Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Black Bean Deli - JS

325 S Orlando Ave
Winter Park, FL
Phone: (407) 628-0294

I had lunch at Black Bean Deli today. For the first time the line was not out the door so we only had to wait 15 minutes vs. 25 (a little exaggerated) but the food is definitely worth the wait. I had the chicken platter. It comes with black beans, yellow rice, plantains and salad. The chicken was very moist and fell off the bone, not over cooked. The black beans tasted like they were just cooked, instead of mushy after sitting in the pot for hours on warm. Even the salad was fresh and not wilted. Lastly, for the price and the amount of food, you can’t beat it. It’s definitely a “must do lunch there” type of restaurant…

Pho 88 – DJ

730 North Mills Avenue
Orlando, FL 32803

Pho 88 is located in the heart of Viet Town of Orlando. It is an unassuming restaurant with a rather plan looking dining room. While we were there the all of the other patrons were Vietnamese. The menu is huge there are 212 numbered items, including the Durian Shake # 205.

I had # 107 Grilled Chicken on Rice Vermicelli (Bun Ga Nuong) $6.25. This is the standard dish I get in a Viet restaurant. It was prepared in the way I expected, julienned carrots, dakon, and cucumber. There was also sliced lettuce and bean sprouts. The dish was topped with a sprinkling of cilantro and scallions. The grilled chicken was a little fatty and not as smoky as I like.

The over all experience was a nice one. Viet Garden is still my favorite Vietnamese restaurant.

Rating: ***
Service: Excellent 4
Quantity: Just right
Price: Meal/Water $6.25

PHO 88 - RB

I had Grilled Pork over Rice with a Meat Patty. Pork was a bit fatty but very good. I can't tell exactly what the Meat Patty is made of and I don't think I really want to know but it was good.

Service: Good (3 out of 5)
Quantity: Plenty
Meal/Water: Under $7.00

Friday, July 27, 2007

Grain Chain at FH - DJ

Scofield Drive
Orlando, FL

I had lunch at my desk today, Lemon Pepper Rotisserie Chicken from the Grain Chain. I had them add the vegetables from the daily special rice pilaf, broccoli and carrots. The chicken was moist and actually quite good. The vegetables were of the frozen variety, the carrots spongy but sweet.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Grouper & Chips – DJ

4932 New Broad Street
Orlando, Florida 32814

I had the Grouper sandwich basket ($10.95), which included a Grouper sandwich, fries, and coleslaw. I choose to have my fish blackened which might have been a mistake. Most restaurants do not know the meaning of blackened fish. See note below. The fish was good but it was a little on the bland side. The fries were average. I did see boxes of Idaho potatoes on my trip to the restroom. So I know that the chips were freshly made. They were just not crispy on the outside and steaming on the inside. The coleslaw might have been the best thing on my plate.

The restaurant which is in Baldwin Park was completely full by the time we left at 12:45. There was outside seating that would be nice on a cool evening. The restaurant is nicely decorated. There are posters of 1950’s stars on the walls, James Dean, Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe. The owner/manager was in the process of hanging a framed article by the Chowhound while we were there. In the Chowhound's article he mentions that he was recently in London. I too have been in London recently and had Fish and Chips at a place close to Gloucester Station. It was what I expected of English fish and chips greasy and steaming hot with lots of vinegar. Next time at Grouper and Chips I’ll try the 2 piece Grouper basket so that I can have the English experience that the Chowhound liked so much. Overall the meal was good just not as good as I had anticipated.

Rating: **
Service: ***
Quantity: Just right
Price: Meal/Water $11.75

Note on how to cook Cajun blackened fish:
Preheat grill with heavy cast-iron skillet or griddle in the grill. Get it good and hot. Dip each fillet into butter and sprinkle Cajun blackening spices on both sides. Place in skillet. Cook about 2 minutes or until the bottom is almost black but not burned. Flip over. Pour about a teaspoon of butter on the cooked side and continue cooking about 2 minutes or until fillet is finished. Serve immediately.

Pho 88 - DT

730 North Mills Ave

Once again we visit the Mills/Colonial section of Orlando sometimes referred to as "Little Saigon". While Pho88 is a Vietnamese restaurant that specializes in noodle soups, their menu is diverse and extensive (over 200 items). The dining area is large with a high ceiling and modest decoration. It could have previously been a small grocery. For a Thursday, the place was quite busy with mostly Asian patrons. I was anxious to try the cold Spring Rolls with shrimp and pork. You get two large rolls per order served with peanut sauce. I prefer the peanut sauce to be nuttier. The ingredients were fresh and the rice paper wrap was soft at the edges indicating that it had been prepared very recently if not to order. For lunch I chose the Grilled Pork on rice. It comes with a sweet fish broth and lettuce, tomato and cucumber. I like to pour the broth into the rice and the remaining peanut sauce over the simple salad. The pork was prepared in a tasty sweet seasoning and served with a generous pinch of chopped scallion. I would like to have had a leaner cut of pork. Today, I found it to be a bit fatty. The server was efficient and the management friendly. I look forward to trying something new next time.

Quantity: Plenty
Service: Good
Spring Rolls/Grilled Pork: around $9.00


Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Athena Chicken - MO

487 S. Orlando Ave
Mailtland Fl 32751

I had the Cypriana chicken with the sides of roasted potatoes and green beans. Chicken was great as always. The potatoes are the best around and I have been trying to duplicate at home. They have a hint of apple. Grean beans are nothing fancy. Walked in at 5 minutes to noon and went right to the counter, ordered and paid. We grabbed our forks and napkins out of the dispensers and put or drinks on the table. As soon as we sat in the chairs our order was ready. Fresh and hot as always.

By 12:20 the line was out the door and people were waiting a little longer for their food.

Cypriana chicken is 3.99 and the meal with 2 sides is slightly higher.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Viet Garden - DJ

1237 E. Colonial Drive
Orlando, FL 32803

It was a sad day today as we were leaving Viet Garden today. We ask were Charlie was and were told that he had "retired". We have not seen him in about 3 weeks. We'll keep you posted on any changes.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Alfonso's Pizza & More

3231 Edgewater Drive
Orlando, FL 32804

I’ve only been to Alfonso’s a few times since they were bought out by Anthony’s Pizza about a year ago. So we went today. I always order the same thing. I get the 2 slices of pizza and a drink for 4.75. I always get green olives as my topping, because this is the only pizza joint in Orlando that has it. The waitress looked at me as though I had come for another planet. We don’t have green olives. I got the same reception when I ordered my side salad (2.75) we don’t have Thousand Island dressing.

In the few times I’ve returned since the new owners arrived the pizza has not been consistent. Most of the time the crust was so thin that it was soggy from the sauce. Today it was thicker, too thick. It also had a strange texture on the bottom side almost like they had used flour to coat their pizza split and it had burned.
My over all feeling was one of disappointment.
Other reviews:
Orlando Citysearch
Orlando Weekly
Rating: *
Service: ****
Pizza, Salad, Drink: 7.99

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Siam Garden - DJ

1111 Webster Ave.
Winter Park, FL 32789

The gang was feeling like Thai today for lunch. We ended up at Siam Garden, it was a nice surprise. The lunch specials were priced at $5.95 with 17 offerings to choice from. They ranged from Pad Thai to curries to stir fried dishes. The restaurant is nicely accoutered with fancy Thai table cloths under glass and a temple like atmosphere. The lighting in the back room is soft, a little too soft for lunch time. The overall atmosphere is pleasant.

I had the Stir Fried Ginger with chicken. The dish was a bit larger then I expected which was nice. The dish had a nice brown sauce which was very good. The vegetables were nicely done, still crispy. The chicken was also good. The dish had the standard rice accompaniment. My overall impression was good. I have been lacking a good Thai restaurant to go to since The Thai Place changed owners a few months ago. Boone from the Thai Place recently moved to the Villages and opened a new restaurant called Siam Orchid. It opened on July 2, 2007. The address is 1561 Bella Cruz Dr., The Villages, FL 32159. I have not had the time to go visit especially for lunch since it is about 60 miles away. Siam Garden will be a nice place to go to fill the vacuum left by Boone’s departure.

Service: 4
Meal/Water:: $6.34.

Siam Garden - DT

Now that my favorite Thai restaurant is under new management, the search is on. Siam Garden, at 1111 Webster Ave just on the north side of the Winter Park Village, is said to have the best Pad Thai for the money. The atmosphere is clean and roomy. The lighting is dim and the reception was a bit more business than friendly. Typical number of customers for a mid-week lunch. I can’t pass them up so I ordered the Spring Rolls (a new item on the menu).
The spring rolls were fresh, good sized and provided adequate support for the peanut sauce. The peanut sauce could be a bit more peanutty. Even though everyone at the table was watching me eat them, I still feel this is a fair review. For lunch the Cashew Chicken is my favorite so I ordered #22, Stir Fried Cashew Nuts with Chicken, medium spicy.
The food was delivered in good time. The red curry base was not too sweet and spiced just right. The ingredients: Scallion, Onion, carrot, celery, water chestnut, chicken and cashews were all fresh and in good proportion, served hot but not overcooked.
Service: 4 (Out of 5)
Quantity: 4
Spring Rolls, Cashew Chicken and water $9

Friday, July 6, 2007

Cuban Sandwiches to Go!!

1605 Lee Road
Orlando, FL

This Cuban sandwich shop prides itself on not being Fast Food. There are slogans up on the outside wall around where you place your orders. Such as “We’ve made a deal with the bank not to make sandwiches and we won’t cash checks or take credit cards”. There is also a sign above the porch that proclaims “Voted the Best Cuban Sandwich Food Network 01-02”. I could not verify this claim as foodtv.com doesn’t seem to have anything but current stuff on there site. I could not find anything about something that happened 5 years ago.

Note (1/4/2008):
I found it. Here is Cuban Sandwiches To Go recipe on the Food Channel web site!

I had the turkey and cheese sandwich with a side of black bean soup. The sandwich had been warmed in a sandwich press and sliced in the diagonal like the classic Cuban sandwich. There was only turkey and cheese on the sandwich, just as described on the menu board. The black bean soup was also just as described on the menu board i.e. soup. There was rice and raw fresh onions mixed in as well. The soup had a strong flavor of cumin. With the addition of some unmarked hot sauce the soup was very good. The sandwich was also good although it would have been better with a little lettuce or tomato or even a slice or two of pickle. I had the required Jupina soda (pineapple) with my meal.

There was quite a line when I arrived at 12:10. It took about 10 minutes for my order to be called out at the pick-up window. The patio was equipped with plastic chairs and tables. The meal was pleasant for a sidewalk café on Lee Road, on a 90 degree day in Orlando.

Service: Excellent 4
Quantity: Just Right
Price: Meal/Soda: $8.02

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Homecooked Venezuela Potluck - DT

Hola. So I says to my friend KM, "I understand your mom cooks a mean Empanadas." She says, "No. She cooks a mean Empanadas and a mean Cachappas." So I says, "Since she flew all the way in from Venezuela, we should have a potluck in the office and invite your mom." So she did. Wow. Peer pressure still works at my age. Besides ten deserts from the less than ethnic members of our team, we enjoyed BBQ meatballs, yellow rice and white rice with red beans. Mama M. treated us to our fill of Empanadas and Cachappas. She graciously provided a choice of accompanyments: guacamole, mozzerella cheese and Honduras Cream.

The guacmole was simple and heavy with Cilantro. The Honduras Cream was pourable at room temp and tasted like cream cheese. The Empanadas were very good. A corn meal pocket filled with chicken, green pepper, onions, cilantro, garlic and smashed potatoes seasoned with Adobo and deep fried just right. Cachappas, also based on a corn mixture, are cooked like pancakes. Excellent with the Honduras Cream. MC, the Asian Latino, came through with a very honorable mention. A French recipe, light almond cookie. He says he used flour but you can't tell by looking at it. While thin, this cookie taste great. He didn't know what they were called so I found a very similar recipe for something called Lace Almond Tuiles. So for potluck, I think we all experienced something new and tasty today. So adios, au revoir, Tsai Chen. I'm really not sure what to call it today...

Monday, July 2, 2007

Grain Chain at FH - DJ

Scofield Drive
Orlando, FL

I had the BBQ chicken Monday Special at the Grain Chain. This consists of one small chicken breast, wing, and leg. The sides are baked beans and potato salad. I opted for coleslaw instead of potato salad. The meal is served in a black recycled styrofoam container, not the most attractive presentation but only 4.99 – employee discount.

The beans are quit good. They seem to be homemade. The sauce they are in is tangy and sweet. The coleslaw had a bit too much raw onion taste for me. The BBQ chicken was moist and tender it was just a bit on the small side. I was still hungry when I finished the meal. I ate sitting in the grass next to Lake Winyah the view was nice.