Sunday, March 25, 2012

Orlando, FL - Three Broomsticks, Wizarding World of Harry Potter; The four stars may be inflated due to the excitement of it being Harry Potter'ish and being able to sit in the Three Broomsticks to eat and drink butterbeer.  The full breakdown is:

Decor: 5 stars
Amusement Park Food: 3 stars
English Pub Food: 2 stars
Butterbeer: 5 stars

The decor fits perfectly the setting for a large English pub and certainly for Harry Potter's Three Broomsticks.  Walking up, you can tell the building looks slightly angled and crooked, almost magical. Inside resembles a traditional English pub, but much larger. They have to accommodate thousands of people each day, so you can imagine inside it's like an extremely large dining hall.  However, with the wooden look and pub colors inside, you still feel like you're in a pub. Making it more exciting is the magical, Harry Potter, experiences you'll find inside. Occasionally, you'll see something on a bookshelf move or see an owl's shadow fly by. When you're inside, make sure you keep looking around and your imagination ready.

If it were an English pub not involved with Harry Potter, I would probably give it 2 stars, but it being compared to amusement park food, it improves to 3. They have menu items typically not at amusement parks include shepherds pie and turkey drumsticks. My turkey drumstick was extremely salty. I really couldn't eat the whole thing. The fish and chips were ok, but nothing really good compared to a good English pub. Now take it in comparison to other amusement park food, the stars go up. You'll rarely find shepherds pie at the amusement park and since you can't compare it to others, it would be decent.  However, I heard the actual English couple sitting next to me make a comment, "Is this suppose to be Shepherds Pie?"  Not knowing who they are, but from their English accents, I found it comical they made the comment, giving me a little insight.

Oh my goodness, the butterbeer! It really is worth getting multiple glasses of it. When you walk out, you'll want to turn around and walk back in for another glass. They offer two types, frozen and regular. I tried both and found the regular to be more flavorful.  The frozen is good, but it doesn't have the complete rich flavor and some of it is lost in the ice crystals. Either which way you go, you can't go wrong. They serve it both inside Three Broomsticks and outside on the street. It's a cream soda style drink with butterscotch flavoring in the soda and topped with butterscotch cream. DON'T DRINK IT IMMEDIATELY, LET IT STAND FOR A MINUTE OR TWO. It becomes a magical drink. If you let it sit the carbonation forces the butterscotch cream to begin boiling up and becomes alive. It's really neat to watch. Now that you've watched it, tear into it, drink up. It's so delicious. After having two, frozen and regular, went walking around, then came back for more, that good.  FYI...It's non alcoholic for those that are wondering.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Orlando, FL - At Siam Thai Cuisine; This may be the only Thai restaurant along the International drive. Try and make an effort to stop in and give yourself a break from the chain restaurants.

I only tried it once, their Pad Thai. It was prepared like most places, same ingredients, with similar flavors. If you're looking for a Thai staple, it's worth it. Their sauce was slightly different, their own take on Pad Thai. Even though it was slightly different, it wasn't far from most Pad Thai flavors, so it will still be familiar.

Most Thai restaurants spice range are different at each place. Their medium spice was on the hotter side, but not hot enough to go into the next category.

It's a small restaurant, but nice and cozy. Get away from the chains and try the mom and pops.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Orlando, FL - Pao Gostoso Bakery; I accidentally found this bakery, THANK YOU YELP! I was getting worried that the "Orlando Convention City" had only chain restaurants and nothing to offer in the culinary arena. Pao Gostoso, you redeemed the city.

The aroma hits you when you walk in and if that sense wasn't good enough, your sense of sight will get you interested. Most people working there speak English, if you happen to get someone who doesn't, just ask and another person will help. I would recommend asking them to help you pick out what you want. I did and I'm so happy! She immediately said I had to try the coxinha, chicken and cheese ball. The lady mentioned that its extremely authentic Brazilian and the cheese is imported from there. When you start to eat it, its worth saying OMG. Cutting it open, the cheese starts to slowly ooze out and eating it has a crunch from the fried shell, but inside was the delicate warm cheese with the flavor of chicken. I could of stopped there and been happy, but there was more to salivate over.

I try the x-tudo burger (everything burger). When they say an everything Brazilian burger, they really mean it. Meaning, it contains your big-a%$s patty, fried egg, slice of ham, bacon, fried little chips that look like fried onion chips, and lettuce. You can't eat this whole thing. Really! It's not far off from going to a Brazilian steak house with all the meat, just smashed between the buns. Outstanding and outrageous. :)

I saved the caramel wet pastry (pao ensopado) for later, but that may have been a mistake. The lady told me that while it's being made, it's dipped into a cream to keep it moist. It probably would have been better eaten immediately, but since I saved it until later that evening, it was really soggy on the bottom. In addition, the caramel could have been more throughout the pastry, not just on top like a little button, but still not bad to try overall.
I finished off with their little chocolate pastry cookie. It was very similar to a no-bake cookie, having the same flavor and texture. It was a nice treat at the end of the lunch that I probably over ate at.

Orlando, FL - David's Club Bar & Grill; David's is one of those hotel restaurants where you arrive to the hotel, everything in the area is closed and you say, well, David's is the only place open, should we just try there? Well don't, order room service, go down the street, go to bed hungry, just don't waste your money here.

I tried two items, the fried green tomatoes and the shrimp and chorizo flatbread. The tomatoes were nicely fried, good sweetness to it. Where it falls short is the dressing. I was hoping for their version of ranch or a zest to it, not some Hidden Valley Ranch out of the bottle. Nothing against Hidden Valley, it's just dressing that I have at home, not one David's should be serving. I expect more.

Don't bother ordering the shrimp and chorizo flatbread. This dish took me back to the old commercial, "Where's the beef?" Seriously, there was a paper-thin slice of "what they call chorizo" underneath each piece of shrimp, like five or six shrimp. After eating several slices, I thought they forgot to include the chorizo until I picked up the piece of shrimp and saw the tiniest thinly cut slice of chorizo. I can't imagine this being made on the premises since it was perfectly round (store bought). They could have at least chopped it up and sauteed it.

Some of the seating areas are not conducive to eating either. They do have adequate seating, but if you want to sit by some of the TV's, you're on couches reaching for the table of food.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Orlando, FL - Sushiology; Many sushi restaurants can offer the same fare, making the options and flavors ubiquitous. Sushiology gets an extra star for creativity and a unique option.  This is a very small establishment with only about 3-4 tables and a feeling of a look and feel of  a "fast-food joint".

I started with the Takoyaki (dumplings with octopus). They are lightly fried with a golden brown shell, but maintaining a very soft inside. The octopus inside, however, was only one little piece, barely enough to taste it.  It needed a little more meat. however, the interesting part of this dish is the salmon skin on top. I've never had it before and the texture is in its own category. It immediately melts and shrivels up in your mouth, similar to the texture of cotton candy, but not the same flavor.

Onto the bonito half roll and escolar nigiri (white tuna). Different from other places, you can order half rolls give you an option of going cheaper and just for a snack. The brown rice has that nice earthy graininess to the roll.  The white tuna was fresh, nicely cut, and a smooth flavor.

I thought the dispensers for soy sauce was creative, old coffee containers.  It's a creative usage of materials.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Orlando, FL - Ming Court; When Ming Court is the only dim sum restaurant on the downtown trip, it's a little harder to compare with other places there, but when you compare it to other more traditional dim sum establishments, it's ok.  Like most places in the convention strip row of Orlando, it's touristy in it's presentation outside, inside, and the delivery of food.

In so many dim sum places I've tried, it's always served on a meandering cart and when it arrives, you get to see everything in action. The server opens each little container and with a bit of anticipation, you get to see and hope it's the one you want and waiting to try.  If the one you want isn't on the cart, you can simply place the order with the server, but most things are on the cart.  The cart was completely absent at Ming Court. No chance to see all the options, other than on the menu, which they do a good job of showing pictures of all of them.  But I want it in front of me.  This is why I always over eat at dim sum places because I can't stop myself from choosing dishes from the cart.

I tried three dishes, eggplant shrimp, Chinese broccoli, and soft shell crab. 

The eggplant shrimp was slices of eggplant with shrimp grounded up on top with a soy style reduction sauce.  The eggplant was tender and the shrimp had some flavor, but not enough.  It didn't have that full flavor of dim sum.

The Chinese broccoli was typical fare with predictable flavors. They didn't have their spin on it or create their own rendition.  It seemed typical of standard Chinese broccoli with soy sauce.

Lastly, the soft shell crab was better than the other dishes. It's prepared in a lightly sea salt batter and deep fried.  Don't expect to get a lot of crab flavor though. The pieces of meat are smaller and harder to taste. However, even with that, it's still has a good flavor with the saltiness and just enough heat from the jalapenos slices to compliment the flavor.