Sunday, September 30, 2007

Luigino’s at Heathrow - dj

120 International Parkway
Heathrow, FL

We went to Luigino’s with a group of 25 people for a friend’s birthday party. The staff was very efficient in seating us in our own room and getting our orders taken. They told us that there were 3 large groups at the restaurant that night and since we were the first if we got our orders in we would be the first to be served. They made it clear that they were now trying to rush us and that the room was ours for the night.

The room had warm lighting and was nicely appointed. There were many in the group that were vegetarians, but there were not many options on the menu that were vegetarian. I think that in the end everyone was satisfied. Several people got the Buffalo Mozzarella salad, which looked good. I had the “Chicken Marsala - Breast of chicken sautéed in a Marsala wine sauce with shiitake mushrooms, shallots and demi-glace, served over fettucci”. The dish was good the chicken was moist and tender. The noodles were homemade and perfectly cooked. The sauce was rich and slightly sweet. The accompanying house salad with creamy Italian dressing was also nice.

A fellow diner had the “Eggplant Rollatini - Fried eggplant rolled with a ricotta cheese blend, topped with pomodoro sauce and melted mozzarella cheese, served over angel hair pasta”. Her comment was that it was not really to her liking and that the salad was the best thing she had besides the dessert.

For dessert we had the chocolate lava cake topped with vanilla ice cream. This would be worth the trip. The dark chocolate inside was warm and luxurious. The ice cream and whipped cream were the perfect finish for the chocolate.

The service was excellent especially with such a large group. The pricing was a bit high I thought, but if you are in the mood for a quite Italian meal in an intimate romantic setting or a special occasion this would be a nice choice.

Rating: ***
Service: ****
Price Entrée / Desert: $34.00

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Seito Japanese Restaurant - DJ

510 N. Orlando Avenue, #104
Winter Park, FL 32789

We went to Seito Japanese Restaurant today for lunch. It is located in the Winter Park Village next to the theater. The menu has quite a few sushi options. I choose the Salmon Teriyaki Lunch Box “Grilled fresh salmon served with teriyaki sauce served with salad, rice, beef dumplings, and half a California roll.” I also ordered an Asparagus Roll.

The restaurant was very busy during the lunch hour we were there. I think that every table was full. The restaurant is nicely decorated with Japanese touches, like rice paper lamps and overheard lighting.

My meal started with Miso soup, which had a stronger salter flavor then most Miso that I have had. It was still good though. My box lunch had 5 separate containers. There was a carrot ginger salad, sticky rice, 3 dumplings, a California roll, and the salmon which was on a bed of stir fried vegetables. Everything was good. My side dish of asparagus roll was also very good.

Rating: ***
Service: ***
Price Box lunch/sushi roll: $12.50

Other Reviews:

Orlando Weekly

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Grain Chain at FH - DJ

Scofield Drive
Orlando, FL

There was a new menu item at the Grain Chain today it was “Fresh Salmon with Scalloped Potatoes and Mixed Veggies”. We had been saving this day to try this new item. It was actually quite good; the salmon was not over cooked and was seasoned nicely. The scalloped potatoes were steaming hot even after we got back to our desks. The vegetables were frozen carrots, peas, lima beans, and green beans.

I think for the money this was a very good meal. I hope they have it again.

Rating: ***
Service: ***
Price with discount: $4.92

Monday, September 24, 2007

Hatsuhana Japanese Restaurant - DJ

Hatsuhana Japanese Restaurant
3340 E. Semoran Blvd
Apopka, FL 32703

Hatsuhana is the place to go for a quiet Japanese meal with friends. The atmosphere is very inviting, although sometimes it can be very cold in the dining room. The dining room is tastefully decorated with Japanese touches; rice paper screens, silk paintings, etc. The place is filled with regulars they all seem to know the staff and sushi cooks. There is a brisk trade in takeout orders as well.

My favorite dish here is the Teriyaki Salmon and that is what I had today. The meal starts with a warm Miso soup and a carrot ginger salad. The Miso is very good with its chunks of tofu and squares of nori. The carrot ginger salad has a slight kick to it thanks to the ginger. We supplemented our meal with one roll of avocado sushi, which was excellent.
The main course consisted of the Salmon Teriyaki, a mound of sticky rice, and potatoes. The potatoes had been fried then coated with a sweet sauce. The salmon was excellent but slightly dry today; usually it is cooked to perfection.

The dining experience at Hatsuhana’s is always a good one. This is my neighborhood Japanese restaurant.

Rating: ****
Service: ****
Price - Salmon/sushi: $20.00

Monday, September 17, 2007

Steak in the City - DJ

1012 West State Road 436
Altamonte Springs, FL 32714
407-788-steak (7832)

If you are in the mood to gorge yourself at an Argentine steak house this is the place. There are 3 menu choices: Option A Mediterranean Salad Bar, Argentinean Grill, and drink $13.99, Option B adds 2 drinks and dessert $20.99, Option C is salad bar only $9.99. They have a tired pricing structure with prices about two dollars higher on the weekends and two dollars more at dinner on week nights.

The salad bar had an array of items to choose from. These included such things a Russian potato salad, cheese, Couscous salad, tuna salad, carrot salad, and about 15 other items. The items that I sampled were all good.

We were there with a party of about 30 people. So we got special treatment. Usually you have to go up to a window and order you food. They brought us platters of food out. There were two chimichurri sauces to accompany the meat, both were excelent. The first platter was twice baked potatoes; this was probably the best thing I had here. They had been stuffed with sour cream and topped with cheddar cheese that had been melted under a grill. Next out came some thinly sliced beef that I thought was a bit tuff. Next came some overcooked chicken that was very dry. Sweetbreads arrived that I passed on. Next were ribs. I cannot remember all the things that were brought to the table. Most people that I talked to thought the meat was either tuff or overcooked. I tried ordering a few things from the window, the salmon was almost unidentifiable. The flavor of the meat was overpowered by the marinade that it had been cooked in.

This is a place best left to a special occasion; they had no problem accommodating our group of 30 even giving us a special price. I heard at least two other parties singing happy birthday. I would not recommend it for a casual lunch on a busy weekday.

Rating: **
Service: ***
Price: $13.99

What others are saying:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Powerhouse Café - DJ

111 E Lyman Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32789

We were on our way to the Lotus Café in Winter Park in fact we could smell the curry before we could see the door. When we arrived the door was locked. I hope not for good.

So we walk back up Park Avenue to the Powerhouse. It was hopping when we arrived at noon, we got the last table. In a few minutes there were 10 people standing around the door. The restaurant decorated in 70’s green and yellow was bright, with the full front side facing the street being windows. One wall was full of pictures of their customers.

The menu consists of salads, wraps, and pita sandwiches. I chose a falafel pita. It was a good choice. The wait was a little long but it was a busy lunch time crowd. When the pita arrived it smelled and tasted good. The tahini sauce was very good; it did not have the overpowering taste of lemon that I have had other places. The only thing missing was a fork to scrape up the things that fell out of the pita.

The overall experience was a good one.

Rating: ***
Service: **
Price pita sandwich/water: $6.50

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Café Annie’s - DJ

131 N Orange Ave Suite 102
Orlando, FL

I was at Downtown Mini visiting my car which was not quite ready to be picked up from the service department. So I went next door to Café Annie’s for lunch. Café Annie’s was formally in the store front that is now occupied by Downtown Mini. They had to move back in 2002 when Mini came to town.

When you walk in the door you know this will be a good meal. The smells coming from the cafeteria style line entice you to the back of the restaurant to place your order. I arrived at an off moment and there was no line, but as I finished there were 15 people in line.

Today I choose a platter which comes with a meat and two sides. I had the chicken kabob, with a side of buttery corn, and garlic smashed potatoes. The chicken pieces were grilled to perfection; they had been smothered in a garlic/oil sauce. The corn which was of the frozen variety was sweet and buttery. The Smashed potatoes had large pieces of potato still intact, but they were still smooth. The potatoes had lots of black pepper and just a hint of garlic.

You can always count on Annie’s for a good Greek meal.

Rating: ***
Service: ****
Price Platter/drink: $9.48

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Spice Café - DJ

7536 Dr. Phillips Blvd.
Orlando, FL 32819

Spice Café located in the Dr. Phillips area prides itself as offering “Innovative North and South Indian Cuisine”. This little Indian restaurant is located in an out building of the Dr Phillips Marketplace just a stone’s throw from the old Darbar Indian Restaurant. It offers both indoor and outdoor seating.

The restaurant is nicely decorated with a modern color scheme. The seating area has about 20 tables inside and 5 wrought iron tables outside. There is a display case at the back of the restaurant where the daily specials are awaiting your selection. There were about 10 items to choose from. The meat dishes included Tandoori chicken, Lamb Shahi Korma, and Chicken Tikka Masala. The vegetable dishes included a Dal Special, vegetable curry, mushroom curry, and spinach curry. There was Basmati rice to go with each platter. There is also a full menu that can be ordered as well. The menu has the traditional Dosas from South India and all the other appetizers, breads and drinks that you would expect to find at an Indian restaurant.

I chose to get the lunch platter which consists of 2 side dishes, rice and Nan for $6.95. They also offer a larger platter that adds a Dal to the mix. My dishes were Tandoori chicken and Curried mixed vegetables. The Tandoori Chicken had the delicious smoky flavor that only a tandoori oven can provide. The mixed vegetable curry was of average flavor. The Nan was warm and buttery. One person in our party had the mushroom curry and Chicken Tikka Masala Lunch Platter Special which looked good. The other person had the Butter Chicken ordered from the regular menu. This was served in a tandoori red cream and butter sauce.

If you are in the Dr. Phillips area and are hungry for Indian this is a place that should definitely be considered.

Rating: ***
Service: ****
Price lunch special: $6.95
Other Reviews:
Orlando Weekly
My City Eats

Monday, September 10, 2007

Spice Cafe - DT

7536 Dr Phillips Blvd.
This could be the beginning of a curry phase for me. I told DJ that other than my wife’s curry dressing and the curry chicken wings at the church potluck this weekend, I had never been to an Indian restaurant. Several people within earshot piped up simultaneously “Spice Café”. I guess it must be good. It’s difficult to keep my expectations in check when it comes recommended by the crowd. I have nothing to compare this to so I truly did not know what I was about to experience.
Located across from the Albertson’s on Sand Lake and Dr. Phillips (I know, it’s not Winter Park), you will find this store in an upscale shopping strip. For lunch you can order from the menu or choose from several dishes already prepared at the counter. I had no idea what to get so I pointed to the chicken in a tomato cream sauce and hot mushrooms and onions in a dark broth. I determined later that I must have ordered the Chicken Tikka Masala. Lunch is served with basmati rice and toasted pita bread or “nan”. I was able to sample the Butter Chicken, another tomato and cream basd chicken dish as good as the Masala. I sat eating my meal thinking how will I describe this. I just have no idea how it was prepared. I can’t even compare this to another Indian restaurant. So I just let go and enjoyed. The mild tomato cream sauce is a busy mixture of spices and flavors that I couldn’t even begin to inventory. The mushrooms and onions were cooked in a broth of garlic and curry and… other stuff… resulting in a rich, medium spicy complement to the chicken and rice. So for not knowing what to order, I threw the dart at the Spice Café menu and I was not disappointed.

Service: friendly
Portions: plenty
Atmosphere: clean, comfortable
Chicken Masala, vegetable, rice, nan, water: $7.40

Potluck - DT

Potluck. Love it or hate it, I’m usually not disappointed. You could say I’m just easy to please or I have friends with eclectic culinary skills. Either way, we had a potluck lunch at church on Sunday and I discovered something remarkable and simple that I wanted to share. While helping clean up after the meal, there was left over fried chicken sitting next to what was a crock pot full of Curry Chicken. After considering how much I had already eaten, I decided I had room for one more so I poured some of the remaining curry stock over a chicken wing. OMGoodness! The curry stock is simple:
½ cup of butter
1 cup of honey
2 tsp salt
2 Tsp yello curry
Just simmer this in a small saucepan then pour over a pot of fried chicken wings, cover and shake. I plan to tweak this recipe a little so please let me know if you try this at home. I’d love to hear how you improve on this.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

JB Wings & Things - DJ

16 St Johns Avenue
Palatka, FL 32177

After the streets are rolled up in downtown Palatka there is still a good place to go for Fish and Fries. JB’s located next door to the DQ had a brisk business for 9:30 PM on a Saturday night. The specialty seems to be wings and ribs (the BBQ ribs are only available on the weekends). But I wanted to try the fried fish. They had whiting and catfish. I chose the whiting.

While our order was being prepared we chatted with the owner. He had recently taken over the management of the restaurant. The item that most people were ordering seemed to be the wings. The owner proudly told us that they had 12 flavors of wings. The flavors were: fried, mild, medium, garlic, lemon pepper, teriyaki, BBQ, Hot BBQ, sweet and sour, honey BBQ, honey mustard, and hot. The latter flavors we were told was very hot. If you need to cater a party you can get 100 wings for $58.00. Most if not all the business that night was takeout. If you don’t want to wait in the little dining room call your order in before you come.

Our order arrived piping hot. There was a bed of fries with two pieces of fish on top. The fish was coated with a light corn meal breading. Although slightly greasy it was delicious. The batter had a slight lemony taste. I shared the dish with 4 friends and it was gone in no time. We had mixed feeling on the fries some would have liked the fries to have been more crispy other enjoyed them slightly soft as they were.

So if you find yourself in the middle of the Ocala forest there is a good meal waiting for you in Palatka.

Rating: ***
Service: ***
Cost diner/soda: $7.00

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Fish and Chips Restaurant - DJ

1146 West SR 436
Altamonte Springs, FL 32714

What a welcome surprise this little restaurant is. It may not be anything to look at from the outside, located in a strip mall in Forest City, but once inside it is warm and friendly. The staff is very efficient and helpful. There are 6 4-top tables and 5 seats at the bar. While I was there the bar was occupied by a takeout customer. The flat panel TV above the bar was on the Food Network.

The menu consists of fish dishes as well as burgers and crab cakes. This being my first visit I had to try the fish and chips. I choose the Grouper. It came on a green ceramic plate with steak fries and a side of coleslaw. The fish was fried in a light batter. The grouper was firm yet tender with a delicious taste and not greasy. The coleslaw was excellent. It was sweet and creamy, yet not drowning in sauce.

Midway through my meal the owner Chef Ray came out to make sure everything was to my liking. I assured him that it was.

One my next visit I think I’ll have the salmon “Grilled perfectly with our own blend of spices. Tender and full of flavor” (as described in the menu) sounds good.

Rating: ****
Service: ****
Cost Meal/Soda: $11.45

Closed on Monday

Orlando Sentinel review

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Pannullo’s Italian Restaurant

216 South Park Ave.
Winter Park, FL 32789

Pannullo’s Italian Restaurant occupies a space on Park Avenue next to Bank of America and across from Central Park. The restaurant has occupied this space since 1993. A nice history of the building is provided on their web site. There is nice outdoor seating available for the cool days ahead. This space is also dog friendly in case you need to go somewhere with your pooch.

Today I had the lunch special “lightly breaded chicken breast sautéed in a wine sauce, on top of penne pasta” this also came with a salad bar. The salad bar was low on lettuce but was good beside this problem. The special was good the chicken tender and the pasta ala denté. The dish I had was sized correctly for lunch. I did not feel stuffed when I was finished. The atmosphere at Pannullo’s is nice the lights slightly dim. There was a TV over the bar with the Food Network on.

I was there for a business lunch so was unable to take a photo, this was a perfect place to conduct business luncheon.

Rating: ***
Service :***

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Alberto's Italian Restaurant - SJ

3907 Wekiva Springs Rd
Longwood, FL 32779

After taking a look at the outside menu and deciding that this would have to do, I stepped into the cold, dark ghost town named Alberto’s. With faded murals of Italian towns on the walls the atmosphere couldn't have been more lifeless. After standing at the front door a few minutes, a single living person emerged from the back rooms. He told me that it was not “his turn” to seat customers. Not telling me I could sit where ever I wanted he made some kind of noise which I figured meant he wanted to know what we wanted to drink. We decided that we weren’t going to wait for him to tell us we could sit down because that might be a longer than our legs wanted to stand up. We weighed out options and chose a booth. I almost fell through the seat one spring poking my rear end and the other one nonexistent. We decided to move to a table next to the window.

Our waters arrived and the waitress took our orders. A few minuets later she arrived with three small rolls coated in a pasty looking garlic sauce. The bowl towered over the three small rolls buried within it. Not that long afterwards we heard shouting in the back of the store and then our pizza emerged from the rear. Now that we were staring at the pizza on our table we could eat. The cheese was watered down and tasteless, the bottom of the crust was wet, but hunger did not stop us from finishing it in a matter of minutes.

Rating: *
Service: *
Cost Pizza/Water for 2: $8.95