Carmel Cafe & Wine Bar recently opened at 140 N. Orlando Avenue, bringing a modern approach to Mediterranean cuisine to the very popular Winter Park area. Executive chef Steve Cook brings his modern, simple renditions of traditional flavors and foods of the Mediterranean rim countries such as Italy, Spain, France, Greece and Morocco – a veritable tour of the Mediterranean coasts, with mostly small plates and options for wine pairings.
Carmel Cafe, originally founded in Tampa with plans to expand in the Central Florida market this year, is actually named after the beautiful city of Carmel Beach, California, known for its very moderate climate similar to that found along the Mediterranean.
The ordering system here is via tableside iPads which allow guests to control preparation and pacing of the meal from drinks to dessert by scrolling, tapping and sending selections. I wish these iPad menu ordering system also had calorie counts and nutritional information too for those healthy conscious among us. Seems like an easy thing to do. Traditional servers are also available to help in case you have any questions or if the iPads are out of order.
The iPads can also be used to play games – a useful diversion for children of guests at Carmel Cafe
On a recent visit during a media dinner, I was pleasantly surprised by what I found. The decor and ambiance is very modern, yet comfortable as well. It reminded me of something very corporate though well planned and executed.
The dishes are mostly small plates here, meant to be shared and enjoyed among friends and with sips of wine.
We start off with the mezze platter, a great plate of little appetizers and dips to share.
Mezze platter consisting of creamy edamame hummus, Muhammarra (a hot pepper dip from Syria), goat cheese-stuffed peppers, crispy fried feta, marinated artichoke hearts, sundried tomato, grilled pita
Chickpea Fries served with a tomato jam, curry aioli sauce. The chickpea fries had a nice crisp but were a little too soggy in the middle. Taste was fantastic though.
Basque Crab Cake made with lump crab meat and roasted almonds, avocado salad
Seared Tuna Niçoise salad – red bliss potato, haricot verts, grape tomato, hardboiled egg, feta, mustard-chive vinaigrette
Ravioli Verde • spinach and ricotta filling, truffle butter, peas, pea shoots, mushrooms, haricot verts
Pound Cake with stawberries – Definitely a favorite!
Overall, a fun and pleasant experience with light, interesting fare with quite distinct flavors not seen anywhere else in Orlando.
In addition to dinner service, they also began recently to serve lunch each Friday, Saturday and Sunday and a weekend brunch menu features favorites such as eggs Benedict and specialty dishes like the Mod Med Omelet and French Toast L’Orange.