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LOTUS in Downtown Orlando

LOTUSporkbellytaco

LOTUSexteriorYou may have heard about LOTUS, a global fusion restaurant that opened up fairly recently in downtown Orlando.  Right on Eola Drive, it’s at a great location.  What you may not know is that it’s a farm-to-table fusion restaurant.  What this means, is that the restaurant aims to get their food locally sourced.  Don’t get me wrong, I love a good farm-to-table restaurant but when you come in here, that’s not the first thing you notice.  The menu doesn’t mention anything about their philosophy or where the food comes from.  (Aside from the line that states they make their own doughs, breads, and desserts.)

LOTUSinteriorLOTUSloungeThe decor is more modern and it’s geared to the 30’s crowd.  Large bar area, a little seating area in the front.  Very spacious place but the neon green and pink lights weren’t doing it for me.

 

 

 

I had a sampling of their menu so the pictures you’ll see are not the actual portion sizes.

LOTUSlotuschipFirst, the lotus chips served with a curry dipping sauce ($6).  It’s not something you see often on a menu, especially in Orlando.  The lotus chips had a firm yet soft texture since the chips aren’t thin.  It was pretty good.  The curry dipping sauce was the winner between the two.  I could taste the coconut milk in the curry sauce and the curry sauce had a deceptively light heat.  Good balance of flavors for this one.  It’s great for sharing.

LOTUSporkbellytacoNext, I tried the Pork Belly Tacos with Harissa Aioli ($9).  For $9, you get 3 tacos.  The grilled dough was thicker with a hint of sweetness.  The harissa aioli wasn’t as prevalent but I still enjoyed the pickled onions.   Another good appetizer.

LOTUSrubyredshrimpThe third item I sampled was the Ruby Red Shrimp with a Chili-Strawberry Jam.  This was a tasty item!  It was a fun spin on a crab ragoon.  Imagine if you will, a wonton filled with creamy goodness of shrimp and assorted yummyness.  It made me think of a compact tastier version of a Seafood Newberg.  The “tie” around the wonton was a green onion and the “stick” was from an asparagus.  The chili-strawberry jam was a nice accompaniment to the ruby red shrimp.  I loved the visual presentation and the flavors with this dish.

LOTUSvangoghmangoDuring my meal, I ended up ordering a cocktail.  The Van Gogh Mango ($8).  It’s a tasty tropical delight with the mango puree, lemon juice, and san pellegrino orange.  With that being said, happy hour is 4pm-8pm daily.

LOTUScornishhenOk, back to the food.  So, next I had the Cornish Hen.  This was a stellar dish, a beautiful Cornish hen on top of a delicious mushroom risotto with a cranberry reduction and yellow tomato juice foam on the side.  It’s like a mini-Thanksgiving dinner in my mouth.  Lots of flavors, but still enjoyable for someone who can’t handle spicy food.  At this point, all my meals have been pretty tasty.

LOTUSsearedmahi

The seared mahi with togarashi miso had lot of great textures going on.  I liked the carrot puree on the side and the fresh fruit slaw on top.  Again, another flavorful dish!

LOTUSskirtsteakMy next entrée was my least favorite one of all.  The grilled skirt steak with a truffle shallot chimichurri and goat cheese crema.  It’s one of those “well, it had sounded good” kind of dishes.  It wasn’t terrible but it just didn’t have enough flavor.  Le sigh.  Well, everything I had tasted up to this point was pretty good.

LOTUSchocolatecake

Last but not least, I had dessert.  A chocolate cake with a blood orange sorbet ($5).  I thought the blood orange sorbet was fantastic.

At the end of my meals I met the executive chef of Lotus, Chef Louis Negrón.  You can definitely tell he’s got a passion for food!  Overall, I enjoyed Lotus mostly for the food.  Great flavors, great techniques, nice presentation, and the menu had a good variety.  My main criticism is that for a restaurant that boasts being a farm-to-table fusion restaurant, why is it not more evident?  If I were to just wander into the restaurant, I wouldn’t realize it’s a farm-to-table restaurant.  I’d think it’s just a trendy restaurant downtown.  Also, the servers didn’t seem too knowledgable when I asked specific questions about the dishes.  The prices of the entrées are ranging from $10-$20.  Since I know the concept of the restaurant, I can understand it being more expensive.  Had I not known, I would probably think it’s more overpriced than it ought to be.

 

All in all, good food, good location, trendy decor, and good happy hour specials.

http://www.lotuslounges.com/
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Tiki Bar & Grill in Sebastian

TikiBar

If you’re ever in the Treasure Coast area and want to go somewhere for an all around good time then Tiki Bar & Grill is an ideal choice.  Located on Indian River Drive, Tiki Bar & Grill has an enjoyable view day or night.  It is outdoor seating with live music every weekend.  The pricing is pretty good too, nothing over $10.

TikiBarGrillGarlicShrimpTikiBarGrillFishTacosTiki Bar & Grill’s menu consists mostly of sandwiches and bar food.  All of the entrées come with two sides.  You have your pick of cole slaw, french fries, potato salad, or macaroni salad.  I had the Garlic Butter Shrimp ($9) as an appetizer which was more garlicky than I had anticipated (yum!).  Served with toasted bread on the side, you make your own little crostinis.  My friend ordered the Fish Tacos ($9).  The fish was blackened mahi accompanied with spinach, onions, tomatoes and cheese.  This was a tasty meal.

TikiBarGrillBuffaloChickenSandwich

I had the Buffalo Chicken Sandwich ($8.50) which consisted mozzarella cheese, bacon and blue cheese.  It was a good sized sandwich and full of flavor.  The bun was nicely toasted and the blue cheese wasn’t overwhelming.  I’m a saucy gal but this had enough flavor that I didn’t need to douse it with something.  The cole slaw was pretty good as well, very “KFC-esque.”  I’m pretty content with the sandwich I ordered along with the Watermelon Mojitos that I drank.

 

TikiBarGrillViewTikiBarGrillDockThere’s an area where you can play cornhole, enjoy your drinks, watch some sports games.  Or if you’re more like me, just enjoy the water view.  The music playing the evening I went was all classic rock.  Definitely a relaxing atmosphere.  This really is a place where you can go and just feel like you’re getting away!

 

 

Be sure to check out Tiki Bar & Grill’s website for latest news like live music performances and any other event they may have.

http://sebastiantiki.com/index.php

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Cioppino Recipe

Napa-Ciopinno

This is one of the signature dishes from Napa at the Peabody Orlando.  Cioppino is typically a fish stew which originated from San Francisco.  It’s a great hearty dish, robust with flavor.

Cioppino (Spicy Seafood Stew)

with a Paprika Rouille

(courtesy of the Peabody Orlando)

Napa-CiopinnoIngredients:

  • 4 oz. Florida Grouper
  • 2 oz. Cape Canaveral Calamari
  • 6 ea. Rock Shrimp
  • 3 ea. Mediterranean Mussels
  • 6 oz. Fresh Tomato Sauce
  • 2 oz. White Wine
  • 1 tbs. Diced White Onion
  • 1 tbs. Chopped Leek
  • 1 tsp. Unsalted Butter
  • 1 tsp. Olive Oil
  • Pinch Crushed Red Pepper
  • Salt and Pepper To Taste

Paprika Rouille

  • 8 oz. Egg Yolk
  • 2 oz. Olive oil
  • .5 tsp. Paprika
  • Salt to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Heat olive oil in sauté pan until hot. Then add grouper, rock shrimp, onion, leeks and sauté for one minute.
  2. Deglaze pan with white wine and reduce by half and add tomato sauce, mussels and calamari.
  3. Cook until mussels fully open and add the butter, salt, red pepper and black pepper and heat until butter melts.

 

Paprika Rouille

  1. In a blender place the egg yolk, paprika, salt and slowly add oil until it comes to a mayonnaise consistency.
  2. Serve in a deep sided bowl and place 2 oz. of aioli on top and a slice of grilled sourdough bread.

RusTeak Restaurant & Wine Bar Ocoee

RusTeakNYStripSteakPureAwesomeness

RusTeakExteriorHave I ever mentioned that I will travel for good food?  RusTeak in Ocoee does not disappoint!  I hadn’t heard of RusTeak before but I heard about the delicious burgers at Teak in MetroWest.  Both restaurants have the same owners.  RusTeak has been opened for 10 months.  It’s a gastropub with New American cuisine.  They strive to have produce come from 3 Boys Farm (an organic hydroponic farm)  which is located in Ruskin, FL.  This is great because you know it’s organic and the produce is coming in from a few hours away.

RusTeakIceWineMartiniRusTeak has salads, sandwiches, pasta, entrees, signature cocktails, draft beer, bottled craft beer and of course, wine.  The Signature Cocktails Menu had unique drinks but the Ice Wine Martini ($9) caught my eye.  Vodka, St. Germain, fresh grapes, fresh lemon juice, and Malbec.  Light, refreshing and very fresh tasting.  (And might I add, strong…)

RusTeakHouseSaladThe menu has some gluten-free options which are indicated on the menu with a symbol.  I had a house salad ($4) and tried all three of the dressings.  The house salad consisted of a spring mix, peeled and seeded cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, carrots and croutons.  It was typical a house salad.

RusTeakDressingsThe dressings are gluten free and are made in house.  So, there’s the Cilantro Mango, Roasted Tomato & Red Wine Vinigrette, and the Citrus Honey.  By itself, I wasn’t so fond of the cilantro mango but when accompanied with the salad, it tasted pretty good.  Of the three dressings, I liked the Citrus Honey the most.

 

***The pictures of the next three entrees are actually half-portioned.  The actual entree sizes of these dishes are very generous.***

RusTeakCrabbySteakThe Crabby Steak ($24) is absolutely fantastic!  Flat iron steak, jumbo lump blue crab meat, topped with hollandaise.  Scalloped potatoes are underneath the proteins and grilled asparagus on the side.  The hollandaise here is on point! Lemony-buttery taste, beautiful color.  Needless to say, I devoured this dish.

RusTeakFishOutOfWaterThe Fish Out Of Water ($23) is snapper, zucchini and squash, roasted beets, cherry tomatoes served on top of a farro and goat cheese salad.  Truth be told, I had never had farro before.  It’s a type of grain, slighty chewy.  It looked like a miniature version of oat puffs.  I wish the flavor of the buerre blanc sauce was more prevalent.  Buerre blanc sauces in general are very light and delicate but since it’s supposed to be a Riesling buerre blanc, I would have imagined the flavor to be a little more robust.  Overall, the dish was enjoyable and tasted very light.

RusTeakFishCandyThe Crabby Steak is a great entree but the Fish “Candy” ($24) is favorite!  The name is slightly off-putting but it is absolutely phenomenal.  Miso glazed snapper, sea salt caramel fusilli pasta, baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, and shiitake mushrooms in a brown butter sauce.  Brown butter is also known as buerre noisette, it’s essentially where you heat the butter until it browns.  The brown butter has a nutty flavor.  If you like Teriyaki sauce, you’ll love the dish.  The sweetness of the fish, the savoriness of the pasta, the umami flavor from the shiitake mushrooms, it was great.  The pasta had an ever so slight chewiness but I didn’t mind one bit.  So much tastiness going on with one dish, I was blown away.

RusTeakPinaColadaTrifleI am a happy camper!  So many yummy items!  Well, how about the desserts?  At RusTeak, they have a daily trifle among their other desserts.  The trifle is a mason jar full of deliciousness and it changes day to day.  I had a Piña Colada Trifle.  Pineapple jello made with club soda (so you get that extra bubbliness), layered with pound cake soaked in Malibu rum, coconut creme and topped with toasted coconut.  And trust me, it’s as delicious as it sounds.

RusTeakSign

I enjoyed the food at RusTeak so much, that I returned before I finished my blog post.  When I returned, Courtney (one the managers) remembered me.  That was pretty cool.  So, I decided to sit in the bar area this time.  I had Mary as my server, she was great.  My second visit gave me an opportunity to try more things that caught my eye previously.

RusTeakSweetPotatoTotsSweet Potato Tots ($4), where have you been all this time?!  This is terribly addicting!  I am warning you all!  They are mini-sized tater tots that are amazing.  The sweet potato in these tots aren’t too sweet, it’s very well balanced.  It’s served with a side of ketchup.  Just a little dab of ketchup or plain is great.

SprecherHardRootBeerThe Sprecher Hard Root Beer ($5) was nice and refreshing.  It tastes like…root beer, who’d have thunk it?!  If you love root beer, this is delicious.  It goes down smooth and the flavor lingers on the back of your tongue.  As far as the smell goes, I didn’t notice it as much.  Unfortunately, it’s only 5% ABV.  I bet this would be super duper awesome as a root beer float.

RusTeakCaesarSalad

Between the house salad and the Caesar salad, the Caesar salad wins.  The dressing is light and flavorful, and who can go wrong with Parmesan cheese?  Yum, yum.

RusTeakNYStripSteakPureAwesomenessThe NY Strip Steak ($24) is 10 ounces of NY Strip Steak, scallop potatoes, zucchini with a brandy glazed mushroom creamed sauce.  The sauces here are great!  My friend said he felt this dish was undervalued and would have easily paid $35 for entree.  I wholeheartedly agreed.

RusTeakPureAwesomenessI ordered the Pure Awesomeness ($18) with a name like that, I had to see for myself if it was indeed made of ‘pure awesomeness.’  Sweet potato gnocchi, mozzarella morney (I’m going to assume it’s supposed to be “mornay” – béchamel sauce with cheese), candied walnuts, cherry tomatoes, toasted sunflower seeds and with skewers of shrimp.  My verdict?  It was definitely different, an interesting dish but I found it far too sweet for my liking.  If you’re a fan of walnut shrimp, then this would be a good dish for you.  The dish gets points from me for the originality.

RusTeakShrimpRisottoThe Shrimp Risotto ($18) came with blackened shrimp, risotto and sautéed broccolini.  Well seasoned entree, simple but tasty.  The first time I had broccolini, I thought to myself, “Man, this tastes like kai-lan!”  Well, lo and behold, broccolini is a hybrid of broccoli and kai-lan (Chinese broccoli).  The Shrimp Risotto is a good and safe dish.

 

RusTeakCoconutMangoMojito

The Coconut Mango Mojito ($8) wasn’t too minty and it was a nice refreshing beverage.
Bacardi Rum Coconut, mango schnapps, fresh squeezed limes, muddled mint.

RusTeakMojitoFeistyFoodist

I really enjoy the food and atmosphere at RusTeak.  The music here is mostly been alternative rock like Red Hot Chili Peppers and Pearl Jam.  Outdoor seating is available.  It’s casual environment with top notch dishes and great drinks.  For the folks who like draft beers, they have a draft beer flight.  I always leave here full and happy.  I definitely plan on bringing more people back here!

 

 

***FYI:Monday Mayhem: 1/2 priced all bottles of wines all day ($50 and under)***

http://www.rusteakwinebar.com/

HOURS: Mon-Sat: 11:30am-11PM
closed Sundays

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Uptown Buffet Norfolk

UptownBuffetBlackBeanOyster

Ok, it seems like I’m on a buffet kick lately.  I swear, it’s not me, it’s my family!  Every time I visit them, we end up going to a buffet.  Usually Chinese but occasionally we go to Golden Corral as well.  It’s interesting how many Chinese buffets are in the Hampton Roads area as opposed to lets say, Orlando.  Orlando is definitely much bigger but yet I can’t say there are any Chinese buffets that I think is good or worth taking my family to.  At least at this point in time.

UptownBuffetExteriorSo, for Sunday dinner we ended up going to Uptown Buffet.  It’s located on Military Highway near Military Circle Mall.  It has been here for years.  I would not say the food is consistent here but this time around, I was surprised at some of the dishes they had.  Authentic Chinese dishes at a buffet?!  What?!  Hmm…

UptownBuffetSushiWell, needless to say, they have the sushi bar.  You never can go wrong with some seaweed salad.  I absolutely love that stuff.  There’s also a hibachi grill, or rather a sign for it.  The space is too small to prepare it in front of you, but give them your plate and they’ll make it in the back.  There was so many other food items for me to eat, I skipped the hibachi.  Usually, that’s one of the things I always get.  You know you go to buffets a lot if you have a buffet routine.  I usually start of salad/sushi, soup/hibachi, a minimum of two plates for meats/veggies, a dessert plate and ice cream.  When my family and I eat, we eat!  We don’t just stay around for 30 minutes.

UptownBuffetInteriorThe salad bar is good.  They have alfalfa sprouts here that actually looked fresh.  Some people may be a bit hesitant on eating food from a buffet but you really have to chose wisely.  Or have an iron stomach.  I’d like to think I have both.  There’s nothing that I ate here where I would stop myself and say, “Does that look okay to eat?”

UptownBuffetFrogLegs

 

So of course, there’s the sushi, hibachi, the salad bar, American food (pizza, mac & cheese), the “Chinese” (General Tso’s Chicken) and the fried food.  Some of the food that I kept coming back for more were the frog legs and the oysters.  These frog legs were absolutely addictively delicious!  Nice light batter, perfectly seasoned, not too greasy.  This was sooo good.  Buffet or not buffet, these frog legs were just great!  I’ve had some mediocre frog legs in the past month but these, my goodness, I just kept getting more and more.  The whole family agreed, the frog legs were a winner.  If you hadn’t had frog legs before, it similar to a drumstick but leaner.  Of course everyone says it tastes like chicken but I’d say just a leaner version.

UptownBuffetBlackBeanOysterThe steamed oysters in a black bean sauce were fantastic.  The oysters were soft, with a flavorful sauce.  This is a legitimate Chinese dish and quite different, I might add.  No harsh flavors, very delicate balance.  More salty due to the black beans but absolutely delicious.  I most definitely ate a bunch of these.

UptownBuffetStickyRiceDessert

Next up, we’ve got sweet sticky rice.  It looks like a eight treasure rice pudding but not as fancy.  It’s got glutinous rice, red dates, lotus seeds with a simple syrup on top.  This is definitely a Chinese dish.  The rice will be sticky and slightly chewy.  It’s a very warm and comforting.

UptownBuffetWhiteFungusSweetPapayaSoupAnother surprising item they had was the White Fungus Papaya Dessert Soup.  It’s a warm dessert soup with papayas, dates and white fungus.  If you hadn’t had white fungus before, it’s got a slightly plasticky texture.  You would find this in an Asian market, dried.  It looks like a sponge and needs to be soaked long enough.

There were many items here that I enjoyed but these four were at the top of my list.  Also, they had some delicious fresh papaya here.  Usually buffets don’t really make a positive impression on me.  Either it’s average or below average but at Uptown Buffet, I had a great experience all around.   Even the server here was such a pleasant, sweet lady.  Maria was on top of things and she had such a warm personality.  My only criticism would be the labels.  Some food items had no labels at all or others were mislabeled.  Aside from that, everything else was great.

For the folks who want to stick to the regular food at a Chinese buffet, you won’t be disappointed here either.  For a Sunday dinner of $11.59, it was well worth it.

 

 

www.uptownbuffet.com

HOURS:

Sunday: 11am-9:30pm
Monday-Thursay: 11am-10pm
Friday-Saturday: 11am-10:30pm
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Squid Lips Sebastian

SquidLipsBaconWrappedScallops

SquidLipsSebastianExteriorSquid Lips.  I’ve heard the name before, who could forget a name like that?  As I was driving along in Sebastian, I happened to pass one.  After I went skydiving, I was a wee bit nauseated and needed some “nom noms”.  (A word to the wise, don’t go skydiving on an empty stomach.)  Now since that’s out of the way, my compadre “R” suggest Squid Lips.  She said one of her friends had worked at one and said it was good.  Sounds like a plan to me!

SquidLipsViewSquidLipsBloodMaryThe location of Squid Lips in Sebastian is on the water.  Definitely a great location, beautiful view.  There are lunch specials if you purchase a drink but mostly sandwiches/wraps though.  Nothing exciting.  My friend ordered a Bloody Mary.  I decided to sit out on this one.  Nausea + Alcohol = Probably not a good idea.  It looked great though, huge olives, shrimp on the side.

The menu features drinks, appetizers, seafood, and more.  The drinks were reasonably priced, cheaper than I had expected.  “R” was one of my classmates from culinary school and one of the main girls of our “chefettes” group.  So you know we definitely looked over the menu.  We settled on some coconut shrimp, bacon wrapped scallops and a dozen oysters.  Need some seafood to enjoy with this view!

SquidLipsOystersFirst the fresh dozen oysters are out.  On the menu they are listed as “market” price but it costed 15-16.  These fresh oysters are from Texas although the server didn’t know often they’re shipped in.  I’m sorry but if you list something as fresh and charge it as “market price,” you really ought to know more about it.  Not only did she not know, she didn’t even go check.  I could understand if it was fairly busy and not being able to find out, but it’s the fact she didn’t even ask.  Hey, I’m pretty serious when it comes to my food.  As far as the flavor of the oysters, it tasted good, so good that we ordered another dozen.  Might as well since we’re already here.  We decided to stop at a 2 dozen.  Oysters aren’t very filling.

SquidLipsCoconutShrimpNext up are the coconut shrimp.  Average coconut shrimp, fairly decent.  The sauce was less than desirable.  The island dipping sauce was very reminiscent of duck sauce.  Both “R” and I are not a fan of the sauce.  The coconut shrimp here is a little more sweet than typical since they use a coconut rum batter.

Last but not least, the Cajun bacon wrapped scallops. Yes, I said bacon and scallops.  YUM!  Four grilled bacon wrapped sea scallops so you know they’re a good size.  Served with a honey lime sauce.  The scallops were ALMOST on the verge of being overdone.  Perfect scallops should have a nice tenderness in the middle.  Flavorwise, it had a tiny hint of spiciness which I enjoyed.  The honey lime sauce?  Not so much.  Again, what is up with the sauces?  Squid Lips, you’re trying too hard.  The food was good but the sauces just aren’t working.  The honey lime sauce ended up toning the scallops down too much.  What’s the point of making them “cajun” if you’re going to put that honey lime sauce on it.  I’m not a fan of the sauces.SquidLipsBaconWrappedScallops

I’m still ready to eat and one of the desserts caught my eye.  Key Lime Raspberry White Chocolate Cheesecake. Whoa, that was a mouthful.  First thing I thought when I saw the slice of cheesecake, whip cream much?  Also a rule of thumb when plating is to NOT  have the dinnerware as the same color of the food.  My cheesecake was blending into the plate.  White chocolate chips on the outside, raspberry swirls throughout, it looks good aside from the massive amount of whip cream.  Where’s the key lime flavor?  Key lime is very distinct and it really didn’t stand out in this cheesecake.  It tastes okay, not phenomenal.  Not worth $5.99.SquidLipsSebastianKeyLimeRaspberryWhiteChocolateCheesecake

Ok, so with one bloody mary, two dozen oysters, coconut shrimp appetizer, bacon wrapped scallops appetizer, and a slice of cheesecake came out to over $70.  Yeesh.  The server wasn’t very personable.  Food is overpriced but it’s a great place for relaxing the day away.  Definitely get the bacon wrapped scallops sans sauce.  I still had an enjoyable experience and if I’m back in the area, I’ll drop by for a drink or two.

 

http://www.squidlipsgrill.com/sebastian-squid-lips/

HOURS:
Sun -Thu  11 am – 9 pm
Fri – Sat    11 am – 10 pm

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