Gaviota

Fried rice gaviita

Ceviche

Causas

Exterior

Interior

**** (4 stars)

This is a good Peruvian restaurant in a space that has been many restaurants. As was the case for those others (and even more that were planned here and never opened) the challenge is finding customers. I suspect one reason is that it is nearly impossible to park in the neighborhood. As a result, the staff outnumbered the patrons throughout Saturday lunch, and the two of us were alone for most of it.

The dishes we sampled were all good.

The complementary corn kernels were skinnier, puffier and better than any of the other Peruvian restaurants we’ve been to.

The Causa assortment (they were out of one kind, so we only tried the chicken and octopus) was delicious, the best thing we had.

The ceviche assortment was good, similar to others in town, with three different types of fish, all steeped in lime juice.

The house fried rice was tasty but a bit unusual, more Chinese than Peruvian.

The Pisco Sour we started with was a bit sweet, but we added lots of lime juice and it tasted more authentic.

Service was friendly, but had the tentative feeling of inexperience.

If I was in downtown Orlando and in the mood for Peruvian food I would definitely go back, especially if I didn’t have a car to park.

Gaviota
100 South Eola Dr
Ste 104
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 428-4682
https://www.yelp.com/biz/gaviota-orlando

Luke’s Kitchen and Bar

Chicken burger

Scallop ceviche

Snapper ceviche

Potato chips with onion chive dip

Interior

Lunch menu

*** (3 stars)

This is a new endeavor from the creators of Luma and Prato. You can see them designing in all the things they’d like to have, such as a larger prep kitchen. Now their challenge will be to get better food out of that kitchen.

We went for lunch and it was just okay. We started with some house made potato chips and onion chive dip. The chips were good, but notethat the predominate dip flavor is actually truffle, even though it’s not listed as an ingredient.

The tuna tartare we ordered was unavailable, so we tried again, with red snapper ceviche. I liked it okay; my companion thought it lacked sufficed acid to “cook” it in the true manner of ceviche.

My companion preferred the scallop ceviche. I liked the scallops, but thought this one needed lime juice instead of passionfruit.

As an entree we shared a chicken burger. This was not a good choice. It is, indeed, a ground chicken patty that has been deep fried. If that sounds like something you’d get at McDonald’s it also tastes like it. The only redeeming feature of this dish was the accompanying house greens salad, which was delicious.

The vibe of the restaurant owes a lot to Hilstone’s. Tables are nicely spaced.

There are a LOT of people working here, which makes it surprising how long it takes to get dishes from the kitchen, particularly considering that they weren’t busy. Our server was friendly and helpful.

Luke’s Kitchen and Bar
640 S Orlando Ave
Orlando, FL 32751
(407) 674-2400
https://www.yelp.com/biz/lukes-kitchen-and-bar-orlando

Oudom Thai & Sushi

Lettuce Wraps

Pad Thai

Dynamite roll

Interior

**** (4 stars)

Oudom is the latest occupant of a space that has been a revolving door for restaurants, and I hope it does better than its predecessors, because it is a much better restaurant.

We started with their Dynamite Roll, which emphasizes sriracha rather than wassabi. It was a well-made roll with a good balance of flavors.

Pad Thai was a bit lackluster, I thought. It lacked the crispness that should have been imparted by lime juice, and I didn’t detect any egg.

The lettuce wraps were our favorite. The mixture incorporated lots of cilantro, ginger and citrus, and was fresh and very flavorful.

The space is largely unchanged from its last incarnation. It’s open and high-ceilinged, and pleasant to be in.

Our server was friendly and efficient, and the pricing is reasonable.

Oudom Thai & Sushi
100 S Eola Dr
Ste 105
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 849-3739
https://www.yelp.com/biz/oudom-thai-and-sushi-orlando-2

Canvas Restaurant & Market

Interior

Bar

**** (4 stars)

This is a convenient stop on your way to or from Orlando International Airport. The restaurant has a modern look, and is beautifully situated overlooking a lake.

Upon entry there is a bit of an identity crisis, as it seems more like a convenience store and casual eating area. But proceed to the hostess stand and you’ll be ushered into the restaurant proper, which is large, and has a modern looking bar at the far end. The booths near the bar are actually the quietest place to eat, as they are away from most other tables and hard surfaces.

We tried several small plates. The smoked fish dip was a surprise, as it was more of a hot cheese queso with fish chunks. It was tasty, but the accompanying crackers could have been fresher.

Mussels were served in an interesting tomatillo broth that was quite good, and accompanied by a couple of pieces of nicely grilled bread.

The grilled shrimp salad was pretty good; the greens were lightly dressed and studded with several hot grilled shrimp.

Service was friendly.

Canvas Restaurant & Market
13615 Sachs Ave
Orlando, FL 32827
(407) 313-7800
https://www.yelp.com/biz/canvas-restaurant-and-market-orlando-3

Landry’s Seafood

Snapper

Mussels

Exterior

*** (3 stars)

For seafood I often go to Oceanaire, which is owned by Landry’s, but I thought I’d try the mother chain for a change. There is definitely a big difference in food quality and service between the two, but there is also a price difference, and if you’re just looking for a decent seafood meal, Landry’s is adequate.

I wasn’t a big fan of my grilled snapper, which was overcooked and served with some fairly flavorless rice and some oddly saffron-flavored green beans. On the other hand, for $27 it also included a good sized house salad with a pleasant balsamic dressing.  

Had that been the extent of it, it was a two-star experience. But I started with the mussels, and they were excellent–perfectly cooked in a garlic and butter broth that was flavorful without being too heavy, and served with delicious garlic toast slices. I will likely return and just order this and perhaps one other appetizer. At $11 the mussels were a great deal.

Service was friendly and fast.

Landry’s Seafood
8800 Vineland Ave
Orlando, FL 32821
(407) 827-6466
https://www.yelp.com/biz/landrys-seafood-orlando-5

Kim Wu Chinese

Buffet

Exterior

**** (4 stars)

This place has been in business a long time, and has a loyal following. I remember eating here long ago, and it seems they’ve expanded since then. But unlike some old restaurants, this one still seems fresh and clean.

Lunch is a buffet, and there are many dishes to choose from, including nearly all the American Chinese restaurant standards. They did a nice job of keeping the items on the buffet fresh and well-stocked.

When I eat at American Chinese restaurants I always find the food a lot heavier and oilier than those in Asia, and this one is no exception, but I can’t fault them for it since it seems to be the accepted style.

My lunch included hot tea, my choice of soup, and even an eggroll from the buffet, so for $10 it was a good deal. My server was fast and friendly.

Kim Wu Chinese
4904 S Kirkman Rd
Orlando, FL 32811
(407) 293-0752
https://www.yelp.com/biz/kim-wu-chinese-orlando

Wahoo’s Fish Tacos

Fish and carnival tacos

Interior

Exterior

Interior

Menu

**** (4 stars)

This is a funky taco place with an extensive, if somewhat bewildering, menu. The prices are moderate, but each taco comes with two tortillas, and can be disassembled into two tacos. The fish was good, although the carnitas was juicier and had more flavor.

Wahoo’s Fish Tacos
418 Wilshire Blvd
Santa Monica, CA 90401
(310) 393-9125
https://www.yelp.com/biz/wahoos-fish-tacos-santa-monica

Carrabba’s Italian Grill

Interior

Kitchen

Zucchini Fritte

Sandwich and soup

Lettuce wraps

**** (4 stars)

I’ve always thought Carrabba’s is much better than other chain restaurants, and this visit reinforced that opinion. None of the food items taste like they are “formulated” in an industrial kitchen. Ingredients are fresh and flavors are discrete and complex.

I’m pleased that many Carrabba’s locations are now open for lunch, as it’s much more likely for me to visit then. It was quiet the rainy Thursday we stopped in but business was starting to pick up in the afternoon.

The interior of this location is particularly nice, more like an upscale steakhouse than a chain Italian restaurant.

We started with the zucchini frittes, which were like very light french fries. They were excellent, but we probably didn’t need them in addition to the lunch that was to follow. Still, we nearly finished them.

The Pick Three lunch deal is a great way to try several things. I chose the Caesar salad, lentil sausage soup and lettuce wraps.

I would ask for less dressing on the salad next time, but it was excellent.

The soup was good too, although so rich I could only eat half. The generous serving of sausage had a really nice fennel component.

But the highlight was the lettuce wraps. This “small plate” wasn’t so small, with three lettuce leaves filled with a chicken mixture that was an interesting combination of Vietnamese, Italian and other Mediterranean flavors. I could only eat one of these but took the other two home for dinner.

That was quite a lunch for the price!

Service was exceptional, both from our server, the attentive manager, and the friendly hostess staff.

Carrabba’s Italian Grill
8702 Vineland Ave
Orlando, FL 32821
(407) 938-0015
https://www.yelp.com/biz/carrabbas-italian-grill-orlando-12

Maple & Ash

**** (4 stars)

You enter the upstairs dining room of Maple & Ash quite dramatically, from an elevator at the rear of the building that opens out into a dramatic two-story space that is quite dazzling. Although it is a steakhouse in a city of steakhouses, the experience here is quite different. Servers are much more engaged with their guests, and there are many freebies and extras involved in each meal.

For example, before you’ve even started, there are chips and dip, watermelon radishes with salt, parmesan crisps, and even an “amuse booze” cocktail of vermouth and grapefruit. Crusty bread and butter come next. We were starting to worry we’d be full before the first course arrived.

An extensive wine list has a range of offerings at moderate prices but includes a page of under $50 bargains.

We opted for the “I don’t give a f*@k” tasting menu because it let us sample much of the menu. It’s a bargain at $145. These were the courses:

Seafood platter, not chilled, but rather roasted, featuring lobster, shrimp, scallops, and clams. The was served in a pool of butter which was later used for a tableside preparation of pasta.

Beet and watercress salad.

Rosemary fries with Hollandaise and aioli.

Meatballs with garlic cheese toast.

Bone in ribeye steak served with ricotta agnolotti, roasted squash, and mashed potatoes.

Ice cream sundae tower with three kinds of ice cream and 12 toppings to choose from.

We enjoyed the experience, and particularly our server. I can’t say there were really any home runs, and the steak was definitely not the highlight, as it wasn’t particularly tender. Overall it was a very rich menu, with little respite from heavily buttered dishes. The best items were the dip, the mashed potatoes, and the sundae.

Despite the large size of the room, noise levels were surprisingly pleasant (until a large drunk party was seated next to us) and the background music track is particularly chill.

If you are looking for a steakhouse-type experience that is a little out of the ordinary, it’s worth checking out.

Maple & Ash
8 W Maple
Chicago, IL 60610
(312) 944-8888
http://www.yelp.com/biz/maple-and-ash-chicago

MoonFish

** (2 stars)

This is a beautifully decorated restaurant with good service that unfortunately struggles to provide even mediocre food. The problem seems to be a combination of the actual recipes and the execution in the kitchen.

We sampled a half-dozen dishes, and the only fairly good one was the yellowtail and smoked salmon sashimi. It’s telling that these two items have only a single ingredient. The double spicy tuna roll wasn’t nearly as good. In general it seemed the more ingredients, the farther things went astray.

Ceviche, for example, was simply a bowl full of citrus juice with a lot of onion, tomato, fairly flavorless avocado, and a couple of small pieces of equally flavorless trigger fish.

Mussels were served in the thinnest, most flavorless broth I’ve ever seen them in. The strongest flavor in the bowl was actually some celery bits.

Truffle “fries” are actually slabs of somewhat soggy potato, although they were served with a tasty horseradish dipping sauce.

On the plus side, there is an extensive wine list with excellent pricing. In fact if you’re willing to drop some big bucks, the prestige bottles are priced below retail.

I’ve been to several Talk of the Town restaurants, and never had a great experience, but I’d heard enough good things about Moonfish that (after avoiding it for a decade) I decided to finally try it. But it, too, was a disappointment.

MoonFish
7525 West Sand Lake Road
Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 363-7262
http://www.yelp.com/biz/moonfish-orlando-2