Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Darden's New Kid on the Block: Eddie V's in Orlando

A couple of months ago, I was invited to attend a charity media preview of the new Eddie V's in Orlando, an upscale seafood restaurant that lives in the space where Timpano Chophouse used to sit. That being said, we only paid for our alcohol tab (the proceeds of which went to Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Florida, Second Harvest Food Bank, and other worthy causes), so please keep in mind that we didn't pay for our meal at Eddie V's as you read this.

I'd seen the restaurant a couple of times during trips away, a few in Houston and Austin, etc. This is the first Eddie V's to open in Central Florida, even though it's a Darden restaurant and the corporate HQ is located here.

The place is gorgeous, I have to say. Dimmer and more moody than the decor at Oceanaire Seafood Room, but still recalls the late 30s, early 1940s vibe of fringe and sequins and drinking champagne and dancing on tables. The waiters are outfitted in white tuxedoes, which was a lovely touch, but a little overkill for those of us more likely to be dressed for Tijuana Flats than haute seafood (this is Orlando, anyway, a city with a perpetually casual dress code).

The service was really excellent, but I was a little piqued when I found out that there were four separate menus circulating around the room, each table given a different set of choices. What if *I* wanted the sea bass? What if I had a serious aversion to the filet and wanted a bone-in ribeye instead? Our server assured us that he could "make it happen," but I still had a sinking feeling that the heavier-hitters in the room (read: the ones with the fatter checkbooks or expense accounts or more pageviews) were being given fancier choices.

All things considered, the food we ordered was very good. We left happy and full and satisfied. Our first course was the steak and lobster tartare, which were served side-by-side and both very good, though the lobster was not served raw (luckily), and so didn't exactly qualify as a tartare.
It was lightly dressed, instead, with a creamy dressing next to the beef which was really delicious, tender and buttery when spread on the toasted baguette.

For our entrees, Cliff opted for the filet while I went with the halibut, a fish I like very much but don't normally buy. The halibut was nicely pan seared and sat atop a creamy sweet corn and edamame succotash with morsels of pork shank lending a nice, smoky porkiness to the dish, and aiding the wine pairing -- a lightly tannic pinot noir worked well.

The filet Cliff ordered was really excellent. We've been to more than a few steakhouses in recent years, including Bern's in Tampa, which we went to for our anniversary this year, the Bull & Bear at the Waldorf Astoria in Orlando, Taste of Texas in Houston (which was awesome and worth a separate blogpost) and Christner's Prime Steak and Lobster in Maitland. This steak, unassumingly positioned at the bottom of the menu at Eddie V's, was good enough to go up against any of the ones we'd had at any of the aged beef temples we've visited.

Dessert was beautifully presented -- flaming Bacardi 151 and Grand Marnier poured over a gooey butter cake topped with caramelized bananas in their version of Bananas Foster, but I was so full and uncomfortable that by the time dessert came and we'd spooned up a few bites, our server was compelled to ask whether it was to our liking and whether he could bring us something else.

No more, good man, no more. I need a nap.

Eddie V's isn't cheap -- our full bill ended up at $157 for an appetizer, two entrees, a dessert and two glasses of wine, but the service and food was so top-notch, we forgot entirely we were eating at a chain restaurant, which was worth the price.

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