Sunday, September 20, 2009

Restaurant Review - Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, 8031 Turkey Lake Road, Orlando, FL

A slice of Anthony's Coal Fired PizzaRecently opened, in the Whole Foods shopping center at the intersection of Turkey Lake Road and Sand Lake Road, is Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza, a pizza chain started in South Florida. The inside of the restaurant is very open, with walls covered with black & white and color photographs of NY icons, and a few wide-screen TVs.

The menu is limited with just pizzas, a few side orders, grilled wings, and one dessert, NY-style cheesecake naturally, although there Bottled drinks onlyare some other sandwich and salad items available for lunch that are not on the main menu. There is no kids menu but you generally don't need one for a pizza place as everyone can dig into a pie. When the server came to get our drink order, we found out something interesting. Anthony's only serves bottled drinks (there is no soda fountain, although you can get wine by the glass). Since it was just me and my boys, we ordered two sweetened Gold Peak Tea bottles ($2.50), and one Minute Maid Lemonade ($2.50). There are also sodas available and unsweet tea. The Gold Peak teas were 16.9 oz bottles and the Lemonade was 20 oz which allowed for about a glass and a half each. The only problem was telling my kids to make it last as there are no free refills.

Pizza prices are pretty reasonable with a small 12" starting at $11.50 and a large 16" starting at $14.50. Toppings for the small start at $1.50 and for the large at $2.50, but there is a volume discount -- the more toppings, the less per each you pay. Toppings available are Italian sausage, fresh mushrooms, Calamata olives (yep, not just your regular black olives), prosciutto, Long Hot Finger Peppers (um, not exactly sure what these are), anchovies, onions, pepperoni, or sweet peppers. There are also Specialty pizzas for $15.95 for a small and $18.95 for a large. These looked very interesting such as the Meatball & Ricotta, the Frittata (Onion, pepper, and egg), Eggplant Marino, and more. For this visit, we ordered a large with 1/2 cheese and 1/2 mushrooms and olives ($17.00). We also order the Fresh Mozzarella and Tomato Salad to start ($6.25).

Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella SaladOur salad arrived, with four large slices of deep red tomato, topped with thick slices of fresh mozzarella, many strands of basil, olive oil and a bit of balsamic vinegar. In the center was piled a mound of sweet peppers. BB and I each had two of the tomato stacks. The tomatoes were cold and fresh and the mozzarella was creamy, plus there was plenty of basil for each piece. We left the sweet peppers alone as we both aren't fans. Another side dish is the grilled chicken wings. We didn't order it but saw a plate of them pass by. It looked like a huge portion of grilled wings, settled on slices of foccacia bread and them completely covered with grilled onions. That doesn't really appeal to me, but it might to you!

As soon as we were done with the tomatoes, the pizza came out. Our half cheese and half mushroom/olive pizzaAs their motto implies, the pizza at Anthony's was definitely "well-done" which also means that the edges and bottom of the pie can look a bit charred. That was not a good thing for LB who instantly balked at eating the pizza. I had to cajole him into eating it. Of course, he just wanted the cheese. Unfortunately, the cheese had large "holes" of just sauce that he didn't like either. Oh, the curse of a picky eater!

BB and I loved the pizza. It has a sweet sauce that was more pronounced with the plain cheese side. The crust is a bread-like consistency, not doughy at all. The mushrooms were piled on generously although we were a little disappointed with the amount of olives. I know that Kalamata (on the menu they were spelled "Calamata) olives are typically a lot stronger in taste and a bit salty; maybe that is why there was only a sprinkling of finely chopped olives on the pie? Just wish there was more.

Between the three of us, we ate all but slices, which we took home to Hubby. I'll definitely be back, and I'm sure BB will want to come as well. We'll probably have to leave LB at home with Hubby, though.

Anthony's Coal Fired Pizza website:

Monday, September 07, 2009

Restaurant Review - Zen, Omni Orlando Resort, 1500 Masters Blvd, ChampionsGate, FL

Zen inside the OmniFor a fun adult night out with friends, Hubby and I like to go to Zen, a Chinese restaurant located inside the Omni Resort at ChampionsGate. What makes this different than other Chinese restaurants, beside its upscale location and decor, is the "Zen Experience." The Zen Experience is an all-you-can-eat extravaganza served from a special menu at Zen. For $46 per person (another reason we don't go with the kids), you basically choose whatever and how much you want of the selected dishes on the menu and the kitchen keeps bringing them out to you. Kind of like tapas or dim sum, but one price for all. There are lots of selections on the menu including soups, appetizers, entrees, and side dishes (desserts are a separate price). For this visit, we dined with another couple.

To start, we ordered a bottle of sake ($27), cold, and three of our party ordered hot jasmine tea while Hubby ordered an iced tea.

I was used to cold sake being served in wine glasses so I was surprised when we were each given the tiny hot sake cups and the whole bottle in a cooler to the side of our table (like you would see done with a bottle of wine). It made it a little difficult to pour more sake into our cups since the bottle is similar in size to a wine bottle. Also, the jasmine tea was served individually as well with each of us getting our own small pot. Zen uses whole leaves for the tea and leaves them in a basket in the tea pots, so here's a tip: jasmine tea leaves have a tendency to turn bitter if left in the water too long. I took my filter of tea leaves out after a few minutes and that stopped my whole pot from turning bitter.

Our server told us that the soups on the menu were served in bowls individually but everything elSake, tea, and a selection of appetizersse was served in a platter for the table. Hubby and my friend ordered the corn Shrimp Toast!chowder, her husband ordered the wonton soup (which, strangely, is not listed on the special menu but we were able to get it), and I had the hot & sour soup. All the soups were good but we were eager to more on to the rest of the menu. We then ordered five (of the eight available) appetizers for our table -- Sesame Shrimp Toast, Salt & Pepper Calamari with spicy mayo, Hunan Dumplings with peanut sauce, Crispy Scallops which were pounded flat into circle shapes and then deep fried, and Sweet Potato Tempura which turned out to be small rectangular pockets of the potatoes. The appetizers arrived with three sauces on the side -- a duck sauce, spicy mayo, and a plum sauce. Our favorite was the shrimp toast which was greasy, but good. It was pounded out shrimp, with a crispy wrapper, covered with sesame seeds, and cut into triangles.

Black Pepper Shrimp and Crispy SpinachFrom the 10 entrees listed, we ordered the Stir Fry Lobster with Ginger Sauce, witStir Fry Lobster with Ginger Sauceh large chunks of lobster in a clear sauce, with lots of green onions; the Stir Fry Beef with onions, tasty and very tender; and Black Pepper Shrimp with fried spinach - the shrimp were too peppery for me but I loved the spinach. The leaves were crispy and almost translucent and the leaves just melted on your tongue. We also ordered the Sweet and Sour Pork with large chunks of pineapples and peppers. Then we ordered side dishes of Vegetable Fried Rice, Szechuan Green Beans which turned out to not be hot at all, and Singapore Noodles which were curry but not too much, with big shrimp mixed in.

After we had polished off all that, we went back and ordered another shrimp toast, the Zen beef -- exceptional, not spicy, full of flavor and tender as well, a side of Sauteed Asparagus which tasted a little smokey, and another Stir Fry Lobster (can you tell that was our favorite entree?).

For deSelection of options of the Zen Experiencessert (not included in the Zen Experience), we chosBanana Zangoese the Banana Zangoes ($8), two tubes of banana cheesecake wrapped in egg roll paper and deep fried, and sitting on chocolate mousse, whipped cream, and a honey-like sweet sauce. Even though we though we were full, we ordered another one so we each got a tube. It was delicious and not as heavy as I thought it would be, though definitely rich.

Our dinner ended up being a three-hour meal but we were also in no rush. All in all, a great evening out.

Zen website: click here

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