Authors Posts by Hoang Nguyen

Hoang Nguyen


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By Hoang Nguyen

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando has unveiled a new weekly themed dinner show, Caribbean Carnaval, featuring an all-you-can-eat buffet and high-energy, live entertainment for the entire family.

Accompanied by stilt walkers and acrobatic dancers, the evening’s lively hosts whisk the audience away on a flavorful, musical tour through the Caribbean with plenty of dancing, singing, limbo and even a conga line.


Guests enjoy authentic Caribbean dishes and drinks, including Planter’s Punch, mojo roasted suckling pig, ropa vieja, jerk chicken, grilled snapper, Caribbean rum cake and guava flan.

A colorful cast of characters provides exciting live entertainment as they take guests on a musical voyage from Florida through the Bahamas with stops in Cuba, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad.

We were recently invited to attend the new Caribbean experience at the Loews Sapphire Falls resort.

 First and foremost, the hotel was gorgeous with wooden beams and gave the guest a very beach resort sensation.  The staff was very friendly.  We were greeted in the lobby and lead down to the Cayman Court pavilion where the show would take place.  We were greeted by cast members representing different areas of the Caribbean along the way. 


Once we reached the outside dining area, the cast welcomed us with beads and provided island music for us to enjoy during dinner.  A buffet consisting of different dishes from all the different nations were available to us including Jerk Chicken, Coconut rice with mahi mahi and ropa vieja.  

However, the crown jewel of the night was undoubtedly the whole roasted pig.  It was extremely moist.  The meat was flavorful, fatty and fall of the bone tender.  It’s not everyday that patrons get to see a whole pig, head included, served in front of them. The pork paired very well with the planter’s punch and coconut rice.  The sweetness of the punch, saltiness of the pork combined with the creamy flavor of the rice really worked well together.   

Even with the plentiful spread available on the buffet table, we definitely made room for dessert.  The rum cake was definitely heavy on the rum.  It was a little dry for my taste and could have benefited with some extra glaze.  Our favorite was definitely the guava flan.  The texture was creamy, smooth and was not overly sweet with a hint of guava flavor.  


As the night went on, we were whisked away on a musical voyage from Florida through the Bahamas with stops in Cuba, Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad.  The show was very engaging and entertaining.  The energy level started off high and dramatically increased as the night went on as the audience loosened up a bit.  The acrobatics were awesome.      

The dances were well coordinated and enhanced with colorful and lively costumes.   The music was upbeat but also made us feel like we were relaxing in the tropical islands.  All of a sudden a conga line started and we were surrounded by dancing audience and performers.  

To sum it up, if you were in the mood for a great show and wanting to sample a variety of dishes from the different Caribbean nations, then this event should be marked on your calendar.  The show was fun and engaging.  The food was plentiful and provided a plethora of food for every palate.

 Caribbean Carnaval takes place every Wednesday night in the resort’s outdoor pavilion, Cayman Court.

Seating begins at 6 pm and the show starts at 7 pm.   

Tickets are $69 for adults and $35 for children ages 3-9. Children under 3 are complimentary. Price includes gratuity, non-alcoholic beverages, wine, beer and Planter’s Punch. Tax and ticketing fees apply.

For reservations, call 407-503-DINE (3463) or visit


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By Hoang Nguyen

If you want simply strong drinks that strips away all of the unnecessary added garnishes, then The Pharmacy is definitely the place you need to be at.  Did I mention that there is also top notch food available? But first you would have to find it.  There are no signs that lead you to the facility.  There is simply an elevator door.  Once you find the place, the atmosphere kind of transports you back to prohibition era yet still gives off a very hip vibe.

We were recently invited to visit for a media preview of their new menu – An assortment of appetizers were laid out in front of us.  The two that stood out to me were the Tanged fried chicken with lime, scallions and sesame and the Butter, garlic rock shrimps.  The chicken was bursting with flavors.  It was sweet, savory and that crunch just made the dish more fun to eat by adding a new texture to the dish.  The rock shrimps were sweet, fresh and rich.  Such a simple dish but made with fresh local ingredients really brought out the desired flavors that made the dish memorable.  

Tanged Fried Chicken with lime, scallions and sesame

Butter, Garlic Cape Canaveral Rock Shrimp 

As an entree I ordered the double cut brined pork chop with Tallahassee double corn grits, pork belly collards and friend super sweet onions.  

My wife had the braised oxtail, grilled short rib “paillard” au ju.  

The pork chop was cooked perfectly which was amazing to see because the chop was about 2 and half inches thick.  It was moist and very tender.  The flavors blended together very well.  It had a hint of five spice, a mixture of spices typically used in Chinese cooking.  The  grits were creamy, sweet but a little on the heavy side.  

My wife’s dish was fantastic.  The dish also had a very Asian fusion feel to it.  It brought back memories of my childhood when my mother would stew oxtail for Pho, a Vietnamese noodle soup dish.  The meat on the oxtail was a little hard to get off the bones but definitely did not lack in the flavor department.  The mash potatoes that came with the dish was creamy but did not have an overpowering butter flavor like many of the other versions of mash potatoes I had in the past.

Brined Pork chops

Braised Oxtails

My favorite dessert of the night was definitely the hot maple pecan sticky bun with southern butter pecan ice cream.  The bun was extremely moist and rich.  The pecan ice cream really offset the rich butter taste of the bun.  I typically would not choose anything resembling a cinnamon bun as my choice of dessert but i would order this again without hesitation.  

Hot Maple Pecan Sticky Bun

The Pharmacy has a little something for any palate.  Every dish is well executed.  The drinks were strong and simple. The pharmacy is definitely a place worth visiting. I had the pleasure of meeting with chef Lauren, head chef at the Pharmacy.  After meeting her, I could definitely see that her menu reflected her personality: warm and friendly.  The dishes was like a good home cooked meal both hearty and satisfying.  The dishes were simple yet phenomenal because of the fresh local ingredients that had a fresh and clean profile.  There are so many things to try and I cannot wait to return.




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