Asian

Pig Floyd’s – Ribs, Maduros, Slaw

Orlando Magazine hosted its 2nd annual Generocity Orlando event, where attendees connected with over 50 nonprofit groups and learned how to get involved and give back.  This “Party With a Purpose,” held at the Orlando Science Center, featured local fare from Pig Floyd’s Urban Barbakoa, King Bao, Swine & Sons, Art of Taste Orlando, and P is for Pie Bake Shop, signature drinks from The Courtesy Bar, plus a wide variety of live entertainment and was sponsored by the Orlando Science Center, Unicorp National Developments, Inc., Masters Realty Group, and Seaside National Bank & Trust.  (Source credit: Orlando Magazine)

Art of Taste catering company

Ceviche

Smoked salmon

Pork belly

Potato and avocado

King Bao – coconut shrimp

Fried chicken

Tofu

Potato croquette

Beef

Pork belly

Mudslide cream pie 

Peach cobbler

Blueberry lavender cobbler

Chocolate chip with brown butter bourbon

P is for Pie Bake Shop

The Courtesy Bar

Orlando Magazine
801 N Magnolia Ave #201, Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 423-0618
http://orlandomagazine.com

Orlando Science Center
777 E Princeton St, Orlando, FL 32803
http://osc.org

Calligraphy artist writes guest’s name in Japanese.

We were invited to experience the Sakura (cherry blossom) Festival, a month-long celebration of the arrival of spring and the cherry blossoms at Morimoto Asia – Disney Springs.

The restaurant was decorated with Instagram-worthy décor, showcasing the pink blooms of the Sakura. Similar to the festivals in Japan, guests attended a series of ticketed events and enjoyed special menu items inspired by the Japanese cherry blossoms.

The month-long Sakura Festival concluded with a family fun day inspired by the traditional Matsuri (festival) of Japan.  We got to enjoy unlimited sushi, ramen, yakisoba, street food, mochi, cocktails/mocktails, origami artist, calligraphy artist, games and giveaways.  You definitely need to experience this one of a kind event for yourself next year!

Celebrity Disney expert Lou Mongello and I.

A station in partnership with their Disney Springs neighbors, Uniqlo.

Okinawa Breeze – strawberry kiwi limeade (mocktail).

Winter Sakura – cherry calpico soda (the best mocktail in the world!).

Onigiri.

Shrimp tempura, california, spicy tuna, spicy salmon.

The back side of the previous dish.

Eel & avocado sushi.

Okonímiyaki.

Takoyaki.

Tonkotsu ramen bar.  It was delicious!

Tonkotsu ramen.

Dango – kinako (roasted soy flour), mitarashi (sweet soy glaze), kurogoma (black sesame).

Executive Chef Yuhi Fujinag preparing mochi.

Mochi.

Origami artist.

Ramune ring toss.

Ramune ring toss prizes.

Connect 4 with candy prizes.

Yakitori.

Yakisoba.  It was sooo good!

Be sure to check out the 2nd Annual Sakura Festival at Morimoto Asia – Disney Springs next year!  You will love it!

(Source credit: Morimoto Asia)

Morimoto Asia – Disney Springs
1600 East Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
patinagroup.com/morimoto-asia/sakura
(407) 939-6686

Recognized as the region’s premier food and wine pairing event, the 26th Heart of Florida United Way Chef’s Gala at Walt Disney World Resort featured unlimited sampling of signature dishes prepared by 23 of Central Florida’s top chefs, along with thoughtfully paired fine wines.  The evening also included a sparking wine reception, live music and a silent auction filled with unique items and trips. 

This year they served over 460,000 individuals and raised a record-breaking $300,000+ towards the fight for the health, education and financial stability of every person in Central Florida.  95 cents of every dollar raised is invested back into the community to fund critical programs.

Chef’s Gala – what a tasteful way to make a difference in the world!

All beverages were generously donated.

All silent auction items were generously donated.

Live performance by an amazing band

Flying Fish – Disney’s BoardWalk: Chef LT Majoras
Cool Water Lobster and Slow Poached Shrimp, Spring Melon, Hearts of Palm, Shaved Serrano and Cava Vinaigrette

SLATE: Chef Jacob Woolf
Smoked Brisket, Jalapeño Creamed Corn, Charred Scallion Vinaigrette and Annatto Oil

Artist Point – Disney’s Wilderness Lodge: Chef Michael Gonsalves
Sweet Maiz Soup – Dungeness Crab, Avocado, Spring Radish, Ramp Mole, Greens

Urban Tide – Hyatt Regency Orlando: Chef Chef Jared Gross
Plantain-Crusted Atlantic Cod, Roasted Red Beet and Crème Fraiche Mash, Kumquat Mostarda

Todd English’s bluezoo – Walt Disney World Swan & Dolphin Resort: Chef Jason Wiggin
Crispy Puffed Rice Shrimp, Wasabi Pommes Puree, Sweet Thai Chili

Shutters – Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort: Chef Mark Donovan
Caribbean Goat Curry with Fragrant Island Rice and Cilantro-Lime Crema

Hemisphere – Hyatt Regency Orlando: Chef Jeffrey Powell
Chilled California-Style White Fish Ceviche with House Fried Corn Chips

Ale & Compass Restaurant – Disney’s  Beach Club Resort: Chef David Hutnick
Slow Smoked Pork Tenderloin, Bacon Jam, Vermont Cheddar Grits, Barbecue Gastrique and Herb Salad

The Turf Club Bar and Grill – Disney’s Saratoga Springs Resort & Spa: Chef Dan Marozzi
Pan Seared Salmon Slider – Seared Ora King Salmon, Horseradish Pickled Cucumber Slaw, on a Dill Gougère

blu on the avenue: Chef Tony Krueger
Hot Smoked Scottish Salmon, Dukkah Drop Biscuit, Bacon, Pickled Serrano, Aged Maple Syrup, Flowers

Morimoto Asia – Disney Springs: Chef Yuhi Fujinaga
Foie “PHO”, Kona Kanpachi, Shiso

Latitude and Longitude – Orlando World Center Marriott: Chef Kyle Anderson
Low-Country Perloo Carolina Gold Rice, Chicken Thighs, Andouille Sausage, Florida Rock Shrimp

The Hollywood Brown Derby – Disney’s Hollywood Studios: Chef Craig Schleider
Spicy Togarashi – Crusted Ahi Tuna, House-Made Kimchi, Bamboo Rice and Ginger-Soy Glaze

STK Orlando – Disney Springs: Chef Aaron Taylor
Goat’s Milk Ricotta with Crushed Peas, Mint and Charred Spring Onion

Jiko – The Cooking Place – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: Chef Eddie Mendoza
Mandazi

Jiko – The Cooking Place – Disney’s Animal Kingdom Lodge: Chef Eddie Mendoza
Isitambu – Zulu-Style Samp, Beans with Oxtail and Quail Egg

Tiffins – Disney’s Animal Kingdom® Theme Park: Chef Robby Sayles
Blanquette de Veau, Crispy Sweetbreads, Forest Mushroom Ragout and Charred Pearl Onion

Le Cellier Steakhouse – Epcot®: Chef Kevin Downing
Lamb Loin, Confit Marble Potatoes, Spring Vegetable Vinaigrette and Pinot Noir Syrup

Primo by Melissa Kelly – J.W. Marriott Orlando, Grande Lakes: Chef Eric Santiago
House-Made Casarecche Pasta, Lake Meadows Duck Confit, Local Mushrooms, Ramp Pesto and Shaved Pecorino

Bull & Bear – Waldorf Astoria Orlando: Chef Richard Brown
Seared Shrimp Scampi with Pinot Grigio Butter, Black Venus Rice Risotto and Parmesan Cheese

Cinderella’s Royal Table – MAGIC KINGDOM Park: Chef Axel Martinez
Blood Orange Braised Beef Short Rib, Melted Leek and Kohlrabi Puree and Sweetie Drop Peppers

Joffrey’s Coffee & Tea Company: Roast Master Chris DeMezzo
Made-to-Order Specialty Coffees

Amorette’s Patisserie – Disney Springs: Pastry Chef Yoly Lazo Colon
Amorette’s Petite Signature Cake – Chocolate Chiffon, Raspberry Pate Fruit, Red Velvet Cake, Chocolate Biscuit, Dark Chocolate and Cherry Mousse

Gideon’s Bakehouse: Owner Steve Lewis and Chef Nicole Beebe
Classic Chocolate Chip Cookie and Pistachio Toffee Chocolate Chip Cookie

Epcot® Bakery Team: Pastry Chef Noah French
Meyer Lemon Tart with Mandarin Orange Jam

Beautiful and breathtaking fireworks are the perfect way to end an amazing night.  Be sure to check out this amazing event next year!

(Source credit: Chef’s Gala)

Chef’s Gala – Epcot Showplace
200 Epcot Center Dr, Orlando, FL 32821
(407) 939-5277
ChefsGala.org

Photos by: Terrence M. Gross

We were invited to the first “Guest Chef Series Dinner” at Morimoto Asia last night during their inaugural Sakura Festival.  Our guest chef was Executive Chef Hitoshi Sugiura and he was exceptional.  Chef Hitoshi flew in all the way from Japan for the event and was joined by Morimoto Asia’s very own Executive Chef Yuhi Fujinag & Chef de Cuisine Chef Hung Huynh.  All three chefs prepared for us an collaborative six-course Pan-Asian dinner, paired with wines from across the globe.  Morimoto Asia plans on hosting a Guest Chef Series Dinner every quarter.

Chef Hitoshi has a history of creating unique menus for restaurants and events while having received acclaimed notoriety including the “Top 8 Chef” at Italy’s 2017 Vegetarian Chance competition. Chef Hitoshi currently leads the team and menu creation as Executive Chef of Patinastella Restaurant in Tokyo, Japan.

Fresh cherry blossoms that were flown in from Japan for the inaugural Sakura Festival at Morimoto Asia.


First Course (Chef Hitoshi)
Bouquet – daikon, tofu, ginger, sesame seed puree, hazelnuts, maple syrup (almost too beautiful to eat!)

Second Course (Chef Hitoshi)
Spanish Mackeral with Shiso Sauce – Spanish mackerel, broccoli, Japanese mustard, shiso (this was one of my favorites!)


Third Course (Chef Hung)
Wok-fired Maine Lobster – ginger, scallion, jalapeño, zucchini noodle


Fourth Course (Chef Hung)
Roasted Poussin – goji berry koshihikari rice, Chinese sausage, foie gras, chicken jus


Fifth Course (Chef Yuhi)
Mishima Reserve Wagyu Ribeye – slow braised rib cap, porcini dashi, morels (simply elegant and wonderfully rich, another of my favorites!)

Dessert – Sakura and Peach Bavarian with Sakura Gelato

Our talented pastry chef


Cheers to our wonderful host, Sommelier – Eric Bandauski.

Guest Chef Hitoshi Sugura. Many thanks for making the long journey to celebrate with us.  Well done chef!

The ceiling fixture colors were modified to reflect the spirit of the Sakura Festival.

Be sure to grab your tickets to the inaugural Sakura Festival at Morimoto Asia – they will be hosting a series of events until Sunday, April 15!

(Source credit: Morimoto Asia)

Morimoto Asia – Disney Springs
1600 East Buena Vista Drive, Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830
https://www.patinagroup.com/morimoto-asia/sakura
(407) 939-6686

Peanut Pad Thai With Seasoned Grilled Shrimp
Do you love delicious food, crafty cocktails, and fun games?  If your answer is yes, than KINGS Orlando is the perfect place to be any day of the week!

We were invited to check out KINGS Orlando, an upscale dining and entertainment venue.  During our visit we got to try a few items from their Asian-inspired menu (pictured below) and we also got to bowl.  We had so much fun cannot wait to go back! Our server Kimberly was super friendly, engaging, and down-to-earth.  Her communication skills were on point so we always knew what was going on at all times.  Kimberly was the best server that I’ve ever had and I know she is going to go far in the KINGS company one day SOON!

Free game on Sunday with lunch reservation
Fried Bang Bang Calamari
Buffalo Chicken Wontons
Peanut Pad Thai With Seasoned Grilled Shrimp (my favorite!)
Baja Street Tacos With Seasoned Grilled Shrimp
Private room
Be sure to check out KINGS Orlando soon for food, fun, and more!
Kings Dining & Entertainment
8255 International Dr, Orlando, FL 32819
(407) 363-0200
kings-de.com/orlandokings-de.com/orlando

Congratulations to our long-time friend Sam Lau on his newest business venture: ViVi Bubble Tea at Mills 50 – it is such a cute little bubble tea shop that you need to check out asap!  They officially open tomorrow and will be running a buy one, get one free special on select drinks.  My big sister Krystle & I enjoyed their Blue Galaxy (pictured above) a caffeine-free herbal tea beverage with no artificial coloring.

Tiramisu Slush

Signature fruit tea

Blue Galaxy

Be sure to check out ViVi Bubble Tea soon!

ViVi Bubble Tea
1111 E Colonial Dr. Orlando, Florida
(321) 310-4147
vivibubbletea.com

My former co-worker and good friend, Dallas Perdue, tending the bar while being filmed by the Travel Channel.

My friend from college and owner of DOMU, Sonny Nguyen

*Will be featured on the Food Paradise episode*
Pigs In A Blanket Bao – Chashu ends, persian cucumber, pickled cabbage, scallion, spicy kewpie mayo

Domu Wings – coated with kimchi butter sauce.  These are my favorite wings in the whole world!  Must try!

*Will be featured on the Food Paradise episode* Richie Rich – Miso-shoyu pork bone broth, chashu, ajitama brûlée, kikurage, scallion, fried garlic, black garlic oil, domudama

Uni Mazemen – Uni butter sauce, ikura, micro greens, crispy quinoa, chives, fresh uni

Chuka – Roasted corn, menma, torched tomato, cucumber, shiitake mushrooms, ontama, sesame vinaigrette

Check out DOMU soon for delicious ramen, wings & bao and be sure to keep an eye out for the Food Paradise episode airing in the next couple of weeks!

DOMU
3201 Corrine Dr. STE 100 Orlando, Florida
(407) 960-1228
http://domufl.com

Ping’s Dessert – Japanese cotton cheese infused with matcha, matcha macaroon, durian ice cream, dark cherry soup.

Every season Yuki Hana hosts an Omakase dinner which means “leave everything up to the chef”.  I always look forward to Yuki Hana’s Omakase dinners because I know a lot of time, preparation, and research goes into each Omakase dinner to draft up and provide an adventurous menu for their guests.  This Omakase dinner was extra special because they were also celebrating their Five Year Anniversary.  If you haven’t been to an Omakase dinner experience at Yuki Hana, you are truly missing out on a local mind-blowing culinary adventure.  No experience is the same and you will never forget how spectacular it is.

Sakitini with pomegranate, arugula syrup, citrus, fish sauce, spicy shiitake sugar rim and dehydrated lemon slice.


Chef Steven’s Amuse – Sweet potato puff, cured cobia sashimi, edamame crème fraiche, pickled shallot.  The edamame crème fraiche filling inside the puff was ridiculous, I loved it.  The cured cobia sashimi was the perfect fish for this delicious appetizer.


Chef Steven’s 1st Course – Hokkaido scallop, sweet shrimp with heads crispy fried, tossed in uni mayo, anchovy powder, seasoned anchovy, ume gel, and shiso. Perfect balance of soft & crispy.  Delicious!

Chef Steven’s 2nd Course – Madai, charred negi soy gel, jalapeño foam, citrus marinated cucumber, and crispy salmon skin.  Those crispy salmon skins were AMAZING.  I loved this refreshing dish.

Chef Steven’s 3rd Course – Crispy hand roll cone with unagi, bacon jam.  Second picture is chu-toro tartare, ikura, furikake.  Who doesn’t enjoy eating a hand roll?  No chopsticks needed!

Chef Albert’s 4th Course – Congee with lobster, clams, shrimp, uni and squid ink rice chips.  This was my favorite!  I wanted to lick the plate after I was finished eating but didn’t want to get any weird looks.  I wish the squid ink rice chips with uni was an appetizer on their regular menu.  I’m obsessed with them!  My biggest weakness is chips.

Chef Albert’s 5th Course – Poussin served with winter green, sesame dressing, pickled cucumber, whipped tofu, charred orange.  This was the best grilled chicken that I have ever eating in my life.  The seasoning was perfection.

Chef Albert’s 6th Course – Bison skirt steak, shaved truffle, asparagus, Shimeji mushrooms, beet, black pepper sauce.  Divine!

Ping’s Dessert – Japanese cotton cheese infused with matcha, matcha macaroon, durian ice cream, dark cherry soup.  So much heart and passion went into this dessert.  It was heavenly.  I love homemade cakes, ice cream and macarons!

The kind and hardworking owner of Yuki Hana, Ping Jiang, and her team of dedicated an talented chefs.

This was my third Omakase experience at Yuki Hana and the skills, quality, creativity, and taste just keep getting better.  I am looking forward to their next Omakase dinner.  I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to attend these dinners on behalf of Tasty Chomps.  I hope to see you all at the next one!  Please follow Yuki Hana on IG at @yuki_hana_sushi for their latest updates and upcoming events.

 

Yuki Hana Fusion Sushi
3635 Aloma Ave Oviedo, Florida 32765
(407) 695-8808
http://sushiyukihana.com

My sister and I got to meet Food Network Chef Roberto Treviño from Iron Chef America (he battled against and beat Mario Batali) at his new restaurant El Buda on Church Street and we enjoyed trying some of his delicious and flavorful Latin-Asian food that he prepared for us.  Chef Roberto Treviño’s concept of blending two cultures together is so unique and the fusion of flavors in all of his dishes were all on point, I really appreciated and loved it.  Overall, I give five stars to the food, service, ambiance, and the entertainment at El Buda.  You must check them out next time you are in the Downtown Orlando area.

El Buda has a Daily Happy Hour from 4-7pm and includes 2 for $5 Draft Beers, $9 Craft Cocktails (they are normally $11 and feature top shelf liquors) and$5 Sangria. 

Sunday Brunch (Saturday coming soon!) is from 11am – 4pm.  $22 Brunch includes unlimited top shelf mimosa and top shelf craft cocktails. 
Guava Gelee Gimlet. They offer nightly drink specials at “The Cellar” downstairs, a speakeasy type atmosphere. 
Herame Con Coco
Pork Dumplings
Duck Nachos
Prawn Tempura with Forbidden Rice
Ho Fun with Grilled Churrassco
Peking Style Duck Confit with Scallion Pancake and Seasoned Vegetables
Churro
Be sure to check out El Buda – Downtown Orlando soon!  You will love it!
El Buda
116 W Church St, Orlando, FL 32801
(407) 203-8171

Happy 2018, Food Friends!

Can we all agree that glitter and unicorn desserts are so 2017? Well maybe not, but a girl can dream.

I caught up with some of Orlando’s coolest chefs to find out what they see coming to a table near you in 2018, and here’s what they had to say.

The Verdict:

  • Crazy desserts are out; smaller, savory sweets are in
  • Asian eats are here to stay
  • RIP to unnecessary gluten-free dishes
  • Say hello to veg cuisine, it’s here and it’s not playing

HAWKERS Asian Street Fare – Kaleb Harrell 

“Ethnic desserts – We are revamping our entire dessert line because we feel customers are ready. Desserts that have a savory edge, are fruit-based, or just have ingredients outside of mainstream will gain popularity as the size of desserts decreases. Today’s customer would rather have a few bites of something amazing to end their meal than a bowl of corn syrup.

Savory cocktails – This one has been on the fringe for a while, but I think 2018 is the year for savory cocktails to take hold.  Think meat stocks, dry rub ingredients, and vegetable instead of fruit juices. 

Fast and fresh – This is the mecca for market share in lunch business.  A few companies are doing well and expanding quickly, but it’s a race to see who keeps consistency. Virtually every diner is looking for a fast, and ultra fresh lunch option. How many days can you eat a Chick-fil-A salad for lunch?

Vinegars and sours – Fermented flavors are gaining more popularity and will continue in the next year. Look for pickling, fermenting, gourmet mustards, and generally bold flavors in small quantities to continue.  Cheese and charcuterie are amazing, but the accoutrements are starting to take center stage.”

Black Rooster Taqueria – John Calloway

“I think we will see a lot of cauliflower. Gluten-free has reached its peak, so we will see more artisan and/or rustic breads and people milling their own flours.

Mexican will still be everywhere, but I believe Indian food is the next big cuisine.

Food as medicine will also be a big focus. From all of the juice bars to doctors and nutritionists prescribing specific foods and diets, we’ll be getting back to our roots with the earth healing our bodies.”

K Restaurant – Michelle Hulbert

“I think there will continue to be interest smaller desserts – that are portion-control friendly. Over-the-top, gigantic desserts will be a thing of the past. The healthier sides of sweets will include more seasonal fruits.  I think in general we will see a larger focus on vegetables as the star and less starch-heavy dishes.”

K Restaurant –  Ryan McLaughlin

“I think in 2018 we will see a continued movement toward more vegetable-forward dishes, a dedicated focus on limiting food waste, and an even stronger movement within the chef community to support small, sustainable farms that are focused on the ethical treatment of animals.”

Tapa Toro – Wendy Lopez 

“I see familiar foods becoming more prominent on menus at restaurants. Think pork rinds and hot dogs. They will be reimagined with new ingredients and presentations.

I think we’ll start to see lesser-known cuts of meat appear on menus around town – like Vegas strip and Oyster steak. We’ll start to see more family-style dining options at restaurants. At Tapa Toro, we see groups of people passing plates around the table. Why commit to one entree when you could try a little bit of everything?”

Pizza Bruno – Bruno Zacchini

“I’ll start with pizza! For me, I see Neapolitan pizza still going strong but new styles and types will become the next thing from Detroit squares to Roman thin crusts and artisan slice pies with farm-to-table ingredients. Pizza has so many styles most people have never seen so it’s really wide open.

Overall fast casual is going to keep happening and moving forward with counter service places and places focusing on singular dishes done extremely well.  Flavors for me are Middle Eastern, more regional Asian (think Bangrak), and Italian, of course! I also think that in 2018 we’ll continue to see veg-centric cuisine making its way onto more menus.”

Valhalla Bakery + Valkyrie Doughnuts – Celine Duvoisin 

“I see a bubble bursting of the stuff on stuff on stuff on stuff. (Not that I’m not going to do excessive shit until it dies.)

I think that more Asian popularity will happen, I foresee a rise in proper ramen coming to town and possibly Asian desserts. We’ve hit this wall of sugar hell, with no one hitting the less sweet almost savory desserts.

Hopefully an end to the gluten-free obsession.

My fingers are crossed for more Mediterranean-type places that focus on macro-based foods as fuel instead of insanely over designed places that don’t have the food to seal the deal.”


Is this roundup missing something, or are you seeing a trend worth sharing? Comment below and cheers to new year!

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

+++

At Yuki Hana they provide guests with a beautiful, modern dining experience and the freshest, most flavorful Japanese dishes around.  From innovative sushi featuring fresh fish from the world’s finest markets to flavorful fusion dishes prepared with locally sourced veggies and herbs, every plate on their menu is fun, flavorful, and a new adventure.  No matter the occasion, they are always more than happy to welcome you in and treat you to an unforgettable evening of bites and sips.  Visit them and experience the finest in Japanese cuisine all under one roof.

Every season Yuki Hana hosts a special dinner showcasing their chef’s creativity and talent.  We were invited to their Chef’s Multi-Course Tasting Event and as always, we were impressed with how creative and well thought-out each dish was.  Not only did the food look good but it also tasted delicious as well.  Each dish that came out was like an exciting surprise, we were all blown out of the water with their innovation, presentation and quality.  Yuki Hana Fusion Sushi exceeded our expectations with every dish that they delivered that night.  They are like food scientists, they know their stuff, they are creative, and they just keep getting better and better.  You can tell that each dish was hand made with hard work, love and intention.


Begin – Butterfly Pea Crystal, Citrus Sake


Appetizer – Amuse-Bouche, Squash Dumpling

1st Course – Cape Cod Oyster, Wasabi Foam, Cocktail Pearl, Lemon Confit

2nd Course – Shima Aji, Wasabi Asparagus, Kombu Chip, Crispy Garlic, Ume Ponzu

3rd Course – Nigiri Tasting
Mussel (mussel puree, garlic chip)

Hamachi Tartare (tobiko, cured egg snow)

Tuna (tare, avocado)


Kohada (charred negi vin)

Break – Frozen White Chocolate Lychee Gusher

4th Course – Seared Shiromi, Cabbage Menage, Bacon Seaweed, Dashi Aioli (My favorite!)

5th Course – Roasted Beef, Oxtail Croquette, Pickled Pumpkin, Sweet Potato Sphere, Roasted Leek, Honey Soy (my second favorite!)

Dessert – Persimmon 5.0, Gelato, Compressed, Gel, Meringue, Soup (it was delicious!)

Special thanks to owner Ping Jiang and her talented staff for their hospitality and amazing food!  Be sure to check out Yuki Hana Fusion Sushi soon, you won’t regret it!

Albert DeSue – Executive Chef
Steven Phan – Head Sushi Chef
Edwardo Mena – Sous Chef
Lance Herbas – Sushi Chef
Steven Chang – Sushi Chef

(Cover photo and last photo taken by Quay Hu)

Yuki Hana Fusion Sushi
3635 Aloma Ave Oviedo, Florida 32765
(407) 695-8808
http://sushiyukihana.com

At Yuki Hana they provide guests with a beautiful, modern dining experience and the freshest, most flavorful Japanese dishes around.  From innovative sushi featuring fresh fish from the world’s finest markets to flavorful fusion dishes prepared with locally sourced veggies and herbs, every plate on their menu is fun, flavorful, and a new adventure.  No matter the occasion, they are always more than happy to welcome you in and treat you to an unforgettable evening of bites and sips.  Visit them and experience the finest in Japanese cuisine all under one roof.

We were invited to try their new seasonal menu consisting of a five course meal showcasing their chef’s creativity and talent.  The restaurant was beautiful, the food was delicious, and the staff was amazing!  Everyone was so talented and worked hard to deliver BEAUTIFUL dishes.

Specialty cocktail – Ginger, cucumber, fresh mint

Chef Shane’s First Course
Cobia Bruschetta – House cured cobia, toasted brioche, yuzu shiso relish, roasted tomato espuma, balsamic gel

Edamame granola bar with basil tea


Chef Steven’s Second Course
Shiromi Tartare – Pickled strawberry, cauliflower, apple, dashi gelee, basil oil.  The crisp was made from an apple that was pickled, pureed, dehydrated, and crispy fried.

Chef Shane’s Third Course
Nigiri Tasting – Hand-selected freshest fish and chef’s special toppings
Bottom to top:
Hiramasa scallop tartare
Blue fin otoro black tobiko gold flake
Kanpachi fresh grated wasabi house tare
Seared wagyu with shaved black truffle
House made sweet egg omelet

Dragon fruit sorbet with honey, mint, and citrus

Chef Albert’s Fourth Course
Stripped Bass – Stripped bass roasted in corn husk, miso butter sauce, Asian mung bean, corn salsa, sweet corn emulsion.  This dish had incredibly delicious earthly flavors.

Ping’s Surprise Dessert
Green tea matcha custard with passion fruit boba, mango jelly, cactus pear gel, cactus pear foam, matcha sponge cake, and rice puff

Be sure to check out Yuki Hana Fusion Sushi soon before they transition to their seasonal Fall menu!  They are also participating in Magical Dining Month until October 11!

Yuki Hana Fusion Sushi
3635 Aloma Ave
Oviedo, Florida 32765
(407) 695-8808
@YukiHanaFusion

At Hawkers, the founders Kaleb Harrell, Allen Lo, Wayne Yung and Kin Ho – all traveled the world to curate a menu of handed-down family recipes and hand-picked popular street foods from all over Asia – Korea, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Japan to be exact.  Today, all of the original founders are active in restaurant operations ranging from chefs to brand and operations managers.

Since the brand’s inception in 2011 with the Orlando – Mills 50 location, it has opened three additional Florida locations in Jacksonville, Neptune Beach, and St. Petersburg.  New locations are under construction and slated to open in Windermere (located in the Greater Orlando area) in November 2017 and in Atlanta’s Old Fourth Ward in March 2018, marking its expansion outside of Florida.  Four additional locations are slated to open throughout the Southeast in 2018.

The restaurant’s name is inspired by street vendors found throughout the streets of Asia known as hawkers.  They depend on locally grown ingredients to create dishes sold from mobile carts and stands.

“We are on a mission to disrupt the restaurant industry, and essentially redefine what it means to “eat Asian” in America.  People often ask me who our competition is, and I can’t come up with one–and, for us, that’s a positive thing.”

A place where sharing is not just caring, but the way to eat, Hawkers offers a fresh take on today’s Asian street-fare experience with dishes that are always made to order using local and imported ingredients.  Hawkers is considered a “local’s favorite” and has been featured in Delta SkyMagazine, Florida Trend and Orlando Magazine, and Food & Wine as Andrew Zimmern’s number one pick on his list of “12 Places to Stay, Eat & Shop in and Around Orlando.”

The tables are communal and are inlaid with newspaper to resemble the way street food is often served wrapped in newspaper from hawker stalls.

All Hawkers locations have a weekday happy hour and a wide selection of imported and local wine, beer, and saké.

The menu changes with the seasons and features house favorites such as Roti Canai and award-winning Pad Thai and more common items such as Yi Yi’s Chicken Dumplings and Miso Pork Belly Ramen.  The diverse menu offers options for various palates with vegetarian-friendly dishes, gluten-free and a variety of pescatarian offerings.

(Source credit: Hawkers Asian Street Fare)

We had the opportunity to try some of their new menu items + some classic dishes and we are so excited to share them all with you!

* indicates a new menu item.

*#dimsumcrunchyballs – shrimp, pork, crispy spring roll batter.  This is a traditional Chinese dish using ground up shrimp thrown across the table to get air pockets out, then coated with egg wash and shredded spring rolls wrapper, and finally fried and served with a hot oil-soy sauce.  It has a bounciness to it.

*Crispy Chicken Skin – Hawkers’ version of skewers that can be found in Asia cooked over coals.   They get all of the protein fat scrapped off, season it with Szechuan style seasoning, bake it in oven, then finish it over a grill burning charcoal.   This dish is suppose to be eaten with lime sprinkled over it to accentuate its smokey flavors.

*’Nam Nem Rolls – chilled rice wrap, fried rice paper, chicken sausage, lettuce, cucumber, basil, mint.  Nem in Vietnamese means sausage.  This dish is traditionally made with pork, however, they make theirs with chicken because less people eat pork.  The chicken is baked in the oven then finished on the grill.  The sauce is a Vietnamese vinaigrette consisting of fish sauce, Coco Rico, and red chilies.

*Singapore ‘Chili’ Crab – national dish of Singapore, soft-shelled crab, house-made chili garlic sauce, and fried bao bun.

*Tiger Salad– poached octopus, cilantro, carrots, green onions, celery, cucumber, rice wine vinaigrette, and lemon juice.  A light and refreshing salad.

Roti Canai – Malaysian flat bread served with a side of their signature curry.  Chef Allen Lo describes the bread as “if a croissant and pancake made a baby”.   He ate this dish every day growing up for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Wok-Fired Lettuce – shiitake mushrooms, red chilies, light hoisin soy sauce, lettuce.  This staple dish makes a great side dish with every meal.

Chicken Dumplings – hand-rolled in-house daily, wok-seared (pictured) or steamed.  Hawkers makes their dumplings at 7am every morning; it is the first thing they make.

Pad Thai – rice noodles, shrimp, chicken, eggs, scallions, bean sprouts.  Pad Thai is a staple dish in Asia.  At Hawkers, they let their sauce simmer for eight hours before serving it over the noodles.

Vietnamese Iced Coffee  – available in iced (pictured) or French drip.

Mocha Trio – Green tea, lychee colada, and Thai tea.  Made at the Mochidoki shop in New York.

Be sure to check out the launch of the new menu items this Wednesday, August 16, at a Hawkers near you!

Hawkers Asian Street Fare
1103 N Mills Ave
Orlando, FL 32803
(407) 237-0606

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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!

https://youtube.com/watch?v=kqslsT7W4IQ%3Frel%3D0%2520frameborder%3D0%2520allowfullscreen

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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