Coral Reef

Interior

Chargrilled octopus

Scampi

Bailey’s and Jack Daniel’s Mousse

*** (3 stars)

When it first opened this was one of the best restaurants at Epcot. They offered a true upscale dining experience and a spectacular view of the fish tank at the Seas Pavilion.

The view of the tank is still there, but the upscale dining experience is long gone. The reason, as with most of the other restaurants at Walt Disney World, is the advent of dining packages. Because guests can now get the food as part of their lodging and admissions packet, it has had a leveling effect on all of the restaurants, where everything is somewhat uniform. It’s not that the food is bad, it’s just very similar, and none of it stands out.

This is particularly apparent at the Coral Reef, which despite its theming isn’t really even a seafood restaurant anymore. Chicken and meat dishes outnumber the few fish dishes on the menu.

I had the chargrilled octopus, which was good, and the scampi, which included a skewer of decent shrimp and scallops over a completely flavorless pile of unsauced spaghetti.

Dinner for four, with a bottle of wine and tip, was over $300. Service was friendly and helpful, and the view is great.

Coral Reef
Walt Disney World Resort
Epcot’s Living Seas Pavilion
Lake Buena Vista, FL 32856
(407) 824-4321
https://www.yelp.com/biz/coral-reef-lake-buena-vista

Samurai Blue Sushi & Sake Bar

Interior

Sashimi bento box

**** (4 stars)

This is a very cool space for an experience a bit different from the rest of Ybor City. The towering brick walls and exposed wooden rafters create a surprisingly pleasant ambiance for decent sushi. The lunch bento boxes are a good deal, and the sushi is good, if not particularly inspired. Service was pleasant.

Samurai Blue Sushi & Sake Bar
1600 E 8th Ave
Ste C208
Tampa, FL 33605
(813) 242-6688
https://www.yelp.com/biz/samurai-blue-sushi-and-sake-bar-tampa-2

El Buda Latin Asian Restaurant

Exterior

Interior

Interior

Smoked salmon poke with pineapple

Teriyaki tots

Pork sweet plantain dumplings

Scallion pancake quesadilla

Chimichanga eggroll

Edamame frito

Ropa Viejo Bibimbap a Gaballo

***** (5 stars)

Many restaurants call themselves “fusion” cuisine when all they’re really doing is serving two different cuisines. So I was delighted to discover that El Buda is serving a true blending of Latin and Asian cuisines, and some of the most creative food in Central Florida.

We tried a broad range of their small plates, and the combination of flavors in each was superb. I particularly liked the eggroll and the quesadilla. The only slight disappointment was I thought the ropa vieja was too salty.

Service was friendly but obviously inexperienced. This didn’t interfere with our enjoyment of the meal, though. It was great to find someplace still fully staffed and serving great food late on a Sunday night after a show.

This space has been many, many restaurants, probably because it doesn’t open directly onto Church Street, but instead faces the railroad tracks. This is by far the best restaurant that’s been here, and I hope it prospers, as it truly is among the most creative in Orlando.

El Buda Latin Asian Restaurant
116 W Church St
Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 203-8171
https://www.yelp.com/biz/el-buda-latin-asian-restaurant-orlando

STK Orlando

Exterior

Dining room

Pull apart bread

Small seafood platter

Truffle fries

Mini burgers

Crispy rock shrimp

Carmelito Bar

*** (3 stars)

If you’re looking for a steakhouse experience in Disney Springs, this is it. It’s not going to change your life, but it is fine.

You’ll find all the usual offerings, and not much outside the box.

We started with the seafood tower, which is expensive (well, everything is expensive) but included a generous portion of fresh, giant shrimp, the best thing we had. The most interesting component was the two jars, one of smoked mussels and the other ceviche, although I wasn’t wild about the marinade on either.

Complimentary “pull apart sourdough” is included, but you’ll find that it is more like Parkerhouse rolls with blue cheese butter on top.

We skipped the steak and tried a couple of other appetizers. My companion liked the mini burgers, but I couldn’t really deal with the uncooked center of the patty. Truffle fries were good, and a serving for four to six people. Crispy rock shrimp was essentially the same dish as the bang bang shrimp at Bonefish. It was fine, but I’d actually ordered the crispy rock shrimp salad (repeating the word salad twice to our waiter, who wasn’t very good at listening).

Our waiter was good at talking, though. He was one of those people who have to tell you everything they’re going to do: “I’m going to bring you fresh silverware”, “I’ll go get your bread” and even “I’m moving the candle to make room for your next course.” I wish he’d spent some time on refilling water glasses or pouring more wine, two things that didn’t seem to be on his list.

Speaking of wine, it’s expensive, especially by the glass. You’re looking at $16-$28 per glass. We opted for an $82 bottle of Chardonnay instead. If you can deal with the pricing, the selections are excellent.

The carmelito bar was an excellent dessert, with several layers of different flavors and an excellent caramel sauce.

I’m not sure Orlando needed another steakhouse rather than a truly interesting fine dining restaurant, but that seems to be the trend, and I guess Disney Springs didn’t have one. Now it does.

STK Orlando
1580 E Buena Vista Dr
Orlando, FL 32821
(407) 917-7440
https://www.yelp.com/biz/stk-orlando-orlando