The restaurant occupies an old house, built circa 1921, across the street from the Modernism Museum in the quaint downtown. In partnership with the museum and Main Street Leasing, which is listed as the “presenter” of the museum, 1921 becomes part of the artistic complex that also includes the museum’s shop (every museum has to have a shop), which shares an adjoining patio with the restaurant.
Special occasion splurge
142 E. 4th Ave.
Rosen Shingle Creek Resort
The food here is deliciously good, and the atmosphere is grandiloquent. But the prices are a bit steep, apparently geared toward the expense-accounted business traveler.
Seafood pescatore features a saffron seasoned fish stock tinged with tomato, with an abundance of seafood, including an Australian lobster tail, two impressively plump scallops, shrimp, clams and mussels. Under it all was a nest of fresh pappardelle pasta.
The al dente ribbons were part of my companion’s entrée of pappardelle ai bistecche, which was listed under the menu’s pasta heading, though in truth this was a steak dish. It featured 10 ounces of New York strip from Harris Ranch, cooked to a perfect medium-rare and sliced, the noodles piled on top with a sauce of mushrooms and tomato ragout. Quite nice.
We had started our meal with the mozzarella stuffed Bella meatballs, three bocce ball-sized orbs of moist ground meat braised in Barolo wine. The meatballs were more enjoyable than the calamari fritte, which was a little too damp.
Service was exceptional.
4600 N. World Drive
Lake Buena Vista
After more than a dozen years at the top, literally and figuratively, California Grill is still one the Central Florida’s best restaurants. Much of the concept of California Grill has not changed over the years, and the menu still features, as it has for much of the time, flatbreads and sushi as well as more traditional appetizers. The menu supposedly changes daily, though with three weeks separating my two most recent visits, I noticed most of the changes were in the wording and ranking of ingredients rather than completely different entries.
Service is impeccable and exemplary of the best that Disney can offer. The wine list focuses, as it should, on California and other American cuvees.
The pork tenderloin remains a favorite, but the filet mignon is a contender for best entrée. Sushi from master chef Yoshi is a treat.
Of course the best feature remains the view through the floor-to-ceiling windows of the Seven Seas Lagoon and the Magic Kingdom. And at the appropriate hour the lights dim slightly and the music that accompanies the Magic Kingdom’s fireworks display plays in the restaurant. It’s one of the best shows in town.
7575 Dr. Phillips Blvd.
Chatham’s Place has gone through some changes, and much more than the fact that there are no members of the Chatham family involved in the restaurant. That’s not an issue; Louis Chatham, who served as executive chef, and his mother, Bettye, who ran the dining room in those first years, sold the operation years ago to Chatham’s sous chef, Tony Lopez, the maitre d’, Maurice Colindres, and a hostess, Carol Conwell. The three of them kept it going as strong as ever, perhaps stronger. It was clear that this was an operation of love for the three of them, and they worked together to make it a continued success.
Many of the dishes that became signatures back in Louis Chatham’s days remain on the menu, including the Florida black grouper, which has been one of my favorite Central Florida entrees for many years. It features a fresh fillet, thick and white, lightly sauteed and topped with pecan butter and scallions, dusted with just a soupcon of cayenne pepper. The pecan butter places the dish firmly in the south and the pepper points it towards New Orleans. But with the use of Florida black grouper I think we can just claim this one as one of our native dishes, don’t you?
729 Lee Road
As those who have lived in the area longer than five years know, Christner’s was originally known as Del Frisco’s Prime Steak & Lobster. It was not part of the Del Frisco’s Double Eagle chain, though both had the same origin. Long story short, now in operation for more than 25 years and one of the best steakhouses in Orlando.
7488 Sand Lake Road
This latest addition to the Darden collection of premium brands is sometimes said to be the seafood equivalent of that company’s Capital Grille steakhouses. But that’s not exactly right because Eddie V’s, which does indeed to excellent seafood, also does a pretty good steak. In fact, Eddie V’s serves prime beef while Capital Grille serves USDA choice. The atmosphere is elegant, like an old-timey Manhattan supper club. It’s pricy, though, so be prepared to pay dearly for the quality.
8030 Via Dellagio Way
The Restaurant Row Fleming’s does a nice job with its steaks, but it has a big following for its happy hour, which includes a terrific burger at a killer price. Wines are a forte here, so spend a little of what you save on the bar snacks for something special from the grape.
2101 Epcot Resorts Blvd
And just like that, Flying Fish, formerly known as Flying Fish Cafe, has become arguably the second most elegant restaurant at Walt Disney World. In my estimation, only Victoria & Albert’s offers a more upscale decor.
There is still an on-stage kitchen, and instead of the tiled chef’s counter, gathering-height tables may be abutted next to the kitchen counter to affect chef tables of various sizes.
Speaking of the chef, there’s a new one in charge to go with the updated decor. And Tim Majoras, pictured at top, figured he might as well go and redesign the menu.
No, the potato-wrapped snapper first introduced by the restaurant’s original chef, John State, and retained by his successors is gone. I don’t think anyone will really miss it.
4012 Central Florida Parkway
The knife of the name is an actual knife, a rather impressive Sambonet in this case, and signifies the steak specialty of the menu. Given the quality of the meat, however, an instrument with such a honed blade might be considered – you should pardon the expression – overkill. But we’ll come back to that.
The spoon of the name is not a spoon, or at least not a spoon found on polite tables. Instead, it references a fishing lure known as a spoon, which then leads to the seafood offerings. (More ancient mariners would tell you to look for largemouth bass, salmon or trout on a list of spoon-caught fish, but I saw none; it’s a clever name nonetheless.)