New menu items from Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe

Written By Scott Joseph On February 15, 2024

Russells sunset

Russell’s on Lake Ivanhoe, the upscale casual restaurant in the historic district north of downtown, isn’t a French restaurant per se. But with a French chef/owner, Emmanuel Clement, there are bound to be some dishes with French influences. Wonderfully so.

And now, with the addition of some new menu items created by Clement, there are a few more. I met with some friends for dinner at Russell’s recently and had a chance to sample some of the new dishes.

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Judson’s Live

Written By Scott Joseph On February 8, 2024

Judson's Live exterior

Judson’s Live, a music venue, officially opened this week at the Dr. Phillips Center, another world-class performance space for the jewel of downtown Orlando. 

It’s a stellar room. Think of any of the well-known clubs in New York – 54 Below, Birdland, Cafe Carlyle, Blue Note – and it blows them all away, with the possible exception of Dizzy’s Club at Jazz at Lincoln Center, which served as the inspiration for the design of Judson’s. (The only thing missing is a vast window overlooking Columbus Circle.)

Judson’s Live bests the others I mentioned because it has better sight lines, isn’t cramped, has a more spacious stage platform that isn’t raised too high, creating a more intimate experience between audience and musicians, and its acoustics are pristine. They obviously took a cue from the sound designers of the amazing Steinmetz Hall.

Another arguable difference: You’re probably going to find better food at Judson’s than in any of those New York clubs. And I’ve eaten in most of them.

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Written By Scott Joseph On February 1, 2024

Superica overview

A new Tex-Mex restaurant has come to town by way of Atlanta. 

Superica is one of several concepts from one of that city’s most prolific – and respected – chefs, Ford Fry, whose restaurants include JCT. Kitchen and The Optimist. He also has restaurants in Nashville and Houston, all of them one-offs. Only Superica has multiple locations – a dozen – the newest in Winter Park in a space that itself is new, the Palm Hills development on Orlando Avenue.

The original Superica, on Krog Street, was in the factory of the Atlanta Stove Works, maker of the cast iron Barrett Range. You might be forgiven for thinking the Winter Park location was once some sort of factory rather than purpose-built to be a restaurant. It’s a vast space with soaring ceilings, white brick walls and decorative concrete block, a choir-loft-like mezzanine and kitchen windows open to the dining room. For some reason, music videos are projected on the high wall over the kitchen in images as large as your basic multiplex. If you come here for quiet conversation you’ll be sorely disappointed.

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The Current Seafood Counter College Park

Written By Scott Joseph On January 25, 2024

Current Seafood Counter exterior

The Current Seafood Counter is a clever name for a fish-focused restaurant, especially this one that opened recently in College Park. It evokes an islands in the stream image of flowing water, and the Counter part let’s you know it’s a quick-serve operation as opposed to a full-service one.

The College Park Current is an offshoot of the original in Sanford, at the Henry’s Depot market. There, it really is pretty much a counter. The new place is a sizable space – it took over the former Jade Sushi & New Asian restaurant – so once your food order has been placed and paid for, you may choose a seat at one of several high-top and conventional-height tables, all with metal stools or chairs that seem designed to discourage lingering.

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Zorba’s Kitchen

Written By Scott Joseph On January 18, 2024

Zorba’s Kitchen exterior

Has any name come to represent all things Greek, at least in the U.S., more than Zorba? “Zorba the Greek,” a 1964 movie based on a 1946 novel of the same name, and “Zorba,” a 1968 Broadway musical version, made Zorba and Greek synonymous. And slightly trite.

But now comes Zorba’s Kitchen, bringing Greek cuisine to East Orlando by way of…France?

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Written By Scott Joseph On January 11, 2024

Zaru exterior

Zaru is the hip new noodle shop in Mills 50 from the James Beard nominated restaurateurs sibling team of Jimmy Tung and Johnny Tung. And yes, I know that it is no longer hip to say hip calling it “fire” doesn’t seem to fit.

The restaurant occupies a smallish space with a commanding view of East Colonial Drive and specializes in udon noodle dishes, specifically the Sanuki style, the thick and dense noodles from Japan’s Kagawa prefecture. (Kagawa was previously known as Sanuki Province.)

The menu is both simple and complicated. There are nine udon options – four cold and five hot – and 17 “add-ons,” not counting the one for extra noodles. The add-ons shouldn’t be looked at as side dishes or things you order for the table – each is meant to accompany the specific udon dish that you select. (Actualy, the reason they go with a specific order may be because diners are meant to mark their selections on the paper menu, putting a checkmark next to their choices using a pencil provided on the table.)

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The Local Hen

Written By Scott Joseph On January 4, 2024

The Food Factory Oviedo Local Hen exterior

Oviedo is famously known for its feral chickens roaming about. So a new concept restaurant chose to pay homage to the free-range chickens with its name, The Local Hen.

Actually, it’s known as a micro restaurant and is part of the Food Factory Foodie Collective in the Oviedo on the Park district, where, ironically, there don’t seem to be any chickens wandering about. But maybe that’s just because they’ve met up with the folks at The Local Hen.

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The Castle Irish Pub and Restaurant

Written By Scott Joseph On December 21, 2023

Castle Irish Pub exterior

The freestanding building on the corner of Edgewater Drive and West Winter Park Street in College Park that was for a very short time Thai Farm Kitchen and for a longer period RusTeak is now the Castle Irish Pub and Restaurant.

Celtic airs are not new to the space. Before RusTeak it was Scruffy Murphy’s Irish Pub. (Prior to that it was O-Town Pizza – for about the same amount of time it was Thai Farm – and Alfonso’s Sports Lounge before that. And that’s just going back barely 10 years.)

The new pub is owned by a family, the Hoynes, from southeast Ireland’s Kilkenny County. Kilkenny Castle is the fortress referenced in the name. 

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Chuan Fu

Written By Scott Joseph On December 14, 2023

Chuan Fu exterior

We clearly overordered.

It’s easy to do at Chuan Fu, the new restaurant from the owners of Chuan Lu Garden. The menu – which is maddeningly unstructured – is a many-paged picturebook of enticing items. But the photos can’t really indicate just how delicious the food is, nor do they show proper scale – the portions are more than generous.

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Aurora at the Celeste

Written By Scott Joseph On December 7, 2023

Aurora sign

When Aurora at the Celeste opened three years ago, it brought a new level of sophisticated dining, at least in terms of the food, to East Orlando. That was thanks in no small part to Mike Trudnak, the UCF-located hotel’s opening executive chef. 

But Trudnak parted ways with the Celeste in April, moving to the Daytona Grande – and taking some of his Orlando staff with him. I figured that would be the end to what Trudnak himself referred to as “that Aurora magic.”

But the Celeste management demonstrated its commitment to continue offering high quality food by hiring Ibis Lopez to fill the executive chef vacancy. Lopez, who has cooked at the likes of Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress and Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes, has put his imprint on the restaurant and has made the menu his own.

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