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Jun 7, 2011 10:42 AM

Short Orlando report

Thanks to those who contributed to the "Orlando Dining Guide" threads--it was great to have all of that info in one place. I picked three of the recommended places, and here's a brief report.

4 Rivers Smokehouse was the highlight. Coming from Seattle, I just don't have good bbq at home. Between 3 of us we ordered a lot of food and loved it all (the banana pudding especially). The whole experience--outside tables with misters, unlimited iced tea, a line that moved fast and efficiently--was great.

K was the next favorite. I actually gave my meal a B but the other 3 in my party were more wowed (they had pork, filet and snapper). I saw the huge size of the starters and entrees before we ordered so I ordered 2 starters rather than a starter and entree. The K tomato stack was big (and too heavy on the goat cheese), and the shrimp and grits was enormous--entree sized, in my book. My 2 starters left me stuffed and everyone else, who had a starter and entree, was nearly comatose. Desserts were nice--I'm not typically a big fan of chocolate desserts, and wouldn't have ordered a "lava cake" left to my own devices, but it was great--not too sweet. My friends' escargot, pork and filet all the same reduction, which was odd. Service was good, and they were accomodating about letting us change a res on a Saturday night. It's a loud room, if that matters to anyone. The tv above the bar is puzzling. But all in all a nice experience.

Ravenous Pig wasn't quite as successful. It wasn't bad by any means, but we expected better. Dishes had too many ingredients and didn't always work. Again, portions were ridiculously huge (I'm not well traveled in the South--maybe this is a southern thing?). I had a starter of ricotta gnudi which filled me up. The summer truffles in it had no taste which, in my experience, is usually the case with this ingredient. My snapper was nicely cooked but there were so many ingredients and they didn't all mesh. The lobster roll had deep fried lobster, which seems like a shame. My friends gave a thumbs down to the fried chicken and shrimp and grits; pickled ramps were missing from the Humboldt Fog salad (and funny thing about that--my Floridian friend didn't know that was a brand of goat cheese, and the words "goat cheese" are not in the description--he just thought it was the name of the salad, so he was surprised at what it turned out to be. I don't know if that's just his mistake or if Humboldt Fog is more known on the West Coast than in Florida). The gruyere biscuits were great, and another friend loved her burger.The fact that you could get a glass or split of anything on the wine list was great. I liked the space. I wish the servers didn't introduce themselves and give a pitch about the restaurant.

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  1. Thanks for the feedback, it really helps us validate our perspective when recommending to visitors as our experiences are necessatily colored by our local point-of-view. For example, Ravenous Pig really was one of the first places to deliver its type of cuisine in the gastropub-type atmosphere, so I'm sure we give it a little slack whereas those from more progressive dining cities (like Seattle) may be a little more critical of some of its flaws. For instance, the fact a place here had ramps on the menu to leave off of a dish is progress in these parts :)

    That said, I've never found the food at RP to be too complicated as I think they manage to blend the flavors together very well, but I do understand they go for the high-degree of difficulty option rather than the "simple flavors done well" angle. By the way, La Luce and Chef's Table are two options here that play in that sandbox, so if you make back this way again you might want to give those a try.

    Regarding portion sizes, it is a market issue - god forbid a place have reasonable portion sizes it will be destroyed on Yelp as a rip-off. Unfortunately a by-product of the dominance of chain restaurants as the comparison set.

    Finally, yes some of us here do know what Humboldt Fog is, but we could use a great cheese shop as the best option we have locally is Whole Foods. In my opinion, Fog is somewhat played out, I'd prefer a Haystack Mountain pyramid

    Again, thanks for the feedback and I'm glad you didn't have any bad meals :)

    Chef's Table
    4290 S Highway 27 Ste 106, Clermont, FL 34711

    2 Replies
    1. re: YosemiteSam

      I haven't been there, but there is The Cheese Shop on Park Avenue:

      1. re: Big Bad Voodoo Lou

        I have been to the Cheese Shop, and it's sad, sad, sad :(

        I'm actually not slagging on Whole Foods as their selection is actually pretty great, and if you happen by when they have one of their main cheesemongers working they'll happily let you taste away as well as provide insights and opinions on what to try

    2. Christy,

      Thank you so much for reporting back. It's always so great to hear the experiences that people have.

      I think there is a good point in your story about where you live. Seattle doesn't have many if at all good BBQ joints so 4 Rivers was something you really enjoyed. However if you came from Austin, Texas it may not be as memorable for you. Having experiences that you just can't get back home is the whole reason for traveling.

      Perhaps this is why RP just didn't impress as much. Still a very good restaurant but it's nothing you can get in Seattle. You may have liked Norman's better because he fuses Floridian and Caribbean nicely. Just a thought.

      I'm so glad you enjoyed your time here and that we were able to help you make some decisions.

      14 Replies
      1. re: Sandwich_Sister

        "Having experiences that you just can't get back home is the whole reason for traveling. "

        now if i could get u to convince my wife's family of this ......
        they (meaning my MIL) only wants to eat at chains when we visit orlando..

        1. re: srsone

          srsone- easy enough, tell the MIL that one of the kids wants to eat at the big mcdonalds or something and then pay the kid off to keep quiet with something he wants (playstation game or something) if he goes somewhere good with you...

          1. re: srsone

            well some people, ya know. but Next time you come down you should pick a place and she should pick a place.

            Or find out what a few of her favorite meals are and take her to places that offer those choices that are not chains.

            and if all else fails - drop the MIL off at the chain and visit the local place next door. lol!

            1. re: Sandwich_Sister

              ive tried..
              but when that side of the family is together ...MIL is in i get shot down..
              ive just learned to deal with it...and when my wife and i are together we go were we want...

              1. re: srsone

                Gotta man up brother! Get wife to tell MIL to take the kids to Chili's or whatever and the two of you go eat some good food. This shouldn't be a point of contention, you just aren't selling it right.

                1. re: askdrtodd

                  u dont know my mil...............

                  and yes when we are together at least once they watch the kids while we go out for dinner...

          2. re: Sandwich_Sister

            You're right, that's exactly what I DO look for when traveling. My friends (who moved from CO) plan to stay in Orlando for the forseeable future so I'm sure I'll visit again--I'll put Norman's, La Luce and Chef's Table on the list for next time. (And I'm sure lots of people know what Humboldt Fog is there--I thought it was interesting my friends didn't, though).

            Chef's Table
            99 W Plant St, Winter Garden, FL 34787

            1. re: christy319

              Also I know you guys in Seattle seem to have a lot of Thai up that way but the little saigon area of Orlando is always fun to explore. There are a couple of places to grab a banh mi or pho.

              Pho 88
              Ba Le Bakery
              Boston Bakery

              By the way I can't wait to get back up to Seattle. I couldn't get enough of the food up there.

              Boston Bakery & Cafe
              1525 E Colonial Dr Ste 5, Orlando, FL 32803

              1. re: Sandwich_Sister

                Sister, I agree with you about the food in 2 favorite food cities outside of NY, SF and Chi, are Seattle and Charleston.

                Heading to Orlando this weekend - dinner at Amura and Mortons...looking forward to some fine sushi, especially since the losing golfer in my party is picking up the tab. Now I just have to make sure i don't lose. Is 4 Rivers near the Dr. Phillips area?

                1. re: Birdcage_Chef

                  The original is in Winter park which is a little drive, the second one maybe closer but I can remember it's location.

                  I'm not good with directions. :(

                2. Ha ha - Humboldt Fog is definitely known down here, if you're a cheese fan. I think you could probably find people on the West Coast who also don't know what it is - it's just dependent on what you like. Some people are Golden Corral & Applebee's people, while others are Ravenous Pig people.
                  Heather W