Friday, February 22, 2008

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

I had eaten at Roy's for dinner before with one of my girlfriends for a night out and with my husband for our wedding anniversary, however, tonight I was on a date with someone else... my 8-year-old son. I decided we needed some talk time away from his little brother who has been monopolizing my time lately. I called ahead to make reservations and said that I was going to be on a "date night" with my child. We received an aloha greeting at the podium and then we were promptly escorted to our table. There was a sprinkle of curling ribbon at our table to signify the special occasion, which was a nice touch.

There are several seating areas at Roy's and each one has a different mood. When I dined at Roy's for our anniversary, my husband and I were seated in the much quieter front room. I would highly recommend requesting this room if you would like to have a romantic dinner. When I ate with my friend, we asked for the sushi bar area which is great for friends as you will be seated with other diners, either at the sushi bar itself, where you can watch the chefs at work in the open kitchen, or at a large family-style table in the bar area. Then there is the main room which, I think, is the place to sit with children. It has enough noise that your children will just blend in, yet you can still hear each other at the table.

As soon as we sat down, a server brought us Roy's seasoned edemame as a complementary appetizer. A little too spicy for my son, but he enjoyed the soy beans after he flicked off the spices.

My son ordered off of the Keiki's (children's) menu - a sort of prix fixe menu for kids. For $12, children receive an appetizer of cheese quesadillas and vegetable crudites (a fancy word for some carrot and celery sticks) with ranch dressing, a choice of entrees, as well as a sundae for dessertKid's appetizer. Kid's entree choices range from buttered pasta or crispy chicken and fries, to short ribs, salmon, or even a children's sushi entree. My son decided on the short ribs, which is a smaller version of the adult entree.

I decided to order off the regular menu versus the relative bargain of the prix fixe adult menu. If you are eating at Roy's for the first time, or if you have a limited budget, I highly recommend the seasonal prix fixe dinner. For $35, you have a choice of one each of selected appetizers, entrees and desserts. Everything on the regular menu sounded good to me so I asked our server for her recommendations. She recommended the Island Style Ahi Poke Island Style Ahi Pokeappetizer ($13) and the Pesto Seared Opakapaka (Hawaiian Pink Snapper) for an entree ($34). I went with both suggestions and was glad I did. The poke tuna salad had sushi grade cubes of tuna surrounding a mound of sticky rice and covered with mixed greens topped with an Asian vinaigrette and slices of pickled ginger. As I dug down to the bottom, the sticky rice had a brown sauce on it that I could not place. I asked our server about it and she very knowledgeably told me it was made with kukui nutPesto Seared Opakapakas, sometimes called a candlenut, which are also used in Hawaiian ceremonies to make bracelets and leis. In Hawaii they are roasted and made into the condiment called inamona, which I then remembered seeing on the menu as part of the appetizer. The whole dish was very complex with lots of flavor layers. I found my main dish to be the same way. I had originally wanted to try the butterfish as I had eyed it on my last trip to Roy's but the new Opakapaka entree looked very intriguing. Topped with a pesto sauce, it was served with a buttery burgundy cream sauce and accompanied by potato and chive "raviolis" and carrots and leeks. My son tried the raviolis and said they tasted like his grandmother's pierogies and I realized he was correct as it was the same concept. However, the pasta for these raviolis was very light, almost translucent so that all you tasted was the potatoes and chives. The fish had taste of Italy due to the pesto sauce and also came with slightly spicy finely diced tomatoes on top.
Kid's Short Ribs entree
My son's short ribs were so extremely tender that the meat just pulled apart with a fork. It had a slightly mustard taste and was served with wonderfully flavorful mashed potatoes, asparagus (which he didn't touch - pretty much the only vegetable he doesn't eat) as well as squash and other vegetables (he ate all those).

Special Chocolate SouffleSince I had requested a "date night with your child" dinner, our server told us we were going to receive the chocolate souffle for dessert, compliments of the restaurant. The chocolate souffle was served with a molten hot chocolate lava flow in the center that oozed out when the outer cake layer was cut open. It was served with a raspberry sauce swirl that ended with two actual raspberries hidden in the large scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Most special was the chocolate writing that said "Aloha to mom and [my son's name]" -- awwww.

The service was absolutely impeccable. As soon as we were done with a dish, someone came to take it away. Plus, all of the servers and managers made it a point to come by our table and talk about our special dinner. They couldn't have treated us more nicely. From the Aloha's at the door to the Mahalos when we were leaving, we were treated as treasured guests through our meal experience. It was a very enjoyable evening that I'm sure my son and I will remember for a long time to come.

Roy's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Restaurant Review - IKEA Orlando, 4092 Eastgate Drive, Mall of Millenia area, Orlando, FL

IKEA OrlandoAs promised, I visited the recently opened IKEA store in Orlando to check out their restaurant and food. Oh, and their furniture and stuff, too. I had tried the IKEA restaurant in NJ so I was eager to see how the Orlando store compared.

First of all, I was pleased to see that the Smaland (kid's supervised play area) in Orlando was bigger and accepted children between 37" - 54" in height. This had been a problem at the NJ IKEA because my older son was too tall. Here, both boys were able to go inside. There is a comfy TV area where the kids watched Spongebob and then Meet the Robinsons, a rock climbing wall, a ball pit with fun activities like trying to get the balls into cuckcoo clocks, and an art area where kids can draw. You sign the kids in and you have a pager so the counselors can reach you. When I went, we could only leave the kids for 60 minutes (and since IKEA is so big that meant we only did one floor). I don't know if that is variable depending on the day you go.

Once we picked the kids up, we headed to the restaurant on the second floor. On weekends, there can be a pretty long line at the cafeteria but it tends to move quickly. I saw that the OLB loved pushing the tray cartrlando IKEA didn't have kid-sized trays like the NJ one did but we did pick up a fun "tray shopping cart" that LB was very excited to push through the line. It is a wheeled cart that holds three trays on it and it was very helpful so the kids didn't have to carry their trays themselves. The first thing you reach in the food line is the refrigerated cases with the desserts inside. Since both boys said they wanted the 99 cent Macaroni and Cheese for lunch, I figured I could splurge on dessert so said okay when they both asked for their own Daim cake ($1.79) which is like a toffee cake with a Swedish toffee candy included. Oh, and I got an Almond cake ($1.29) for myself. Grandma and Grandpa decided to split a Swedish Apple cake ($2.29).

Entrees range from $2 - $6 and include ham and cheese sandwich, chicken caesar salad, chicken marsala, Swedish meatballs, and salmon. The kids' menu consists of PB&J with a fruit cup and drink ($1.99), five Swedish meatballs with fries or potatoes and a drink ($1.99), or the 99 cent mac-n-cheese with a drink. Note that the PB&J kids meal is entirely pre-packaged - the sandwich is like an Uncrustable and the fruit cup is canned fruit. I grabbed the Gravad Lax (smoked salmon slices with a salad) for $4.99 and Grandma and Grandpa decided to share the 15 Swedish meatballs plate ($4.99). I grabbed glasses for the drinks for all of us -- turned out that I could have asked the cashier for plastic cups for the kids. I ended up going back after we sat down when I saw another table with the plastic cups. One strange thing, there are no straws available. My kids did okay with the plastic cups but you may want to bring your own straws if your kids are not ready for drinking from a cup yet.

Plastic utensils and microwave availableI drank the lingonberry juice available at the fountain Kid's dining areasince they don't have iced tea while BB had Pepsi and LB had water. There is also milk and orange juice and even baby food for sale if you forgot to bring any. In the dining area, there is a kids' eating area with a TV playing videos, some toys and blocks, and small tables for them to eat at. There is also a "family convenience center" that has plastic utensils and bibs for the kids as well as a microwave in case you want to heat up the baby food.

My Gravad Lax ($4.99) had more pieces and was thicker than what I remembered at the NJ store, but I didn't like the sauce - seemed like just regular mustard with dill mixed in and wasn't light enough to accompany the fish well. Most pieces of the Gravad Lax were pink and tender and melted in your mouth. One piece was tough and seemed like it would be chewy so Gravad Lax - smoked salmonI passed. I picked up that piece and saw it was brown on the bottom - maybe the skin? Grandpa said last time he came, almost all of his pieces were like that so he was very disappointed with the quality of the salmon. I was full at this point so didn't mind - I didn't even eat the mixed greens salad that comes with the dish because I knew I still had to eat the Almond cake. Both boys' Mac-n-cheese was real macaroni not the slender noodles characteristic of the Kraft version. They ate almost all of their portions. Grandma and Grandpa were very happy with the meatballs.

Almond cake in front, Daim cake with candy in backTime for dessert! My almond cake was loaded with slivers of blanched almonds and was light, not too rich at all. Grandma really liked the apple cake with the fresh apple taste. It came Swedish apple cake with vanilla saucewith a vanilla sauce and is served cold. I wished it was served warm because I think that would complement the cinamon and spices better (but I am a sucker for apple pie a la mode with a warm pie). Both kids started in on their Daim cakes - BB ate most of his while LB just ate the candy that came with it because he said the cake was too "crunchy". Oh well, I'll know not to get the whole cake next time and just buy the candy in the Swedish food marketplace.

Of course, almost anything in the restaurant was available for sale in the store, from the utensils, to the tables and chairs, to the glasses and plates and even the food. The Swedish food marketplace is right past the check-out counters and I picked up a bag of the frozen Swedish meatballs to make for dinner later that week.

Breakfast at IKEA:
IKEA also offers breakfast in the mornings, starting a half hour before the store opens. I arrived right at 9:30 am, when just the restaurant was open, and found out that IKEA offers free coffee before 10 am everyday.

Breakfast items are limited, there is the regular breakfast for $1.99 which is scrambled eggs, potatoes, two slices of bacon, and three french toast sticks. The small breakfast for 99 cents is the same thing, minus the french toast sticks. This is still cafeteria style so all the food is made in advance -- no special orders that I could tell. Also on the menu is a cinnamon bun for $1 and Swedish Pancakes for $1.99. I also saw bagels but no price by them. I ordered the Swedish pancakes and the small breakfast and picked up a coffee for free (normally 50 cents, still a great bargain). So, all together, my breakfast came to $3.17, including tax. Take that Denny's!

All this for $3.17!Everything was a large portion and the scrambled eggs were nice and fluffy. My only complaint was the bacon - I prefeSwedish pancakes with lingonberry saucer extra crispy and this was not. The Swedish pancakes are really three crepes, folded into fourths, and then accompanied by a large scoop of lingonberry sauce. Again, I could tell these were not freshly made to order and had been sitting for awhile. The crepes were a little thicker than I expected and had a slight eggy taste but were pretty good, especially with the lingonberry sauce. All in all, a great value for a good breakfast.

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