I finally got out to the Hyatt Regency Orlando to check out Descend 21, which opened earlier this year after an extensive renovation. This is the space that previously was Urban Tide and, before that, Napa, when the hotel was the Peabody Orlando.
The name of the restaurant derives not from an age restriction but rather from the number of steps it takes to reach it down a curving staircase from the lobby level. (Yes, I counted; it’s 21 steps. In both directions.)
What a thorough transformation. Descend 21 is part restaurant, part lounge and part interactive entertainment space. It’s sort of like a high-scale rumpus room, with large-format tiled flooring and comfortable couches and chairs. For entertainment, besides a plethora of televisions, there are full-scale golf-swing suites, electronic darts, and more analog choices like pool tables.
The best part of the design – and the smartest – is that it incorporates the resort’s grotto pool area and outdoor patio with fire pits. The pool has always been there but you couldn’t see it from the restaurant. It makes sense to open the room up to the outdoors.
The menu is under the direction of chef Aeron Lopez and features an array of items ranging from pokes, salads and sandwiches to full size entrees.
On my lunch visit, I started with fried Brussels sprouts, firm and crispy, with cherry tomatoes and red onions, all sprinkled with grated parmesan and in a sweet nouc cham sauce.
For my entree I chose the fried chicken sandwich, which sounds mundane but was quite impressive. It featured double portions of real breast meat, coated with panko and delicately fried, served on a soft brioche bun with a deliciously tangy Asian slaw and katsu sauce. With all that meat it was best eaten with knife and fork, but I used my fingers for the garlic herb parmesan fries.
Craft cocktails are a big item here, too, and Descend 21 has its own single barrel bourbon created by the master distiller from Buffalo Trace. Try it in D21’s Old Fashioned, with D21 woodchip blended smoke, orange bitters, brown sugar and amarena cherry.
Or, after dinner, you might want to go upstairs (yes, all 21 of them) to Rocks, the lobby level lounge, which was also completely renovated.