticeable. The server took only the slightest beat in asking is she would like it to be sliced for her. She would, so he removed it. I suppose there is a certain aesthetic to serving a rack unsliced, but I have to think most people would rather have the kitchen slice it into individual chops.
“The lamb is done just the way I requested,” declared Rita once the dish was returned.
Tobias braised short ribs was actually just one rib — one very large rib, served on the very large bone. Also an odd presentation choice. The meat was good but otherwise unremarkable.
My ribeye steak, however, was remarkably excellent. Cooked to just short of medium-rare, which is how I like it. The outside had a delightfully charred crust.
We shared a side order of macaroni and cheese, which everyone loved. “The macaroni and cheese has a nice sharpness,” observed Rita. “It’s not just a Kraft mac and cheese.”
The bread pudding for dessert was a nicely custardized delicacy, but the banana cream pie, one of my favorite things, was overproduced and had a hard shell.
Service was adequate, though I was bemused that the server continually reached in front of John to pour my water, even though there was plenty of room to walk behind him.
When I asked my guests for a final assessment of the evening, they both went back to the appetizers. “I thought my starter was lovely,” said Rita, but John countered, “I thought the appetizers were somewhat pedestrian.
I agree with both of them, but I also think that A Land Remembered does a very nice job with steaks, which is very important for a steakhouse. A few tweaks in the lighting and a refresher course on some of the finer points of service could elevate it to excellence.
A Land Remembered is at Rosen Shingle Creek, 9939 Universal Blvd., Orlando. It’s open nightly for dinner, but be sure to call as it has been known to be closed if hotel occupance is low. Reservations at 407-996-3324. Here’s a link to A Land Remembered’s Web site.