The Restaurant At Meadowood

Interior
Foyer

**** (4 stars)

It’s a bit difficult to rate a restaurant based upon a special meal, and we dined on the final night of The Restaurant’s Twelve Days of Christmas 2019 event. On the other hand, the final night is when The Restaurant’s own chef, Christopher Kostow, is in charge, so one assumes the food is representative of the normal quality.

Unfortunately, that seemed to be all over the map. There were indeed some of the stunning courses you’d expect from a three-star Michelin, such as the trout roe, the oxheart carrot, and the sunchoke trifle. But there were also some notable misses, including the unappealing quail, tough pork collar, and many others.

The service made up for a lot of that. It included the kind of synchronized moves that Michelin raters seem to fawn over, but also was very gracious and welcoming, and apologetic for the long wait for our table (no doubt the result of it being the third seating of a completely new menu).

The setting is also sublime: a not-overdone graceful simplicity, and a remarkably good illusion of snowflakes falling outside, to complement the festive mood.

What to make of it? Hard to say without a repeat visit, but at $1000 for two (with wine) I’m not in a hurry to do so.

The Restaurant At Meadowood
900 Meadowood Ln
St. Helena, CA
94574
(707) 967-1205
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-restaurant-at-meadowood-st-helena

Maxine’s on Shine

Exterior
Interior
Three cheeses

***** (5 stars)

This is a great neighborhood place, with artisinal food and live music. Sunday Brunch is definitely bustling, and is not a place for intimate conversation!

The cheese plate offers a nice selection with appropriate accompaniments. Deviled eggs were also nicely done, with some exotic spices.

Hot chicken and waffles relied on a spicy barbeque sauce rather than a Nashville preparation.

Service was attentive, and the music was good.

Maxine’s on Shine
337 N Shine Ave
Orlando, FL
32803
(407) 674-6841
https://www.yelp.com/biz/maxines-on-shine-orlando

Bull and Bear

The Wedge
Beef Short Rib
Carpaccio
Entry
Bar

***** (5 stars)

Orlando lacks variety in the high-end dining scene, with only a few top-notch restaurants that aren’t steakhouses. That makes the competition for best steakhouse even tougher, because there are so many to choose from. It doesn’t get much better than The Bull and Bear.

You won’t find much on this menu that isn’t on every other steakhouse menu in town, but the execution here is superb.

The wedge salad, really more of a stacked dome, is a good starter, with a choice of dressing, and delicious bacon crumbles.

The steaks, of course, are top-notch. But the real standout for me was the short rib, which was easily the best I’ve ever had. Served on one not-so-short rib, the meat was succulent without being overcooked, and the rich, complex reductive sauce was stellar.

The usual sides are here. Particularly good is the creamed corn.

Wine prices are average, and there is an adequate selection, although no vintage depth.

The electronic menu used for both food and wine actually works really well, and the pictures linked to the menu items looked exactly like the dishes we were served.

Our wine group used to meet here regularly, but over time it slipped off my radar, so I hadn’t been here in years. The food is a top-notch as it ever was, although the prices have certainly increased!

Bull and Bear
14200 Bonnet Creek Resort Ln
Orlando, FL
32821
(407) 597-5500
https://www.yelp.com/biz/bull-and-bear-orlando-2

Brio Tuscan Grille

Exterior
Interior
Patio

**** (4 stars)

This Brio location offers a nice “outside” patio that overlooks the mall’s indoor fountain. Service is attentive, and the menu is standard Brio.

The lunch combo of shrimp pasta and Caesar salad for $12 is a good deal. The pasta was perfectly al dente, and the shrimp tails had been removed.

It’s a good place to linger away from the bustle of the mall and enjoy an espresso.

Brio Tuscan Grille
4200 Conroy Rd
Orlando, FL
32839
(407) 351-8909
https://www.yelp.com/biz/brio-tuscan-grille-orlando

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill

Exterior
Interior
Interior
Interior

*** (3 stars)

The highlight here is the gorgeous decor. From the large bar with its high top table to the comfortable dining room with large booths and an open kitchen, every surface is elegant stone and wood. Even the outside covered dining area is beautifully designed.

Unfortunately the food experience is rather uneven. Both the Ceasar salad and Mixed Green salad were wonderful. My prime rib was perfectly cooked, although there was a tremendous amount of fat, about a third of the serving. Still, it was plenty. But my wife’s “New York strip” looked like a flank steak, but was tough even for that cut. It was perhaps the toughest steak she’s ever been served. Sure, she could have sent it back, but it was obvious on inspection that it wasn’t a good steak, so I think that’s some measure of performance.

Tater tots were an excellent side.

Wine prices are reasonable by the bottle, only a bit more than double retail.

Service was very good. Note that if you’re not in a hurry you should tell them, though, as it tends to be very speedy.

Firebirds Wood Fired Grill
1562 N Mills Ave
Orlando, FL
32803
(407) 581-9861
https://www.yelp.com/biz/firebirds-wood-fired-grill-orlando

Flemings Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

*** (3 stars)

With all the steak house chains available to choose from, I must admit that Flemings is not near the top of my list, but friends suggested meeting here. I would rate both the interior and the service as toward the lower end of the steak house spectrum. Service was particularly a problem, with our waiter constantly barging in, but not around when we needed him, and rushing us through the meal to the point that he was placing our desserts on the table before the dinner plates were cleared, and while some guests were still eating their entrees.

My steak was just okay, cooked well past the requested medium-rare and not particularly tender or flavorful.

I will say that some of the wines — especially the upper-end selections — are reasonably priced, especially in comparison to the Flemings near our home in Orlando.

Overall I’d recommend this place for a quick (very quick) business meal, but not a fine dining evening.

Flemings Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar
2301 Rosecrans Ave
El Segundo, CA
90245
(310) 643-6911
https://www.yelp.com/biz/flemings-prime-steakhouse-and-wine-bar-el-segundo-2

The Attic Door

Pork slider

Muffuletta

Interior

***** (5 stars)

Now under the new ownership of Laurie and Kevin Tarter of the Chef’s Table and Tasting Room across the street, the Attic Door has reached its full potential as a chill place to hang out and enjoy good food, wines, beer and live music.

Long-time fans will find that all of the Attic Door’s best features have been retained, but the food is now an order of magnitude better, the wine list more interesting, the beers vastly more interesting, and the seating more comfortable, and better suited to enjoying the food while listening to the excellent live music.

The service has the friendly professionalism you would expect from these experienced owners. There’s a passion here to make everything just right for guests.

There will also be an afternoon tea some days. Hearing about the research that has already gone into selecting the teas and scone recipes makes me excited to experience another unique offering.

The attic Door is definitely most chill place to hang out in Winter Garden.

The Attic Door
28 W Plant St
Winter Garden, FL
34787
(407) 877-0266
https://www.yelp.com/biz/the-attic-door-winter-garden

Lotus of Siam

Dining room

Bar

**** (4.5 stars)

As the awards attest, Lotus of Siam serves some of the best Thai food in the country. This new location is a gorgeous building, and allows them to serve many more people.

As is often the case, with the growth come issues. We’ve always had amazing service at the old location. To describe the service at this new location as disjointed would be giving it too much credit. The fundamental problem is that you don’t have a server. Instead, a whole team of people randomly drops by; two people took our orders, two others took orders for wine, the food was delivered by runners, water refilled by others, and wine… well, the wine was another matter all together.

Lotus of Siam has a great wine list. I didn’t see anyone else in the vast space having a bottle, so it may simply be they’ve forgotten how to serve it. We ordered two bottles and forty minutes later(!) finally were advised they were out of both. We ordered an alternate for one of them, and accepted a recommendation for the other. fifteen minutes later the recommendation finally showed up. The other bottle? Missing in action. We finally gave up and cancelled it after all the food had been served.

And the one bottle we did get ended up being self-serve. We had to get up and get it from the ice bucket every time we needed a refill.

I guess next time we’ll order cocktails.

Lotus of Siam
620 E Flamingo Rd
Las Vegas, NV
89119
(702) 538-6135
https://www.yelp.com/biz/lotus-of-siam-las-vegas-13

Imperium Food & Wine

***** (5 stars)

This is my favorite place to eat in Celebration. They have an eclectic selection of wines by the glass, and a nice sampling of small plates and sandwiches. The outside dining on the sidewalk is one of the nicest outdoor spots in Central Florida.

On a recent visit we enjoyed a bruschetta special the most

Imperium Food & Wine
606 Market St
Celebration, FL 34747
(407) 566-9054
https://www.yelp.com/biz/imperium-food-and-wine-celebration

Wine Bar George

Upstairs

Downstairs

Exterior

Jicama and kholrabi

Wine flights – any wines and any size pours you want

***** (5 stars)

Finally there is a place in Orlando I can refer my wine loving visitors to! When I first came to Orlando in the early 1980s there were several prestigious wine lists in town, like Chris’ House of Beef. Today there are essentially zero. I end up sending visitors to Berns in Tampa.

But Wine Bar George is something completely different. It’s actually most like the early days of Seasons 52 (before they dumbed down the list), when you could get any of a hundred or so very interesting wines on the list poured by the glass. Wine Bar George goes that one better, and lets you get any wine in any amount, down to an ounce. So you can build your own flights anyway you like.

We had a French and a California Chardonnay, and then a flight of Cabernet, Cab Franc (from South Africa) and Syrah. Two ounces is a perfect pour for wine flights as far as I’m concerned. Then we finished with an ounce of two high-end Dujac wines that I’m sure are not served by the glass anywhere else.

The cheese plate was a great accompaniment, and also included some delicious house marinated olives. Jicama and Kholrabi salad was a great palate cleanser, and then we finished with some Asian influenced chicken skewers.

Service was polished and our server Zach was very knowledgeable. We also chatted with server Chris, who recognized us from past wine dinners. The staff is extremely professional and enthusiastic.

In case you’re wondering who George is, he’s Master Sommelier George Miliotes, and the quality of wine bar George is no accident. His dad owned Chris’ House of Beef where George was a somm as a kid, and George later created that wine program at Seasons 52. Now he’s doing his own thing, and Orlando is all the better for it.

Wine Bar George
1610 Buena Vista Dr
Orlando, FL 32830
(407) 490-1800
https://www.yelp.com/biz/wine-bar-george-orlando