For those who want to venture out of Jacksonville, Orlando offers some excellent fine dining options. Jacksonville Fine Dining Examiner has lived and worked previously in this area so we are very familiar with Orlando. As you may know, we put a lot of trust in the AAA ratings. Orlando offers six AAA Four Diamond restaurants: A Land Remembered, Cala Bella, Christini’s Ristorante Italiano, Norman’s, Primo, and The Boheme. There’s also the AAA Five Diamond restaurant named after English royalty, Victoria and Albert’s. It is important to note that the restaurants in this list are the best we’ve personally visited. We have not tried Cala Bella, Christini’s, Norman’s, Primo, or the renowned Victoria and Albert’s. So, it’s highly possible that this list may change as we visit more restaurants. Without further ado, here’s our list of favorite restaurants in Orlando, FL.
10. Moon Fish-As you might have guessed from the name, this is a fish restaurant…and they have some of the most impressive cuts of fish we’ve seen. Unfortunately, the high cost of some of the entrees causes this otherwise solid restaurant to sit at the bottom of this list. Appetizers like sashimi can go for ~$16 and crab cakes are $14 and that’s just appetizers. Expect to pay around $30 for the fresh fish that are in a display case at the front of the restaurant.
9. Emeril’s Tchoup Chop-Emeril harkens back to his New Orleans roots by naming this Orlando restaurant after the famous Tchoupitoulas Street. However, the Creole parallels basically end at the name. Tchoup Chop is located at the Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Studios, which has a Polynesian feel. The interior of the restaurant is very impressive with vaulted ceilings and a “lilypad pond” that runs nearly the entire length of the restaurant. Although the food still has that Emeril’s “bam” to it in terms of flavor, the food really doesn’t seem like it was inspired by New Orleans cuisine (not necessarily a bad thing). Rather, the food is possibly best described as a Polynesian/American hybrid.
8. McCormick and Schmick’s-This Millenia Mall seafood restaurant has grown on us lately with some improved menu items. The mixed greens salad ($7) and the Costa Rican Tilapia ($19) are a few of those items and they are recommended. Also, if you like raw bars this restaurant offers a nice variety of raw oysters.
7. The Boheme-Located inside the Grand Bohemian hotel in downtown Orlando, The Boheme fits in nicely with its eclectic surroundings. The Boheme has been a AAA Four Diamond restaurant since 2002 and offers a solid prix fixe menu with exquisite wine pairings.
6. Venetian Room-Technically in Lake Buena Vista, FL, Venetian Room is a classic special occasion restaurant with upscale service and delicious food. The interior has a regal feel that will have diners feeling pampered. This restaurant is a recipient of a Florida Trend Golden Spoon award and is a AAA Four Diamond Restaurant for 2011.
5. Brio-Another Millenia Mall restaurant, Brio has been one of our all-time favorite restaurants for quite some time. Brio is a Tuscan grill that serves some of the best dishes around. We strongly recommend the field greens salad, roasted lamb, and the pasta fra diavolo.
4. A Land Remembered-We tried this restaurant for Valentine’s Day and it was excellent. A Land Remembered is named after a famous book, with the same name, about the history of Florida. The butter for the bread is memorably shaped like alligators and the steaks and seafood are delicious. This is essentially a steakhouse and for V-day the restaurant offered a special with Chateaubriand and lobster. Both were excellent and we recommend you give them a shot.
3. The Ravenous Pig-This Winter Park bar/eatery is a true gastropub. In other words, it combines a bar-style feel with fine dining. Head Chef James Petrakis is currently in the lead for Food and Wine’s The People’s Best New Chef for 2011. If you’re a fan of James and this excellent restaurant, go here to vote.
2. Luma on Park-We love the ambiance inside Luma on Park. From the translucent wine cellar to the plush booth seating Luma offers a great feel for upscale dining in Winter Park (they even have cool bathrooms!). In this previous Culinary Competition article, we compared Luma to one of our all-time favorites in Jacksonville: Orsay. Although we strongly recommend you try both restaurants…Luma just barely pulled out the win.
1. Todd English’s Blue Zoo-And the winner is…Blue Zoo! This Disney restaurant personifies what we look for in a fine dining restaurant: great ambiance, excellent food, and great service. Blue Zoo basically has that x-factor that brings a restaurant from good to magnificent. Expect a unique and memorable experience at this AAA Four Diamond restaurant.
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