4 great Orlando restaurants
i just got back from a trip to Orlando and Disney World. After one horrendous meal at the Grand Floridian (1900 Park Fare -- should have tried one of the restaurants but my daughter wanted the character experience), and an equally horrible meal at Nine Dragons at Epcot, I thought I'd try some off property restaurants and was very glad I did.
First of all the service at 1900 Park Fare was awful -- the waiter deposited our bottle of wine and departed to show two other tables his gold Mickey ring. We were left watching our unopened bottle of wine slowly sweating. The food was terrible except for the prime rib which is kind of hard to screw up. It's a shame because some dishes showed promise. The pasta dish had good flavour but exuded a lava flow of oil once on the plate. Zucchini (the only vegetable besides niblet corn) was cooked crisp tender but was inedibly salty and greasy. The caesar salad dressing was great but because it was tossed up and left there, the salad was reduced to a gloopy mess.
Nine Dragons reminded me of small town Ontario Chinese food but with an astronomical price tag.
How great after this to go to Hanamizuki on I-Drive. My husband and I have spent a lot of time in Japan and this restaurant reminds us of so many family run inns. The good indicator of a good Japanese restaurant is the quality of their miso soup. Great dashi shows their finesse with the finer points. No powdered stock here. Great authentic food -- impeccably fresh sushi, delicious grilled fish and seafood (especially the grilled octopus). Loved every bite. Portions a bit small for the price but that's about par for the course.
On to Cafe Tu Tu Tango -- wonderful REAL atmosphere, my daughter got to make a clay armadillo with an artist. Really great tapas-style dishes. The grilled lamb chops with house-made apple chutney, wood oven fired pizzas and an outstanding tuna sashimi with seaweed salad. I wanted to lick the plate. Add the flamenco dancers and the art on the walls and you have a great night. Nicely flavoured sangria too.
We also had a great slice of pizza at a LiL Anthony's booth on I-Drive. New York style. Great thin crust. So we went downtown (?) to the restaurant but ended up at another place around the corner called Il Pescatore. An average family style Italian restaurant but very good red sauce on the ravioli. Not bad linguine vongole too. Very reasonably priced.
For our blow out meal we went to Texas de Brazil. Had the best service we've had anywhere. The waiter was amazing. Any time we even thought about filling our wine glasses he appeared out of nowhere to do it for us. Delicious meats, albeit a bit salty, but that is the style. Eye popping array of salads and a wonderfully creamy lobster bisque.
Enough to banish all thoughts of mousey food and waiters out of our heads.
I can't wait to come back. I drove up (stupidly on a Sunday) to Winter Garden to try Brothers and Sisters but it was closed.
Sorry you didn't enjoy your Disney dining experience but you picked probably one of the least favorable restaurants on WDW property. Nine Driagons has never been known to have good food and I think Disney finally gets it now because I think sometime next year they are totally revamping the place. As far as 1900 Park Fare, lets face it we really go there because our kids want to see characters, not for a fine dining experience (try Chef Mickeys next time). Not sure if you tried other restaurants while there but if your looking for fine dining Disney has some great restaurants but they also have the price tag to go along with them (try California Grill, Flying Fish, Blue Zoo, Il Mulino's, Spoodles, Victoria and Alberts, Jilko, Boma, Narcooses....etcl) unless you try going during the Free dining promotion. Yes, I said FREE. It's only for a short time, they had it last year and they are trying it out again this year. I think it runs from sometime in August to sometime in September. It's a great deal but you do have to make ASAP ADR's to ensure you get into the restaurants you want. Glad you found some good places outside the parks. I have to say last year when we went it was the first time we ventured outside the parks for food and we also found some good places, I'll add some of yours to my list to try. Hope you have better luck next time.
The quality of restaurants at WDW has consistently been declining, thanks, in large part, to free dining & the Disney Dining Plan. According to restaurant managers with whom we've spoken, the DDP is forcing them to standardize menus and lower the quality of the foods they're ordering. Even the signature restaurants like California Grill, Flying Fish, etc. have been hit by this.
We go to Victoria & Albert's, and there are a few non-Disney owned restaurants that are satisfactory, like Kimonos in the Swan hotel and Raglan Road at Downtown Disney. We really like Roy's on West Sand Lake; before the Dining Plan took over, we used to have long vacations at Disney World, primarily to enjoy the variety of foods. Now, we go back for our anniversary (we were married at WDW) but make the stay a lot shorter, since the food is a lot less interesting. I have a blog about local Orlando restaurants, and Bob Mervine just commented how even the patties at Beaches & Cream are frozen & downsized (http://hpandaw.wordpress.com)
That being said, I'd suggest avoiding the Disney character meals at all costs. The characters attract hordes of screaming children, and the focus is clearly not on the quality of the food, but on the entertainment. Not a foodie's cup o' tea!
I too think the service at Texas de Brazil is noteworthy. I've found that a good server augments the whole dining experiance and this place does it well.
Too bad you missed out on Brother's and Sisters. These folk know how to make fine 'que and great Southern sides. It's almost a 90 minute (and mucho tolls) drive from me but worth it.