Asian

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Dim sum

There’s no English signs to let you know you’re at Mr Wong’s Family Taste Chinese Cuisine until you’re inside. It just says “Chinese Cuisine” outside.

This place is in the so called “Chinatown” plaza here in Orlando – on Colonial Drive just west of Pine Hills Road where 1st Oriental Supermarket is located. It’s right next to Sapporo Ramen.

With that said, good dim sum is hard to find in Orlando. I think Ming Bistro and Golden Lotus are a few of the better ones in Orlando, but it’s not saying much. Mr. Wong’s would be up there in the top 5, but their service knocks it down a few notches. The decor is a bit Spartan and the waitresses here are a bit more rude than usual. But the har gow shrimp dumpling and beef chow fun are quite good.

Good dim sum is hard to find in Orlando.
Dim Sum menu
Dim Sum menu
Fried shrimp ball
Fried stuffed taro dumpling
Turnip Pudding
Dimsum
The push cart – dim sum served daily 10am – 3pm
some fried stuffed tofu
Shrimp Rice paste
Stuffed eggplant

Fox 35’s Valerie Boey and the members of AAJA Florida
Dim sum
Siu Mai and Ha gow

Mr Wong’s Family Taste Chinese Cuisine
5076 W Colonial Dr
Orlando, FL 32808

Mr. Wong's Family Taste Chinese Cuisine Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Churro Bread Pudding by Tapa Toro

Hi, food friends! Did you know that in August 2016, 7.1 trillion gallons of water fell during the Louisiana floods? Lives were lost, and more 140,000 homes were destroyed. I was deeply impacted and decided to create Good Through Food, a new Orlando-based organization that strives to make lives better through food-related efforts. This past Monday, we launched the first initiative to help called Project 001. Louisiana, which includes local restaurants creating and selling Louisiana-inspired dishes and desserts to help raise funds for those in need.

From October 24  through October 31, local restaurants are selling a Louisiana-inspired dish to help raise funds for the Baton Rouge Area Foundation, a Louisiana-based charity that seeks to assist South Louisiana residents, which make up the majority of the 30,000 people that were displaced from their homes because of the floods, only to return to neighborhoods they couldn’t recognize. Chefs and restaurants will donate 25, 50 or 100 percent of proceeds to the charity.

5 Participating Restaurants: (Eat one dish or eat them all to give back):

I-Drive

1. Tapa Toro: Churro Bread Pudding

2. Taverna Opa: Loukomades (Greek Beignets) — check out how to make them here!

Audubon District

3. P is for Pie: P is for Pecan Caramel Hand Pie + Coffee

Historic Longwood 

4. Collette’s Clean Eats: Shrimp, Blue Crab & Turkey Sausage Gumbo with Organic Brown Rice

Mills 50 District 

5. Black Rooster Taqueria: NOLA Pork Belly Taco

Please share your dishes on Instagram using the hashtag #GoodThroughFood. For more information, visit GoodThroughFood.com. Restaurants can still sign up, so spread the word.

Connect on social media on Facebook and Instagram. Check out the video below to learn more.

Thank you so very much for your support, it means everything!

Let’s do good together…

Snack on,
Chauniqua Major, but we’re friends so call me Major!

Shareable Images for Social:do-good eat-and-give join-us lets-do-good

 

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DSC03019“Tiffins” is an indian word to describe a lunch box used by travelers for a light meal during the day. Tiffins, the restaurant, is meant to showcase the experiences of the Imagineers as they travel the globe to research and design the unique park of Disney’s Animal Kingdom here in Orlando, Florida.

DSC03014We began our journey in the Nomad Lounge, and like Tiffin’s it also focuses on storytelling. Each hang tag above the bar are from guests’ own anecdotes that inspires the cocktails on the menu. They can be purchased for 1.00$ and 0.85$ will be donated to Disney’s conservation funds.
DSC03002This was recommended to me by the staff at Guest Relations as he raved on about how much he loves Tiffins. The Hightower Rocks has bits of lime leaves, sweet and sour mix, house watermelon batch, and silver tequila. Definitely refreshing!

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We start off with our first course. On the left is the salad of Roasted Baby Beets with goat cheese crema, walnut granola, and sun-dried cherry vinaigrette. Then it’s the Sustainable Seasonal Fish Crudo, which currently is the Japanese Hamachi with a roasted corn salsa.
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Our second course is the Black-Eyed Pea Fritters with Zhough Yogurt and Peppadew Puree. DSC03050Marinated Grilled Octopus with an artichoke barigoule, saffron aioli, lemon-caper olive oil.  The Octopus had been sous vide for about 5 hours and then quickly tossed on the grill for a nice char.

DSC03055For my main entree I chose the Whole-Fried Sustainable Fish. This one happens to be a Yellowtail Snapper with fermented black bean sauce, Som tam, and peanuts.
This dish is quite familiar to me and brought out a comforting feeling. The fish was light and mild with the perfect texture. I thought it was genius to set up the fish the way it is on the plate as well, usually it’s laid on one side. However, with the fish sitting up, one side of the fish did not get dull and soggy while the other side remain crispy.

I was able to snap some of the other guests main entree choices as well.

DSC03069Grilled Head-On Prawns with tomatoes, roasted fennel, olives, and sea urchin butter sauce.

DSC03061Hosin-Glazed Halibut with forbidden rice, swiss chard, and turmeric sauce.

DSC03060Berbere-Spiced Lamb Chop with mustard greens, lentil stew, and tomato-mint jam.

DSC03073We approached the end of dinner with a teensy cup of Mustang, an Ethiopian inspired coffee made with brown sugar, butter, and Crown Royal. Definitely perked me up a bit.

DSC03085Dessert was a sampler of Calamansi Mousse (front), Lime Cheesecake (left), Passion Fruit Tapioca (back), and South American Chocolate Ganache (right). My favorite would have to be the lime cheesecake. I’m usually not a lemon/lime dessert fan but the flavour was so delicate that I thoroughly enjoyed every bite.

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The magical aspect about Disney’s signature restaurant is that you forget you’re still in the little town of Orlando, Florida. The incredible details of sculptures and rich stories that are offered along with the dining experience really have you believe that you are one of the imagineers traveling the world. DSC03030

The travel-inspired artwork includes a static, three-dimensional piece that features prayer flags blowing in the wind. “As our research team traveled up the high mountains of Nepal, the winds were strong,” explained O’Brien. “The prayer flags are rarely seen hanging, they are always blowing.” This portrayal of the motion is realistically captured in the display which will hang above a corner booth in the Trek Gallery.

“Tiffins is not about a make-believe place, it’s about real people and places,” said O’Brien.

 

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Noodles and Dumplings at the Florida Mall

The Florida Mall recently opened their new Dining Pavilion (aka the Food Court 2.0) – it’s sleek and modern and just very futuristic . The food court of the 21st century we deserve – though the offerings – which include 3 variations of Asian Chao and the usual suspects of chains – leave more to be desired (see here). There are some stand outs though like the new Spoleto Italian fast casual / assembly line restaurant imported from Brazil as well as some interesting new concepts such as the Dumpling and Noodle Bar.

At first glance, it looks like another variation of Asian Chao – an island outpost with a line of sweet and sour chicken, beef and broccoli, and bourbon chicken in steaming trays behind plexiglass while an older Asian lady stares at you disapprovingly for snapping photos of their shop.

Noodles and Dumplings at the Florida Mall
Noodles and Dumplings at the Florida Mall

But there’s got to be some dumplings, some noodling going on somewhere since their name is Dumpling and Noodle Bar right?

Around the corner is a tiny section dedicated to an assortment of dumplings (spicy wontons, steamed pork and veggie dumplings, fried dumplings) and a rather impressive list of authentic noodle dishes from Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup to Cha Jong noodles (black bean sauce noodles) and Hong Kong style wonton noodles.

Spicy wonton dumplings at Noodles and Dumplings at the Florida Mall
Spicy wonton dumplings at Noodles and Dumplings at the Florida Mall

Overall, very impressed with the Taiwanese beef noodle soup – the flavor was there and there was a ton of braised beef with our bowl. Not as good as some of the authentic Taiwanese restaurants around town, but still for a mall food court dish – I’d definitely go back for more.

Taiwanese beef noodle soup from Noodles and Dumplings at the Florida Mall
Taiwanese beef noodle soup from Noodles and Dumplings at the Florida Mall

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Seito Sushi in Baldwin Park has been working on perfecting their ramen game. Now on Monday nights, from 5pm to close, they are having a hospitality night with half off special pricing on all their ramen so you can enjoy the wonder that is Japanese ramen. This is for all hospitality industry workers and professionals! The ramen, typically $14 for dinner, is $7 and is made with variations such as the tonkotsu, a 24 hour pork bone broth with slices of braised pork belly, and the shoyu, a soy chicken broth base with grilled chicken thighs.

We recently dropped by to try their Tonkotsu Ramen – made with a 24 hour pork broth, and topped with slices of braised pork belly, poached Lake Meadows soy pullet egg, and house made garnish – it was absolutely delicious and I just salivate thinking about it now – really one of the best ramen bowls in town.

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The Pork Tonkotsu Ramen – so delicious.

There is also Shoyu Ramen available, made with Roasted Chicken Stock, and topped with Grilled Chicken Thigh, onsen tomago egg, sweet corn, braised carrots.

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There is an Indonesian spice paste that you can ask for – do ask for it – such wonderful complex flavors that are added to the soup and noodle base.

In addition to ramen, the kitchen at Seito Sushi Baldwin Park has been working on various “new” wave Japanese cuisine, with dishes such as oxtail yakisoba, roasted whole sea bream fish, and this little work of art – the cured salmon dish.

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House Cured Salmon
Ikura Mousse, capers, cucumber, pickled onions

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House fried panko crusted oysters

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Fresh seasonal oysters – delicious

Seito Sushi
4898 New Broad St, Orlando, FL 32814
(407) 898-8801
www.seitosushi.com

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This Latin, Asian, and Southern American BBQ fusion joint in Orlando’s Mills 50 district has a nice list of bites, including Matambre smoked brisket sandwiches topped with egg, Indian Butter chicken tacos and the Latin plantain and fried yuca sides.

But it’s all about the Oakwood Smoked St. Louis Barbecue Ribs here. Succulent. Juicy. Sweet, yet refined. Delicious. When you can get it, it’s really good. The problem is that it is can sell out fast, so call ahead and make sure they’ve got some ready for you.

Founded by Thomas “Tito” Ward Esteves, the founder of the Treehouse Truck, one of the first so called gourmet food trucks in Orlando, Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa is a an ode to his family’s deep love for food. Barbakoa is a form of cooking meat that originated in the Caribbean with the Taino people, from which the term “barbecue” derives.

The menu consists of sandwiches, tacos, platters, and sides, all done very well.

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The Oak-smoked St. Louis ribs (half-rack $14.99, full $22.99) are truly among the best, if not the best, ribs in all of Orlando – slow-cooked with a crispy surface yet tender, fall of the bone meat within and a nice sweet flavor. Try it with the crispy sweet fennel apple salad.

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The Indian butter chicken ($2.95), flavored in Indian an orange tikka currry sauce and topped with pepitas, jalapeno and cilantro – this was a favorite and definitely would order again.

 

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The open faced Matahambre sandwich ($8.99), features slices of Oakwood smoked brisket with dabs of chimichurri sauce,  grilled tomatoes and topped with an over easy fried egg – and slathered a bit too much with mayonaisse. Accompanied with grilled corn on the cob, smokily charred and sprinkled with pepper, lime and salty Mexican cotija cheese

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Click to add a blog post for Pig Floyd's Urban Barbakoa on Zomato

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Bento Asian Kitchen + Sushi has finally opened this week at the UCF / University location.

This is their 7th location in Florida, with other Bentos in Gainesville and Jacksonville.

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Bento Cafe was founded in Gainesville 13 years ago by University of Florida alumni Jimmy Tung, Johnny Tung and David Yu. This is the third location in Orlando, following the debut of Bento at the Plaza downtown and on Sand Lake Road.

The restaurant features entrees, such as Bento Boxes and noodle and rice bowls, alongside sushi options including sashimi, vegetarian or classical sushi varieties, with most of the dishes in the $7 to $9 range. There is also a full bar at this location.

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Some of my favorite dishes at Bento Cafe include the Chirashi sushi bowl, Spicy Korean chicken, teriyaki chicken, and the Cantonese pork chop. While in college, Bento Cafe was actually one of the first places where I tried many of the various cuisines from Asia for the very first time, at a very college budget friendly price. For that, I am forever grateful to them for opening up the doors to Asian cuisine, not only to me, but to thousands of college students around Florida.

We’ll be updating this post as more information comes in.

SPICY TUNA-SALMON DON 8.75
An assortment of fresh Sashimi on a bed of rice with masago, avocado, slices of cucumber, sesame seeds and wakame
Bento Asian Kitchen and Sushi
12101 University Blvd Ste 408
Orlando, FL 32817
(407) 658-8088

SUSHI HAPPY HOUR
Monday – Friday | 4 pm – 7 pm
Buy 2 rolls, get 1 Free!
SUSHI COMBO BOX
$8.75 from Open to 5 pm

Full bar at the UCF location
Full bar at the UCF location
Line is quite busy on the first day
Line is quite busy on the first day

Bento Café on Urbanspoon

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Quickly Boba & Snow opened December 2014 in the Colonialtown Center strip plaza near the Orlando Fashion Square Mall, just north of the Orlando Executive Airport. It’s a little hidden, but word of mouth has gotten out and it’s been quite busy the past few visits I made there.

Spacious, and colorful – the interior’s visual highlight is that of local artist Boy Kong’s mural featuring the 12 animals of the Chinese Zodiac, racing in a frenzied fashion, possibly to grab some boba tea.

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Boba tea is a Taiwanese invention, made with syrupy sweet milk teas and small black tapioca pearls. It’s become quite popular in the US, particularly among the youth, who enjoy chewing and sipping on the drinks with their friends.

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Not only do they have boba, but they also make their own macarons in house – the owner is trained on the technique from a class she took while in Paris, France. They even make their own jumbo sized macaron ice cream sandwiches – great for Florida summertime eating.

Quickly is actually a franchise of an international chain of boba tea shops, so the menu is quite diverse.

Asian street food items feature here as well – from the egg waffle puffs, or gai dan ji, a popular Hong Kong street food, to the spicy popcorn chicken (my personal favorite!).

Definitely make a visit to Quickly Boba and Snow soon.

 

Quickly Boba & Snow
3214 East Colonial Drive, Orlando, FL 32803
407-270-4570.

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A lot of comparisons have been made with the newly opened Mamak to another local Asian street food restaurant in town – namely, Hawkers Asian Street Fare just up the road on Mills Avenue.

The menu of small plates and craft beers look awfully familiar, and there is some history among the owners of which we do not know the full details. But, there are plenty of cases of restaurants having similar menus – examples range from the many local Vietnamese pho shops to Italian and Indian restaurants.

The main crux and differentiation of each lies in their execution of the dishes.

For that reason, I am happy to have Mamak in town because of the very distinct and robust flavors in their dishes, particularly in their curry dishes.

Their decor is modern and chic, with dark woods and a long communal table perfect for a night out with friends – more like a scene out of New York City than Orlando, but if it were to be in any place in Orlando, it would be in Mills 50.

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Here’s what we recommend to get at Mamak:

Top 5 Dishes to Try at Mamak

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1. Mamak Roti Canai – Start off with this Malaysian roti toasted till golden brown, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and served with an addictive spicy curry sauce.
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2. Wonton with hot sauce – plump little wonton dumplings bursting with flavor in a nutty, spicy wet sauce.
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3. Maggi Goreng – Stringy, bouncy Maggi noodles, stir-fried with shrimp, chicken, eggs, and veggie, in a spiced brown sauce. This dish reminded me the most of the nasi goreng noodle dishes I had while in Indonesia recently.
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4. Malaysian Coconut Kari – Malaysia’s most popular dish, your choice of chicken, beef, or tofu and veggies, tossed in a fragrant curry cooked with freshly ground spices and chunky potatoes, served with jasmine rice and sliced cucumber.
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5. Seafood Haw Fun – This rift on the popular beef chow fun is topped with piping hot seafood and veggies instead of beef and scallions. The thick rice noodles and the seafood make for a wonderful combination and tastes so authentic and real, you’d think you were on the streets of Southeast Asia after trying.

BONUS  – Here are some other dishes at Mamak, though good, not as essential to our list of top 5:

Nasi Goreng Indonesia - hot Spicy sambai fried rice with shrimp, chicken and onions, topped with a fried egg. I think the nasi goreng kari fried rice may be a better option - that kari sauce is so good on everything.
Nasi Goreng Indonesia – hot Spicy sambai fried rice with shrimp, chicken and onions, topped with a fried egg. I think the nasi goreng kari fried rice may be a better option – that kari sauce is so good on everything.
BBQ Roast Pork - better else where in Mills 50, these tasted a little off on our visit.
BBQ Roast Pork – better else where in Mills 50, these tasted a little off on our visit.
Malaysian Asam Kari - Your choice of protein, tamarind infused coconut curry cooked with freshly ground spices, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots and onions, served with jasmine rice and sliced cucumbers. This dish was a bit mild compared to the coconut kari version, so it's a good choice if you like mild flavors
Malaysian Asam Kari –
Your choice of protein, tamarind infused coconut curry cooked with freshly ground spices, tomatoes, bell peppers, carrots and onions, served with jasmine rice and sliced cucumbers. This dish was a bit mild compared to the coconut kari version, so it’s a good choice if you like mild flavors
Char Kway Teow -Malaysia's most popular street dish, wok-fried rice noodles, with shrimp, chicken, eggs, bean sprouts, and chives.
Char Kway Teow -Malaysia’s most popular street dish, wok-fried rice noodles, with shrimp, chicken, eggs, bean sprouts, and chives.

Mamak Asian Street Food on Urbanspoon

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Chili Jam Fried Rice with Beef and Fried Tofu - Sweet and Spicy

This tiny Thai restaurant has been on Aloma for as long as I’ve known – and it’s been suggested that this is the first Thai restaurant in Orlando. It was long past over due for a visit so I went with a friend recently for lunch to check out their offerings.

I must admit, I am not the biggest fan of Thai food. I don’t know why but the noodle and rice dishes I have found in Orlando’s Thai restaurants have been more subdued or just rather bland than I am accustomed to – after a few bites, I’d get bored with my dish.

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For some reason, I have this feeling that the dishes have been “dumbed” down a notch to not offend any Western sensibilities – read: less of the “Thai hot” flavors. I am not a fan of scorching Thai hot either, but maybe a medium between the two extremes of hot and mild/bland is where the real authentic flavor is.

Anyways, I was happy to discover that Thai Villa’s dishes stay true to the Thai palate and were quite full of flavor.

I make it a point to look for and order the “Stuffed Chicken Legs” each time I see it on a menu at a Thai restaurant. It’s one of my favorite Thai dishes – a whole chicken drumstick and wing that’s been stuffed with a mixture of ground pork, noodles, and mushrooms, and then grilled or fried. The ones here are fried and are an ample serving for two – they hit the spot, tasty, fresh, and filling as an appetizer.

For my lunch, I ordered the chili jam fried rice with beef and crispy tofu, while my dining companion ordered the traditional chicken pad thai. My fried rice was very enjoyable with nice sweet chili spice flavors and the crispy crunch from the fried tofu. A little dash of crushed peanuts from the house spice jars and it’s a hit. The chicken pad thai that I sampled from my friend was also quite good.

I can see why this place is packed for lunch, and would definitely return.

Closed Wednesdays.

Thai Villa on Urbanspoon

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Stuffed Chicken Wings
Stuffed Chicken Wings
Chicken Pad Thai
Chicken Pad Thai
Chili Jam Fried Rice with Beef and Fried Tofu - Sweet and Spicy
Chili Jam Fried Rice with Beef and Fried Tofu – Sweet and Spicy

RA Sushi has branched out all over the states. It’s the 1st in Orlando, 4th in Florida and 26th in the United States. The RA Sushi located in Orlando can hold up to 260 guests and provides Happy Hour (4-7pm Mondays-Fridays) throughout the entire restaurant instead of just at the bar like some places.

Although it just opened July 30th in Orlando, They are already dishing out a new menu, in addition to their current offerings that consist of over 100 dishes and 150 drink specialties that are mainstream and originally created at RA Sushi. When I say “mainstream”, they still have an RA twist on them to make you feel like you can’t find anything like it anywhere else.

On September 10, 2014, we were invited to Ra Sushi to preview and experience a number of delicious items ranging from appetizers to desserts.

If you have an allergy, they’ll be sure to keep you from contacting any dish that contains those ingredients (ie, me from eating anything coming into contact with shrimp or items that have touched shrimp).

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To start with, we were served Garlic Edamame, which are steamed soybeans sautéed in a garlic butter and Asian seasoning. Not only were the shelling seasoned, it seems as though the flavors seeped in and also came from the soybeans themselves.

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RA’llipop* is a roll that consisted of raw tuna, salmon, yellowtail, spicy tuna mix, lettuce, asparagus, and cucumber wrapped in lobok. It’s served skewered with a garlic ponzu sauce. The entire roll will melt in your mouth. You’ll only realized that you ate something because of the crunch provided by the vegetables the fish is encased by as well as a hint of spicy from the tuna mix.

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The Viva Las Vegas Roll* is a popular item on the menu. Ingredients: Kani kama crab and cream cheese rolled in rice and seaweed, lightly tempura battered, and topped with spicy tuna, kani kama crab mix and sliced lotus root; finished with a sweet eel sauce and spinach tempura bits. The lotus root has a nice crunch but is dense and had a little heat. The crab and spicy tuna mix is smooth and creamy to provide a contrast to the lotus root. Unfortunately, I was unable to try the roll itself because it contained shrimp, but my colleagues seemed to love it and didn’t leave a single roll on the plates they came on.

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The Yellow Monkey Roll is a vegetarian friendly roll that is nice and tropically refreshing. It is made up of mango, roasted red pepper, marinated artichoke, and cream cheese rolled in rice and seaweed, topped with mango and cashews before drizzled with a kiwi wasabi sauce.

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The Crazy Monkey Roll is one of my favorites and is creamy from the salmon, cream cheese and avocado. The sweet sauce drizzled on top added a nice surprise to the roll itself. This is a little different to the Yellow Monkey Roll because it is made up of smoked salmon, mango and cream cheese topped with avocado, red beet tempura bits and cashews, then drizzled with mango and sweet eel sauces.

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The Lobster Shrimp Roll is another roll I unfortunately could not try, but I visually enjoyed the heart shape roll as it came out. Ingredients: lobster, cucumber and avocado rolled and topped with shrimp; served with an Asian pesto sauce.

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After sushi, we took a break from eating to enjoy Sake Flight 8 that consists of three 2 oz. pours of Kizakura “Pure”, Sho Chiku Bai Nigori “Crème de Sake” and Kizakura “Pure” Stars – range from sweet, dry to sparkling.

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The Tuna2 Salad is a refreshing dish with two types of tuna: ahi and albacore. It was a mixture of different textures ranging from smooth to crunch thanks to the variety of ingredients. Ingredients: seared ahi and albacore tuna drizzled with a garlic ponzu sauce, placed over a bed of mixed greens with sliced avocado, jalapeño, cilantro, fried wontons and cashews; served with an onion soy vinaigrette.

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The first entrée was the Spicy Chicken Teriyaki Udon, which is stir-fried Asian vegetables tossed with chicken and udon noodles in a spicy teriyaki sauce. For you chopstick experts, even you may wish to use a fork for this meal because of how slippery the udon is! The sauce the udon is dressed with isn’t overpowering and adds the right amount of flavor to each noodle and vegetable that will please your palate.

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The Chicken Katsu is usually a favorite for children and adults whether they don’t wish to have any sushi or if they want something Southern, but with an Asian twist. Panko breaded chicken with coleslaw is served with an Asian BBQ dipping sauce. With or without the Asian BBQ sauce, the chicken was marvelous and I’m drooling over the thought at the moment.

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The Bara Chirashi Bowl* is a bowl of rice topped with tuna, salmon, yellowtail, shrimp, avocado, and cucumber with Asian green vegetables dressed with poki sauce. This is like sushi in a bowl that can deliciously fill your stomach so you can continue on with your productive day!

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Last, but not least, the dessert served was Banana Split Maki. It is RA’s version of sushi for dessert that consists of a fried banana maki topped with whipped cream and fresh fruit drizzled with raspberry and chocolate sauces.

*As mentioned on the RA Sushi website, “consuming raw or under cooked meats, poultry, seafood, shellfish or eggs may increase your risk of food borne illness, especially if you have certain medical conditions”.
More dishes and information can be found on www.rasushi.com. You could also join their email list and Get Hooked Up! They’ll give you a $20 RA gift certificate every year during the month of your Half Birthday as well as something special the month of your actual birthday!

Location: 9101 International Drive Suite 1008, Orlando, FL 32819
Hours: 11am-11pm daily with lunch served until 3pm

RA Sushi Bar Restaurant on Urbanspoon

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Working near UCF, we enjoy seeking out local mom and pop establishments to visit for lunch. One of my favorites, Hawaiian Grindz, recently updated their menu and have even hired a new chef, Chef Jimmy Idica who is of Filipino descent and hails straight from the islands of Hawaii.

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When you first hear the name, Hawaiian Grindz, you might think it’s some sort of Hawaiian coffee shop (coffee grindz?), but in fact “grindz” is actually a Hawaiian slang term for “food” or “grub.”

Hawaiian Grindz prides itself on its “Kona Brews, Hawaiian Food, and Aloha Spirit!”

The cuisine of Hawaii reflects the diverse food history of settlement and immigration in the Hawaiian Islands from the first Native Hawaiians who settled the area with taro, fish, and yams to the Portuguese settlers who brought their “malasada” fried doughnut treats and the Japanese, Chinese, and Korean farm laborers who came in the 1800s. Even American cuisine influenced the “local” food of Hawaii with the arrival of spam during World War II.

Hawaiians are the second largest consumers of Spam in the world, right behind Guam. Originally brought to Hawaii by American servicemen in their rations, Spam became an important source of protein for locals after fishing around the islands was prohibited during World War II. Spam musubi, a slice of fried Spam on sushi rice wrapped with a strip of nori seaweed, is a popular treat in Hawaii and can be found on the menu here at Hawaiian Grindz.

New menu items
New menu items

Some of the new items brought by Chef Idica includes spam fries coated in panko to cut the saltiness and served with three different types of dipping sauces, char siu pork banh mi, pork adobo fried rice topped with egg, and a selection of new burgers.

Pork adobo fried rice topped with egg
Pork adobo fried rice topped with egg

I ordered the delicious Ali’i burger, consisting of a juicy 1/4 pound burger patty topped with crispy kalua pulled pork and pineapple BBQ sauce on a brioche bun with a side of fries. The burger had the right textures and flavors and was overall very enjoyable.

In addition to their new Chefs Specials, they also serve up their popular panko crusted mochiko Chicken, Kalua pulled pig, and fried garlic sugoi Chicken. I usually get a lunch combination of the kalua pork and the garlic sugoi chicken with rice and pasta salad for $6.99 – a very filling and satisfying lunch.

Chef Danny at the helm at Hawaiian Grindz
Chef Danny at the helm at Hawaiian Grindz
Spam fries at Hawaiian Grindz, dusted in panko bread crumbs and served with three sauces
Spam fries at Hawaiian Grindz, dusted in panko bread crumbs and served with three sauces
 Ali'i burger, consisting of a juicy 1/4 pound burger patty topped with crispy kalua pulled pork and pineapple BBQ sauce on a brioche bun with a side of fries
Ali’i burger, consisting of a juicy 1/4 pound burger patty topped with crispy kalua pulled pork and pineapple BBQ sauce on a brioche bun with a side of fries
Spam Musubi at Hawaiian Grindz
Spam Musubi at Hawaiian Grindz
Garlic sugoi chicken and kalua pulled pork with rice - lunch special combo
Garlic sugoi chicken and kalua pulled pork with rice – lunch special combo

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Hawaiian Grindz on Urbanspoon

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Emeril’s Tchoup Chop (pronounced chop-chop) at Loews Royal Pacific Resort is the second eatery by Emeril Lagasse at Universal Orlando Resort. My first visit to Emeril’s Tchoup-chop was in 2008, on the first date with my then girlfriend (now wife).

I remembered how stunned I was by the beautiful decor and striking colors of at the restaurant. For one reason or other, we hadn’t had time to return to Tchoup-chop until now.

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The upscale Asian-Polynesian eatery recently launched several updates including a new chef de cuisine, Ryan Vargas, and general manager, Andy Vaughn, updated lunch and dinner menus featuring dishes from a brand-new Japanese robata grill, a renovated sushi bar with expanded sushi offerings, a fresh cocktail menu, revamped interior decor, and happy hour specials.

Emeril's Tchoup-chop Chef de cuisine Ryan Vargas
Emeril’s Tchoup-chop Chef de cuisine Ryan Vargas

Chef de cuisine Ryan Vargas, a Hawaii native, joined Emeril’s Tchoup Chop after spending about 13 years leading the kitchens at some of the island’s top resorts, including the Four Seasons Resort in Hualalai and the Ritz Carlton in Kapalua Maui. Before moving to Orlando, Vargas also led the kitchen at the Four Seasons Resort in Palm Beach, Fla., where in 2011 he was voted as “Palm Beach County Best Chef” by the Palm Beach Post.

PAINKILLER The original Painkiller was created in the 1970's at the Soggy Dollar Bar at White Bay on the island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. This delicious no nonsense, non-blended variation of the Pina Colada is made with Pusser's Navy rum, cream of coconut, pressed pineapple juice, fresh orange juice and nutmeg.
PAINKILLER
The original Painkiller was created in the 1970’s at the Soggy Dollar Bar at White Bay on the island of Jost Van Dyke in the British Virgin Islands. This delicious no nonsense, non-blended variation of the Pina Colada is made with Pusser’s Navy rum, cream of coconut, pressed pineapple juice, fresh orange juice and nutmeg.

Growing up on the island of O’ahu in Hawaii, Vargas looked up to his father, who was the Master Chief Chef for the U.S. Navy, and inherited his love of great cuisine.

“He would take me to the mess hall, and I recall being excited and amazed with the sights, sounds and smells,” Vargas remembers. “I knew at the age of 5 that I wanted to follow in my dad’s footsteps.”

Shrimp chips dusted with Japanese seven spice (shichimi togarashi), peanut dipping sauce
Shrimp chips dusted with Japanese seven spice (shichimi togarashi), peanut dipping sauce

Chef Vargas’ techniques and styles reflect the melting pot of island life, mixing different Asian cuisines with Pacific Island influences, bringing a style of cooking described as “fun and whimsical, classics-with-a-twist, and not complicated but refined.”

Classically trained, Vargas graduated from the Culinary Institute of America at Hyde Park, N.Y. in 1991 with an associate’s degree in Culinary Arts.

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The highlight of the restaurant’s kitchen updates is the new robata grill, a traditional Japanese grill that sears meat, seafood and vegetables at up to 1,000° F, allowing dishes to maintain their natural juices and flavor.

Tchoup Chop is one of only two restaurants in Orlando to use the unique and rustic grilling method (the other being Dragonfly Modern Izayaka on Sand Lake Road), popular in Japan as a sort of tapas style small dish cuisine served accompanying beer and drinks.

Guests may order small plates from the robata menu, choosing from options such as Japanese Eggplant with a chili mint sauce, Pork Belly Tocino, savory wild mushrooms with ponzu, and my favorite, lemongrass-marinated Chicken Wing with spicy chili sauce.

Robata Grill at Tchoup-chop: choose from mushroom, cauliflower, shisito peppers, and more
Robata Grill at Tchoup-chop: choose from mushroom, cauliflower, shisito peppers, and more

The sushi menu here is also greatly expanded with new space at the Food Bar to watch sushi chefs working and a whole list of new rolls.

List of new sushi rolls at Tchoup - chop
List of new sushi rolls at Tchoup – chop

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A few new entrees have also been added, including the “KFC” Korean Fried Chicken and Hibachi Skirt Steak with Okinawan Purple Mashed Potatoes and Wild Mushroom Poke.

"KFC" KOREAN FRIED CHICKEN - KIM CHEE SPRING ONION SMASHED POTATOES, GARLICKY SPINACH
“KFC” KOREAN FRIED CHICKEN – KIM CHEE SPRING ONION SMASHED POTATOES, GARLICKY SPINACH

Chef Vargas also brought with him to Tchoup-Chop a new island dessert: Hawaiian Malasadas with lilikoi and haupia custards.

 - fun dessert where food is mix and match your desired flavors
HAWAIIAN STYLE MALASADAS DONUTS
with Coconut Haupia, Passion Fruit Curd, and Chocolate-Peanut Butter Fillings – fun dessert where food is “art” – mix and match your desired flavors
Hawaiian Malasadas with lilikoi and haupia custards
Hawaiian Malasadas with lilikoi and haupia custards
EMERIL'S SIGNATURE BANANA CREAM PIE Graham Cracker Crust and Caramel Sauce
EMERIL’S SIGNATURE BANANA CREAM PIE
Graham Cracker Crust and Caramel Sauce

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Emeril's Tchoup Chop on Urbanspoon

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We wrote about KASA Tapas and Raw Bar back in May 2013 and now, this week, KASA is ready to open its doors and welcome guests into its newly renovated restaurant at The Plaza in downtown Orlando.

They are open this week as part of a soft opening and our good friend Michael Cho of ImpressInk.com visited last night to give us a preview of the menu choices and overall vibe at KASA.

Kasa opens to the public November 14 at 8pm. Starting November 15, Kasa will be open daily for lunch, dinner and drinks from 11am to late-night.

His thoughts and photos follow:

 

Upon entering KASA, one is immediately drawn to the vibrant and delicate ambiance that is not found in any other downtown Orlando establishment.

KASA Tapas and Raw bar sets itself apart by offering a unique menu full of tapas style dishes (small shareable plate portions) and a small number of full portion entrees for the hungrier customers.

The tapas serving style creates an opportunity to sample multiple dishes and flavors on the menu without over stretching one’s appetite.

KASA centers itself on the concept of combining  global flavors from Asian and Latin flavors to more, and this is apparent in the ingredients of their menu items, featuring different culinary cultures to create the plates.

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Hickory Smoked Duck Drumettes with a  ginger maple glaze

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Hamachi Ceviche

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KASA signature corn

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Spanish Spinach

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Panko crusted Pork Belly, glazed with syrup and dipped into egg yolk

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Shrimp a la plancha

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Tuna Carpaccio Pizza

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Tamarind Grilled Rack of Lamb

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Grilled Clams

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Wrecked Apple Pie Roll – thin slices of granny apple with soy paper, tempura battered and served with salted caramel ice cream

What’s interesting to note is that here at KASA, unlike other restaurants, there is a whole section of the menu dedicated to different types of ceviches, like you would find in Peru at a cevicheria.

KASA seems to be a versatile restaurant that welcomes both casual diners and those out on the town looking for a place to eat before heading out to experience the downtown Orlando night club, bar, entertainment scene.

We’ll have a more comprehensive review and visit soon!

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Official Press Release

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The Bento Group Announces The Official Grand Opening Of Its Newest Innovative Dining Concept “Kasa Tapas & Raw Bar” In Downtown Orlando November 14

Beginning November 14, onlookers on Orange Avenue will finally be able to step inside and experience the highly-anticipated, original dining concept “Kasa Tapas & Raw Bar” from The Bento Group. Featuring a creative and delectable menu comprised of small plates with global influences and a raw bar with fresh oysters and seafood, Kasa serves up a truly exciting and innovative dining experience pioneered by Executive Chef Sean Kaplan and “Food Network Star” alum Josh Lyons. Open for lunch, dinner, drinks and brunch coming soon, Kasa will raise the bar in the Downtown Orlando dining scene combining exceptional service in a cool, comfortable and contemporary atmosphere with a memorable meal that satisfies all the senses.

“We are extremely excited about the official opening of Kasa next month,” says Co-Owners of The Bento Group David Yu, Jimmy Tung and Johnny Tung.

“Kasa is the culmination of months and months of development and thought into creating and offering something really different and memorable that the Downtown dining scene has been craving. From our original menu packed with incredible flavor combinations to our delicious drinks and relaxing, modern atmosphere, we are proud to open Kasa’s doors for everyone to enjoy, experience and return to time and time again.”

Kasa is The Bento Group’s first full higher-end casual dine-in restaurant. Originating in Gainesville, FL with concepts also in Orlando and Jacksonville, The Bento Group focuses on restaurants, hospitality and nightlife concepts and is now comprised of Bento Café, Hiro Asian Sandwich Bistro, SushiChao, Simon’s Nightclub, My Mochi Frozen Yogurt, VAiN Nightclub, Avenue Gastrobar and Ghost Bar and Lounge.

Kasa opens to the public November 14 at 8pm. Starting November 15, Kasa will be open daily for lunch, dinner and drinks from 11am to late-night.

Restaurant guests are welcome to dine, drink and relax inside Kasa’s modern tranquil atmosphere or enjoy the extended outdoor patio space, which will feature many special events in the coming year. Kasa is located at 183 S. Orange Avenue in Downtown Orlando. For more information, call 407-985-5272 and visit www.kasatapas.com and www.bento-group.com.

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Once an Asian buffet, Cheng’s Asian Bistro has turned back into an Asian restaurant serving up a mix comprised mostly of Chinese cuisine and Japanese sushi with a little bit of Thai offerings added. I was recently invited by my friend and co-worker to try out this restaurant out in West Orange county in the city of Ocoee.

The decor is nice here, a touch above other stereotypical Chinese places with granite table tops and deep red painted walls. A sushi bar set beneath a green roof is positioned in the back wall. 

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The interior of Cheng’s Asian Bistro

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Traditionally a Thai dish, this Tom Yum soup with shrimp was fresh and hearty, very similar to what you may expect to find at a Thai home.

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Cheng’s Asian Bistro serves up some rather tasty renditions of rather typical Chinese fare. Start off with some crispy beef, a Szechuan based dish made with thinly sliced beef that’s fried to a crisp. It’s fun to eat though it can be a bit dry. The flavor of the sauce is slightly tangy, spicy, and sweet, but not overpowering.

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One of my favorite Chinese dishes, the “White Snow Prawn”, or more commonly known as creamy walnut shrimp, is made to perfection here. Jumbo plump, fresh shrimp lightly battered in a creamy mayonnaise sauce and topped with walnuts, truly a delight.

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Chicken three ways: lemon chicken (fried), General Tso’s chicken, and Chicken with vegetables

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Sushi is a big hit here as there is an all you can eat $19.95 sushi menu

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Giant Dragon Roll with fresh tuna and Unforgettable Sunshine roll with eel

Overall, Cheng’s Asian Bistro was a welcome change with food  that is fresh and tasty and not too heavy.I would definitely try it again when I am in the mood for some traditional dishes done well.

Cheng's Asian Bistro on Urbanspoon

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Hawkers Asian Street Fare – Mills 50 District – Orlando

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Hawkers Asian Street Fare is a brand spanking new restaurant that opened recently on Mills Avenue in the Mills 50 district in the same building as the old Chinatown restaurant. Although I enjoyed the food from the former occupants, I think I enjoy Hawkers much more. I think what they are doing at Hawkers is one of the best things to happen to the Asian food scene in Orlando in a long time.

A hawker is a person who travels around selling goods, typically advertising them by shouting. Although you won’t see any yelling about here at Hawkers, the cuisine is heavily influence by the food peddled by street hawkers in Asia, particularly from Malaysia. The owners of Hawkers actually have family in Malaysia who are street hawkers. They brought these street hawker recipes over and adapted them for the Hawkers menu. The curry dishes, skewered beef, noodles, and more all show this influence.

If you look carefully at the Chinese-like symbol adorning the Hawker building, you can tell its made from the shape of a person carrying two baskets on a wooden pole stretched across his/her back. This is how street food is done in Asia with old ladies and men carrying their wares to market and plopping on the street to start selling their creations.

The decor at Hawkers is similar to the urban warehouse feel of Chipotle, with walls accented by corrugated metal sheets and high bar top stools. Photos of street food scenes from Vietnam to Malaysia decorate the walls. Chinese newspapers are laminated into the table tops, reminiscent of street stalls in Asia.

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To start off, street food is often best eaten late at night with a round of beers and drinks. Hawkers has a impressive beer selection including some beers that come from local Orlando Brewing Company downtown. I’d recommend getting some beers to go along with the street food theme.

The roti canai is one of the signature dishes from southeast asia, a crispy crepe like roti that you dip in the curry sauce. It was pretty delicious and would taste even better if it came with 2 rotis instead of just one.

Another popular appetizer were the Hawker wings, made with Asian spices and served with a sweet chili Sriracha sauce.

Hawkers is best for their noodle dishes, noodle soups, and roast duck items. I thought their five spiced pork choppetes could use some work, maybe include a bowl of rice to balance the flavors.

One of my favorite items was the char kwa teo, a Malaysian dish from the teochiu people who immigrated from China, sort of like a Chinese influenced pad thai.

The curry chicken dish that I had was okay, I thought it needed some more hot pepper to bring the spices up a notch.

The roast duck in the roast duck banh mi sliders that we ordered was awesome, crispy and tasty to the bite. The roast duck udon noodle soup was another popular item; the broth was very light and mild tasting and went well with the flavors of the dish.

The fried fish with black bean sauce was a dish that was good, and would be better if served with a side bowl of freshly steamed rice.

My friend ordered the five spice fish tacos and he enjoyed it thoroughly.

On another occasion, I ordered the very spicy prawn mee noodle soup, a satisfying bowl made with a shrimp and pork based spicy soup, topped with slices of hard boiled egg, chinese vegetables, and shrimp. The curry laksa, a similar type of noodle soup, but with more curry flavors of course.

I thought the prices were reasonable, with most of the dishes under $6.00. Its important to note that the portions are much smaller than at traditional Chinese restaurants, but I think of it more like dim sum or tapas portions and prices that are meant to be shared. My friends and I ordered about 10 dishes and it came out to be about $15 per person for the meal.

Overall, I would definitely recommend checking out Hawkers, especially with a group of friends to share in good food and good times.

Click here for their menu!
HAWKERS MENU

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Roti Canai at Hawkers

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Hawkers Wings

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Hawkers Hot Iron Mussels


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Hawkers Five Spice Pork Choppettes 
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Five spice fish tacos


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Curry Chicken

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Beef Chow fun


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Char Kwa Teo noodles


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Crispy Cantonese noodles


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Roast Duck banh mi sliders

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Roast Duck udon noodle soup


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Prawn mee noodle soup

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Fish filet with black bean sauce

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Chilled spicy tofu

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Hawkers Asian Street Fare on Urbanspoon
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All the great Asian markets in Orlando are located either near downtown in the Mills Avenue / SR 50 area or on the west side at Pine Hills at the 1st Oriental Market. Although small Asian Markets have existed through out the east side of Orlando for a while now, the newly opened Eastside Asian Market is the largest one to open to date and is a welcomed addition for those living on the east side who need to buy their Asian goods without traveling far.

Eastside Asian Market sits just east of the 408 exit on Colonial Drive in a newly built plaza next to the BP gas station. They also operate under the name “Farm Fresh Produce” in the same building and are aptly named so as they have quite the selection of fresh vegetables and fruits both local and out of state. The market is sparkling clean and new, stocked with the essentials of Asian cooking from soy sauces, noodles, rice, dried mushrooms, and more. The even have a large selection of ramen for those of you who are on a tight budget or going to UCF. Though they are not as large as the ones downtown or on the west, their selection should be sufficient for most shopper’s everyday needs.

Eastside Asian Market is owned by a local family here in Orlando who are devout Buddhists and vegetarians. You will notice that they have a large variety of vegetarian items at this Asian market including the veggies and fruits, they have tofu products and “faux” meat items that spice up the typical vegetarian diet.

They also quartered off a section of the market into a cafe with a developing menu specializing in Taiwanese dishes and, all of course, vegetarian. At their cafe, they currently serve boba milk tea, taro slush, flavored black tea (passionfruit, mango, strawberry, lychee), shaved ice, fruit slush, fruit smoothies, special buns, egg rolls, dumplings, egg pancakes, and are still adding items as time goes on.

On a recent Friday afternoon, I had the chance to try the famous vegetarian “special buns” (2 for $4.99). The recipe is a secret and has been made by the owner Ronald’s father for over 20 years at home as a treat. The special buns were delicious, spicy flavored slices of tofu and mushroom in sweet “mantou” wheat buns. I also had the deep fried dumplings (6 for $3.95) and they were also vegetarian and pretty delicious, not unlike the korean mandoo dumplings that I have had served in New York. I washed everything down with a nice cool cup of flavored passionfruit black tea.

Overall, I think Eastside Asian Market is an awesome addition to the life on the east side of Orlando and hope they continue to bring fresh produce and food to Orlando.

Eastside Asian Market
12950 E Colonial Dr, Ste 106
Orlando, FL 32828
(407) 615-8881
www.eastsideasianmarket.com/


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Florida Oranges!

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Bittermelon!

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Instant Ramen aisle!


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The Eastside Asian Market’s Cafe


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Menu 1


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Menu 2


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“Special Buns”


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Special Buns, they are delicious…

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Fried dumplings (vegetarian)!
 


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Passionfruit tea


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“Special Buns” …#winning
Eastside Asian Market on Urbanspoon 

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Orlando Food Blog 002: Bento Cafe !

Bento Cafe Restaurant
Location: Orlando, FL

To our great delight, the people who created Bento Blue and Red of Gainesville, Fl, have decided to bring to Orlando their successful pan-Asian fusion restaurant concepts. In the area of South Orange Avenue tucked between Pine and Church Streets, Bento Cafe quietly awaits, tucked beneath the legs of the brand-spanking new Plaza building. Ideally located for those urban dwellers who crave Asian cuisine.



As I have found, it is often a chore of winding around and getting lost, to finally find parking in the tightly packed streets of downtown Orlando. Luckily, when you dine in at Bento Cafe’s you get a 1 hr parking validation in the Plaza’s parking garage. Inside, you will find their decor to be a modern blue and technologic gray, the inside of the restaurant a giganto glass-windowed hip and trendy sushi fishbowl.

At the Bento Cafe restaurant, you can either order at the counter or sit down for full service. We decide to sit down. The waitress is attentive and takes our order. We order the spicy creamy chicken noodle bowl ($6.95) and the Chirashi sushi bowl ($10.50) with a taro boba tea drink ($2.75).

Life is quick in the downtown city. So is Bento Cafe Restaurant’s food on its way to the table. Our main dishes arrived and they were both good. The taro boba tea arrives to our first. The tea drink is smooth down the palate. The taro milk tea flavor is deliciously sweet. The tapioca pearls pop up the straw and are quickly chewed into oblivion (my stomach).

The main dishes arrive soon after. The Korean spicy chicken is creamy, warm, and tenderly fried to perfection. The noodles are moist and flavorful and arrive in a large bowl. The Chirashi (meaning scattered sushi in Japanese) bowl comes with sushi rice, fresh and tasty pieces of salmon, tuna, white tuna, shrimp, and a side of seaweed salad, ginger, and wasabi. I devour the pieces of sashimi, licking the last pieces of sushi rice from the bowl. It is like sushi rolls but without the roll and in a bowl.

Overall, considering the relatively cheap prices for the great value of the tasty meal, I would come back again to Bento for a night out on the town or a casual lunch or for any occassion actually. Other tasty options include the teriyaki chicken noodle bowl, the spicy seafood noodle soup, and the chicken katsu bento box.

What is a Bento Box?
Bento is a single-portion takeout or home-packed meal common in Japanese cuisine.Bento boxes have internal dividers, and sometimes several stacked layers, so different kinds of food sit in their own little compartments.At Bentos, their boxes come with the main dish, a side of rice, cold noodles, green beans, small salad, and a tiny finger cake for desert.

TASTY CHOMP! RATING
4 out of 5 TASTY CHOMPS!!!!

Website:
http://www.bentocafesushi.com/

Bento Cafe is at 151 S. Orange Ave., Orlando, Florida . The hours are 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Wednesday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Thursday and Friday, noon to 11 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 9:30 p.m. Sunday. Beer and wine are available, and credit cards are accepted. phone number is 407-999-8989

Bento Cafe on Urbanspoon

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