While so many fine dining restaurants and high-end steakhouses are pulling back and reconfiguring themselves to be more casual — Shula’s Steakhouse at the Dolphin comes to mind — Bull & Bear maintains its commitment to elegance and high quality. It’s one of the reasons it was voted Best Restaurant Overall in our 2018 Foodster Awards for Independent Restaurants.
The restaurant opened almost exactly 10 years ago, in September 2009, in what was then the first Waldorf Astoria outside of Manhattan, and it was named for the iconic steakhouse located inside the original hotel. Other Waldorf Astorias have opened since, but none has a restaurant called Bull & Bear. And with the original Waldorf Astoria closed for renovations, the restaurants along with it, Orlando’s is now the only Bull & Bear. Word is that when the New York Waldorf reopens as a combination hotel and condominium complex, Bull & Bear may not reopen with it. So the Orlando restaurant truly does offer a unique dining experience.
The room shows no sign of wear. The checkerboard fabric on the solid and comfortable chairs looks brand new. Tables are draped with floor-length brocaded covers topped with pristine white linens. The dark wood paneling is a bit of a throwback to the stereotypical boardroom atmosphere of old-school steakhouses, but the large windows overlooking the resort’s pool area keep it from being stuffy.
My companion and I started with appetizers of Escargot & Gnocchi and Pan Seared Foie Gras. The snails were sauteed along with Japanese shemeji mushrooms and served in a buttery sauce with the pan-seared dumplings. The mushrooms had a delightful crunch, a nice counterpoint to the softer snails and gnocchi.
The foie gras featured a large and buttery-textured lobe deftly seared and perched atop a toasted brioche crouton. There was a bit of bourbon tinged caramel on the plate, but when you’ve got a foie gras like this no embellishment is needed.
For my main course I chose the Wagyu Sirloin, an American style of Kobe beef. Perfectly seared and cooked to a precise medium-rare, the well-marbled meat filled my mouth with flavorful juices with every bite.
My companion waffled between the Veal Oscar’s, a Waldorf Astoria creation, and a Double Pork Chop and finally settled on the latter with no regrets. The meat was impressively tender — veal-like in its own way — and served with a sweet glaze and a block of deliciously creamy potatoes.
We shared and fought over the toothsome seasonal wild mushrooms and creamed spinach side dishes.
For dessert we had something simply called The Lemon, though it’s anything but simple. It’s a whole Meyer lemon from which the insides have been extracted. Those are fashioned into sorbet, chantilly cream and lemon curd. Meanwhile, the hollowed out shell is cooked sous vide in simple syrup, after which the sorbet, cream and curd are injected. The result is a wonderful creation that is both tart and sweet, not to mention fun.
Bull & Bear is currently utilizing smart tablets that display the menu and link to proper wine selections. I prefer the human touch from general manager Luis Rios and his able and knowledgeable staff.
It’s their attention to detail, the fine food of chef Richard Brown and pastry chef Franck Riffaud, and the elegance of the dining room that keep Bull & Bear one of the area’s best restaurants.
Bull & Bear is at the Waldorf Astoria, 14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Lane, Orlando. It is open for dinner daily. The phone number if 407-597-5500.