Mongolorian BBQ

Written By Scott Joseph On August 17, 2023

Mongolorian sign

 Mongolian barbecue isn’t new to Central Florida, many others have offered it, but with little success. I remember one place that had diners go through a buffet line of raw ingredients, including beef and chicken, and fill up plastic bowls to hand to a cook who manned a large, round cooking grill hanging over a fire source. The cook would dump all the ingredients onto the grill and stir fry them in front of the guest, then hand them back in a bowl (different one from the raw-ingredient bowl).

It’s a bit different at the Mongolorian BBQ, a long-anticipated restaurant from the owners of Chi-Kin and Poke Hana that finally opened on Colonial Drive’s Mills 50 District. You can still pick your own ingredients, if you want, and watch them being cooked, though now they’re stir fried in on of several specialized vessels behind the counter.

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Salt & the Cellar by Akira Back

Written By Scott Joseph On May 10, 2023

Salt and the Cellar by Akira Back Orlando

I seriously don’t know what to make of Salt & the Cellar by Akira Back in the lowercased ette hotel in Kissimmee. On one hand, the food is as well crafted as you would expect from an internationally known chef, and it shows proof of the promised sourcing of fresh ingredients.

On the other hand… Well, there are several other hands.

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Mr. J Hand-Pulled Noodle

Written By Scott Joseph On May 2, 2023

Mr. J Hand pulled Noodle exterior

Mr. J Hand-Pulled Noodle might be easier to find if the big sign out front didn’t say Crab & Wings. But what do I know about marketing?

Mr. J occupies a small storefront in a strip mall at Silver Star and Clarke Roads on the west side. As the name suggests – the other name, not the Crab & Wings – it specializes in Asian style hand-pulled noodles, which, you won’t be surprised to learn, are noodles that are pulled by hand.

What that means is that instead of, say, Italian pasta where the dough is flattened and then cut to the preferred noodle size, the dough is rolled and stretched, then looped and stretched again. And again, until the desired noodle type is achieved. No rolling, no cutting. (Well, some style of noodles are cut using a planing tool.)

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The Moderne

Written By Scott Joseph On March 16, 2023

Moderne bar

The Mills 50 District has always been one of the city’s more vibrant dining areas, even before it was named Mills 50. Before that it was unofficially called Little Saigon because of the many Vietnamese-owned restaurants and businesses.

There have, at times, been some exceptional food to be found in this area, named for the cross section of Mills Avenue and U.S. Highway 50. But for the most part, the dining experiences have historically been decidedly downscale – not drab but seldom anything above casual.

That has begun to change. Tori Tori brought a more urban chic feel to the neighborhood when it opened a few years ago. And now The Moderne has moved in with a fresh, new stylishness of its own.

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Eola Lounge

Written By Scott Joseph On October 6, 2022

Eola Lounge ext

I’ve learned to be leery of the restaurant space that sits midblock in the building that houses the Sanctuary Condominiums. It’s been home to so many restaurants in the past 14 or so years – some with very brief stays and three that announced they would open but never did – that I no longer get my hopes up.

And the name of the latest occupant, Eola Lounge, doesn’t exactly exude culinary confidence or creativity. Such a name tells me the owners are more interested in a drinking clientele so any food served would be secondary. But when I found myself in the area looking for a place to eat after my destination restaurant was unexpectedly closed, I decided to give it a try.

I liked it very much.

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Oz Asian

Written By Scott Joseph On January 18, 2022

OzAsian counter

I came across Oz Asian in Lake Mary recently, a small quick-serve restaurant with a pan Asian menu. It’s an assemblage concept, so you’re asked to choose your protein (chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu or vegetables); a base (white rice, brown rice, pasta noodles, vermicelli or soba noodles); a sauce (sweet & sour), sweet oyster, Thai curry, garlic, teriyaki or soy and ginger); vegetables to add in (broccoli, onion, cabbage, bean sprouts, mushrooms, peppers, jalapeños, scallions, corn, carrots, celery, pineapple, tomatoes and snap peas); and any extras at extra cost: (fried egg, scrambled egg, or more chicken, tofu, beef or shrimp).

Very close by is a Fresh Market grocery store where you can buy most of those items and just put them together yourself, but don’t get me started on assemblage restaurants. Or maybe it’s too late for that.

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Mamak Asian Street Food UCF

Written By Scott Joseph On March 11, 2021

Mamakucf ext

You can’t tell it, though you’d know if you could see the smudged keys on my computer, but I just finished the leftovers of the food I got last night at Mamak Asian Street Food UCF, an east side version of the Mills 50 Malaysian restaurant. And every little bite of noodle, rice and meat and every little drop of sauce and broth were just as delicious today.

When the downtown Mamak opened in 2014, most people, including me, assumed it was trying to profit off of the popularity of Hawkers, which had opened three years earlier (right about this time 10 years ago; seems like it’s been around longer, no?). Both restaurants’ concepts are based on the premise of Asian street fare and, technically, both names mean the same thing. Mamak is the word for food stalls or the people who hawk the food from them.

But Mamak gained its own following with the quality of its food, and based on my just-finished meal from the new location, it may just out hawk Hawkers.

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Bao’s Castle

Written By Scott Joseph On July 30, 2020

Castle Bao exterior

We’ve had King Bao for about four years. Now we have Bao’s Castle. You’d think they might have some royal connection, but despite the monarchial monikers they are unrelated.

Bao’s Castle reigns over the SoDo Shopping Center. (Who am I kidding? Target is the imperial ruler here.) It occupies a humble storefront next to the complex’s Gator’s Dockside.

The menu is succinct, just eight baos and a few ancillary options.

I made my selections through the restaurant’s online ordering form, which is intuitive and easy to use, with options for pickup, including contactless curbside, or delivery through a third party.

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Tako Cheena

Written By Scott Joseph On October 16, 2019

tako cheena interior

I can’t remember any restaurant taking as much time between announcing it would be moving into a new space and the actual move as Tako Cheena did. It was in July of 2015 that I first told you the popular fusion concept would take over the former Forbidden City Chinese restaurant space just a few doors away from its original Mills 50 location. Even the recently opened Delaney’s Tavern only took three years, and it included building a boutique hotel on top of the restaurant.

I suppose Kobe Japanese Steak House is still the “any minute now” champion – it has entered its second decade with a sign on the property where Barney’s Steak & Seafood once stood announcing that it is “coming soon.”

But anyway, Tako Cheena.

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Lotte Plaza Market

Written By Scott Joseph On June 13, 2019

Lotte Market exterior 1

Every now and then you need to break up your routine, step outside of your comfort zone and look beyond your narrow horizon.

I recommend you follow this advice the next time you go grocery shopping. Instead of automatically going to, say, Publix, try something different. And I don’t mean Winn-Dixie or Lucky’s. I mean something like Lotte Plaza Market.

Lotte is a small chain of 10 Asian markets out of Maryland and Virginia, of all places. Earlier this year an Orlando location, the first in Florida, opened near the corner of John Young Parkway and West Colonial Drive.

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