Which Orlando restaurants offer that 'wow' factor
Chef Scott Hunnel greets diners at Victoria & Albert's chefs table at the Grand Floridian Resort & Spa. (WALT DISNEY CO.)
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But for us regular diners, choosing just the right dining destination for any celebration can be a bit intimidating. There are a few clues that will tell you if you are headed in the right direction. One is AAA Five Diamond rating. Only three Florida restaurants have earned that honor and Victoria & Albert's at Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa is one of them.
The AAA guidelines require restaurants who achieve five-diamond bling to: "consistently provide a world-class experience. This is 'haute cuisine' at its best. Menus are cutting edge, using only the finest ingredients available. Food is prepared in a manner that is highly imaginative and unique. The combination of technique and ingredients is extraordinary, reflecting the impeccable artistry and awareness of highly-acclaimed chefs. A maître d' leads an expert service staff that exceeds guest expectations by attending to every detail in an effortless and unobtrusive manner."
What makes V&A's different from other fine dining restaurants? Perhaps it's the attention to detail that chef Scott Hunnel brings to the menus and elegance of the coziness of the venue. There are only 18 tables in the main dining room and the private Fireplace Room has five tables. Less formal, but certainly more exclusive is the Chef's Table. The kitchen alcove offers a front-row seat and a personal interaction with the culinary artists the finely-tuned kitchen.
They may not have the AAA top honor, but Central Florida has many other restaurants worthy of anniversary toasts, marriage proposals or just a evening to celebrate life. Today I've assembled a sampling of restaurants that are special-occasion worthy based on commitment to cuisine, décor and service. Holiday parties may be set, but Valentine's Day really isn't that far off.
Cala Bella: Rosen Shingle Creek Resort, 9939 Universal Blvd., Orlando; 407-996-9939; calabellarestaurant.com.
Chef's Table at the Edgewater: 99 W. Plant St. in the historic Edgewater Hotel, Winter Garden; 407-230-4837; chefstableattheedgewater.com.
Christini's: 7600 Doctor Phillips Blvd., Orlando; 407-345-8770; christinis.com.
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar: 8030 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando; 407-352-5706; FlemingsSteakhouse.com.
Journeys at Alaqua: Alaqua Country Club, 2091 Alaqua Drive, Longwood; 407-995-3333; JourneysRestaurant.com.
Norman's: Ritz Carlton Grande Lakes, 4012 Central Florida Parkway, Orlando; 407-393-4333; normans.com.
The Venetian Room: Caribe Royale Orlando, 8101 World Center Drive, Orlando; 407-238-8060; thevenetianroom.com.
The dish on dining
Victoria & Albert's
Where: Disney's Grand Floridian Resort and Spa, Lake Buena Vista.
Reservations: 407-939-3862; can be made up to 90 days in advance for the dining room and 120 days in advance for the Chef's Table.
Price range: Dinner is $125 per person (tax and gratuity not included), $185 with wine pairing; Chef's Table is $175 per person, $245 with wine pairing.
Dress: Jackets are required for men (tie optional) and dinner attire for women.
Food Editor Heather McPherson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 407-420-5498