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South + York

Written By Scott Joseph On April 15, 2014

southyork snapper

South + York is a rare thing for the Winter Springs and Oviedo area: It is a restaurant with a mission to do good food, ambitious food, styled for serving in a fine restaurant, and to fully embrace the farm to table trend. It succeeds on several levels, though it also needs to have the confidence to push the boundaries a bit more.

The menu is ever changing, as one that sources what is fresh and local and available should. It’s meant to be Southern, but aside from the ubiquitous shrimp and grits there was little that would give it a heavy drawl. The name, by the way, is a reflection of the dual heritage of the chef/owner, Edgar Cruz, who was born in New York but trained in the South.

The menu reads quite well; several items appealed to me, although the trope of replacing every instance of the word “and” with a plus sign makes the menu read like something of a strange algebraic algorithm, albeit a tasty one. 

southyork porkTender pork tenderloin on black beans and rice.

I settled on the pork tenderloin as my entree choice, which the menu described as bacon wrapped and served with black beans and rice with salted pork and culantro. The dish was fine, though I detected no evidence that the meat, served in dollar-sized slices, had been wrapped with bacon. Indeed, there was little evidence that much at all had been done to the pork. The black beans and rice was a nice accompaniment.

My companion chose the Gulf Coast snapper (pictured at top), served with white beans with sage and featuring something the menu described as a fried green tomato Oreo. I’m afraid that moniker takes a bit too much liberty in comparing two fried green tomatoes with cheese between them to the chocolate cookies. And as it turned out the fried green tomatoes, jacketed in a very nicely done breading, were superfluous with the fish, which needed nothing beyond the moist, firm beautifully cooked flesh. 

(Neither dish, by the way, needed the heavy handful of frisee that topped each, merely, one supposes, for decoration. They looked at first to be salads.)

southyork foieFoie gras with a creative chow chow.

We had started our meal with the soup of the day, a hearty vegetable chili that was well dosed with forward spices. (Must we put chili away until next winter?) My guest had the seared foie gras, which appears too infrequently on menus anymore. (And when an appetizer, at $23, is priced more than some of the entrees one can understand why.) It featured a nicely seared lobe that had the distinctly earthy flavors and fatty mouthfeel one expects from duck liver. It was served with an okra and radish chow chow, pickled vegetables with a decidedly sweet bent. The chow chow was another of the few things on the menu that were readily recognizable as Southern (although it has roots in either China or Scandinavia, depending on whose culinary history you trust).

Service was polished and showed good training. The decor is minimal. There are two large windowpane frames on one wall next to a blackboard that sports the names of the local farms the restaurant sources from. A painting of a reclining nude woman’s behind behind the bar is an odd inclusion. Garage-door-like openings allow the dining to spill out onto the patio.

South + York is certainly a much better restaurant than the one it replaced. That was Hollywood Bistro, which was a miserable experience. I had hoped at the time that this part of greater Orlando would finally get something besides chain restaurants, fast food joints and snack shops. It’s taken a few more years but it looks as though the time has finally come. 

South + York is at 158 Tuskawilla Road, Winter Springs. It is open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday (though the hours and days of service are not listed anywhere on the website). The phone number is 407-327-1600.{jcomments off}

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