Saturday, July 28, 2007

Restaurant Review - Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine, 7760 W. Sand Lake Rd, Orlando, FL

Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine is on Sand Lake Road's "restaurant row", near Seasons 52 and Roy's A wasabi crab that Roy's sushi chef madesister restaurant Bonefish Grill. Roy's, Bonefish Grill, and Carrabba's are all owned by the Outback Steakhouse group. From the exterior with tiki torches lighting your way to the interior with beautiful wood touches, you can tell that Roy's is a first-class restaurant. I visited Roy's twice, once as a "date night" with Hubby, and once as a girl's night out. While I did see parents with their kids at Roy's, I don't think my kids are mature enough to eat there yet. See the end of this review for kids' options at Roy's (I picked up a kids menu on my last visit just to see what they offered).

I highly recommend making reservations to Roy's to ensure you have a minimal wait and get the dining time you want. There are three eating areas at Roy's - the main dining area, the front room and the bar/sushi area. The main room is darker and rather loud. The front room is a bit brighter and a lot more quiet - I'd ask to sit here if you want a romantic dinner or just want to be able to talk. Finally, there is the bar/sushi bar area which is where my friend and I sat during our girls night out.

What is really fun about sitting at the sushi bar is that you get to see everything going on in the open kitchRoy's Appetizer Sampleren. Also, we got slid several different appetizers to try, just because we were there, including spicy edamame (big green soybeans served in their pods) and seafood potstickers. Both were really good and were served to us as soon as we sat down. Roy's menu, being based on Hawaiian cuisine, is mostly seafood (although I had the short ribs when I ate with Hubby and they were outstanding - tender and tasty). It is also pretty pricey with entrees in the $20-$30 range. So I highly recommend, for those of you on a budget like me, the prix fixe menu. For $35 per person, you get an appetizer sampler, a choice of selected entree (both seafood and meat dishes are offered), and a choice of macadamia nut almond tart or hot chocolate souffle for dessert. Not a bad deal at all.

My friend and I both chose the prix fixe - I picked the Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi for my entree and the Macadamia Nut Tart for dessert (what can I say - I like macadReally strong Hawaiian martini - watch out for the pineappleamia nuts!). My Macadamia Nut Crusted Mahi Mahi with lobster butter saucefriend Stacey could not decide between the mahi mahi or the Grilled Salmon Filet so our wonderful server Jackie (ask to sit in her area if she is working) said she would check with the kitchen on a way to help my friend decide. When she came back, she said she had gotten approval to serve a half portion of both items to Stacey. We couldn't believe it - that is true customer service. We also decided to get the signature Roy's Hawaiian martini ($10). Let me tell you, it was a strong (true?) martini - not like those chocolatinis and othHalf Salmon/Half Mahi Mahi entreeer-tinis that have become so popular. In fact, one of the managers saw us drinking them and came over to warn us not to eat the pineapple that was at the bottom of the martini glass - apparently they have been soaking in vodka for 5 days (I guess he could tell that we were lightweights).

The appetizer sampler was a shrimp stick, BBQ rib, and a crispy seafood ravioli (which looked like a fried potsticker to me). All were excellent and made a good combination of tastes. Our dishes were quickly whisked away and soon our entrees arrived. Wow, the mahi mahi was cooked to perfection - flaking away easily but still very moist. The lobster butter sauce served with it was to die for - I almost felt like licking my plate. Stacey liked her "entree sampler" very much as well - the salmon was also very good. Next came our dessRoy's Macadamia Nut Almond Tarterts. Stacey's Hot Chocolate Souffle is like those chocolate lava cakes where you cut into the cake and the hot fudgy chocolate sauce comes flowing out. She let me try some and it tasted just like chocolate fondue. My macadamia nut almond tart was great as well, although less rich than the chocolate dessert. The almond flavor really comes out under the nut crust and actually I avoided Roy's Melting Hot Chocolate Soufflethe mango and raspberry purees dotting the edge of the plate - they kind of took away from the nutty flavor that was my favorite part.

Kid's Offerings at Roy's: Roy's apparently does encourage you to bring your kids with you when you dine there. There is a kids' menu which is kind of it's own prix fixe dinner. For $10, your child will get an appetizer (sliced raw veggies and a cheese quesadilla), a choice of entrees (short ribs, salmon, chicken fingers, or pasta with butter sauce), and dessert (vanilla ice cream sundae). Now, I don't think I'll be bringing my 3-year-old because I don't think he will eat $10 worth of food. But, I might take my 8-year-old. Roy's also has Parent-Child "Date Night" which just means any time you bring your son or daughter with you for some one-on-one time at Roy's. They will apparently do a custom menu for you and your child with your names, a photo and a personalized message. If I ever do this with BB, I post an update to let you all know how it went!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Restaurant Review - IKEA Restaurant, 1000 IKEA Drive, Elizabeth, NJ

IKEA in New JerseyTo finish up my reviews from my recent New Jersey trip, I decided to get a sneak peek at an internationally known restaurant that is coming here to Orlando this Fall. Yes, of course I'm talking about IKEA. Okay, I know IKEA is known the world over as a furniture store, but I was eager to try their Swedish food (I am Restaurant Mom after all).

Every IKEA has the same basic floor plan with a "restaurant" (really a cafeteria) and Swedish Food Market so you can bring your favorite goodies home (oh yeah, and they have furniture and stuff, too). I don't know if the restaurant prices at the Orlando store will be the same as the NJ store, but I can't imagine they will be that different. And I have to tell you that the IKEA cafeterIKEA - Kids Mac-n-cheese on kids trayia has the best kids' meal deal I have ever seen - Mac-n-Cheese and a drink for 99 cents. The kid's drink alone is 79 cents so this is a huge bargain. I figure it is a loss leader to lure folks in, just like their 99 cent breakfast special (I'll have to wait until the Orlando IKEA opens to try that). There other items on the kids menu are the Kid's Meatball Plate with five Swedish meatballs, potatoes, and lingonberries; and a PB&J that comes with a small fruit cup and a drink - both of these go for $1.99 - still a huge bargain. Oh, and milk and chocolate milk can be chosen as the kids' drink. What is also very cute are kid-sized trays so kids can carry their own food through the line.

The adult meals are just as reasonable. IKEA's specialty, of course, are the Swedish meatballs. These are offered in 10, 15, or 20 meatball portions, ranging from $4.29 to $5.99. Grandpa decided to get the 20 Meatball Plate so that he, Grandma, and my brother could share. The IKEA Meatball PlatePlate also comes with potatoes and lingonberries. BB decided to get the PB&J which actually turned out to be a package of Uncrustables - I guess it is quick for IKEA but it would have beeIKEA Kids PB&Jn nice to have a freshly made sandwich. It came with a very small fruit cup that looked like canned fruit cocktail. Oh well, what do you want for $1.99? I got the Gravad Lox Plate ($4.99) which is similar to the lox you'll find at a bagel place, only a bit milder and smoother in flavor and texture. I also picked up a Daim cake which is an almoIKEA Lingonberry Sodand cake with what appears to be a coating of chocolate, almonds and toffee bits. It came with a Daim candy on the side, which is a Swedish version of a chocolate toffee candy (think Heath or Skor bar). Heading to the check-out lane, Grandpa grabbed a Lingonberry bottled soda. Everyone else went with a fountain beverage ($1.25) and we picked up our glasses and placed them on our trays. One un-kid-friendly thing is that they don't have kids' cups, plastic or otherwise (at least the NJ store didn't when we were there). So the kids have to drink out of small glasses. Also, I couldn't find a straw anywhere in the restaurant - even for the adults! They did sell straws inside the store on the first floor so maybe they were trying to increase sales (lol)?

After placing our trays down at the table, I went up to get drinks. I found lingonberry juice available at the fountain and decided to try it. I'm usually not a big fruit juice drinker but this was a really light juice, somewhere between a berry and grape taste. I got a regular cola for BB. Grandpa was a little peeved that he had bought the Lingonberry soda in a bottle because he didn't realize the IKEA Gravad Lox - Yum!juice was available at the soda fountain. BB blissfully ate his Uncrustable and fruit cup so I guess the pre-packaged food didn't bother him. My Gravad Lox was great - it was melt-in-your-mouth slightly salty flavor with a hint of fish taste - and the dill mustard that went with it was wonderful as well. I also stole one meatball from the Meatball Plate. By itself, it was very good - tender and tasty. Adding the cream sauce made it even better and then adding the lingonberry sauce to that was great - the tangy fruit really complementing the meat and cream sauceIKEA Daim cake. Our one gripe was the temperature of everything on the meatball plate - it was all lukewarm - it would have been better hotter. My Daim cake for dessert was extremely sweet and rich. The cake itself was in very thin layers and was very light but the chocolate candy topping really put it over the top. At one point I picked off the topping and ate the rest of the cake underneath. Of course, that didn't stop me from eating the Daim candy that came with it - yummy chocolate toffee goodness, but in a small, palatable size.

Once you are done at the IKEA restaurant, you bus your own tables, bringing the trays up to a cart with your dirty plates on it. Signs all around say it is to keep the prices down - and really, it is nothing more than you would do at a fast food restaurant but now you are putting away real plates and utensils. I look forward to checking out the Orlando IKEA store when it rolls into town and trying some of the other menu items - and getting some more Gravad Lox!

Monday, July 02, 2007

Rita's Water Ice Coming Soon to Hunter's Creek!

I am so excited! I just found out from a friend that a Rita's Water Ice location is coming to Orlando in the Hunter's Creek area (according to the Rita's website: 13651 Hunter's Oak Drive). For those of you who have never heard of Rita's - or water ice for that matter - they are a franchise in the Northeast that sells a product similar to Italian ices, and frozen custards. I first discovered Rita's on our bi-annual family summer trip to Ocean City, NJ. Ocean City has a very fun, very family-friendly boardwalk that runs for several miles along the Atlantic Ocean. The boardwalk is lined with tons of beachwear shops, arcades, old-fashioned amusement parks, miniature golf courses, as well as summer eateries serving all manner of shore-like foods such as salt water taffy, NY-style pizza, hot dogs... and water ice. After trying a few ices myself, I determined my favorite to be Rita's, especially the cherry flavor. On a hot summer day, nothing beats a cool cherry water ice with its smooth sweetness and little bits of maraschino cherry mixed in - yummy! I can't wait for them to open -- see you there!

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