Fin.esse (n: the Restaurant) in Lake Mary

Fin.esse (n: the Restaurant) in Lake Mary

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Fin.esse is one of those rare gems in Central Florida’s sometimes barren foodie landscape that you can bring out to your friends in a conversation as an example of what great food can exist Orlando, outside of the chains and fast food joints (Orlando recently earned the dubious distinction of ranking number one for the fast food market in QSR magazine).

Fin.esse, located in Lake Mary off of CR 46A, is owned and operated by a partnership of chef-owners Alex T. Brugger, and Autumn Mccoy. At the helm is Chef Alex and his lovely wife Autumn. Chef Alex is a former Executive chef at the award winning Citrus restaurant in downtown Orlando as well as concept chef for Timpano, Samba Room, and more. He started at 16 as a dishwasher for acclaimed celebrity chef Norman Van Aiken and worked his way up to the top. The inspiration for the food at Fin.esse comes from French, Spanish (many of the dishes are odes to Chef Alex’ grandmother’s home recipes), and American influences.*

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Inside the restaurant, the decor is very modern and clean, similar to a city back drop. Definitions of cassoulets and confits adorn the walls at Fin.esse, a theme that gets carried away all the way down to the list of items on the menu.

For appetizers, the crowd of bloggers and media folk sampled an assortment of offerings from Fin.esse including the Oxtail Marmalade, made with succulent, meaty chunks of simmered oxtail, hints of thyme, port wine, shallots, carrots, topped with a sweet & spicy vinaigrette and served with delicious bread. The pork belly n’ eggs was spiced & slow roasted, made with two farm fresh sunny-side eggs, topped with a marsala demi-glace was excellent: the pork belly was crispy and flavorful and the eggs were delicious alongside the pork belly. A favorite was the Hawaiian poké made with diced pieces of ahi tuna, toasted coconut, avocado créma, soy, sesame, onion, and served with tostones, green plantains. They also whipped out the delicious signature duck confit puffs, a kind of duck pot pie made with maple leaf duck, fork tender 12 hour roast inside a puff pastry.

For entree, I had the paella risotto, a dish inspired by Chef Alex’ Cuban grandmother, made with tiger shrimp, chorizo, lobster, chicken, all in a saffron-shell stock with mussels and arborio rice ($24). The lobster was tender and cooked well on top of the flavorful arborio rice, probably one of the best renditions of paella I have had in Orlando. My partner enjoyed her smoked bacon scallops made with bacon wrapped diver scallops and served with a sweet potato-corn hash and a pom-port glaze ($22).

For dessert, I sampled the fried banana cheesecake, made with a banana cheese cake wrapped in a tortilla, sugar & cinnamon dusted, and fried with a side of caramel ice cream. The dessert was fun to eat, though I had a bit too much of the carbs for me that night, and anyways I wanted to save room for the lovely dessert that was said to have been what made Chef Autumn fall in love and eventually marry Chef Alex (ask about its nickname): the chocolate oranje molten cake  a decadent and delightful molten cake made with ghirardelli chocolate, a ganache center, and served table side with  the pour of the peanut butter anglaise. Magnificent.

The dictionary definition of Finesse is “refinement or delicacy of workmanship, structure, or texture.” Fin.esse in Lake Mary tries and succeeds at this refinement in its delightful culinary creations, truly something not to be missed and definitely a place to try again and again with friends. At Fin.esse, where they recently won “Best New Restaurant 2011” by Seminole Magazine, you can tell the owners have a passion for food and it shows.

Fin.esse also hosts their famous Chef’s Table 12 (call for reservations) and also serve artisan “craft” beers, independent and interesting wines and hosts a full bar.

Website: http://finesse-therestaurant.com/

Address: 7025 County Road-46A (also known as H.E. Thomas Parkway) in Lake Mary, located in the Park Place Plaza at International Parkway, near the Marriott Hotel.

Hours: Lunch 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, dinner 5-10 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, brunch 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday

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Grouper cheeks, tender, flaky, perfect with the aioli sauce

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Hawaiian poké made with diced pieces of ahi tuna, toasted coconut, avocado créma, soy, sesame, onion, and served with tostones, green plantains

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Oxtail Marmalade, made with succulent, meaty chunks of simmered oxtail, hints of thyme, port wine, shallots, carrots, topped with a sweet & spicy vinaigrette and served with delicious bread

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Paella risotto, a dish inspired by Chef Alex’ Cuban grandmother, made with tiger shrimp, chorizo, lobster, chicken, all in a saffron-shell stock with mussels and arborio rice

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Smoked bacon scallops made with bacon wrapped diver scallops and served with a sweet potato-corn hash and a pom-port glaze

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Sweet flan, a family recipe?

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Fried banana cheesecake, made with a banana cheese cake wrapped in a tortilla, sugar & cinnamon dusted, and fried with a side of caramel ice cream

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Chocolate oranje molten cake  a decadent and delightful molten cake made with ghirardelli chocolate, a ganache center, and served table side with  the pour of the peanut butter anglaise. Magnificent.

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