The name of this Thornton Park/South Eola restaurant makes vague reference to the unusual collection of dishes it offers, not so much the oddball patronage it sometimes draws. Owners Brian Buttner and Jonathan Canonaco, who operate the well-received Stubborn Mule across the street, took over the old NoLa-inspired Muddy Waters space and transformed it into a trendy, see-and-be-seen sort of joint. Smoked duck wings, caramel-lacquered Asian pork spears and vegan pate don’t exactly scream “eclectic” but, hey, what trendoids want, trendoids get.
Fine dining and Disney haven’t always gone hand-in-hand; the first restaurant you might associate with Mickey Mouse and co probably has a giant yellow ‘M’ towering above it or a certain Colonel Sanders plastered on a billboard outside. Victoria & Albert’s, however, flips this now out-of-date stereotype on its head, offering the polar opposite of the old-school Disney fast food joint. This is the sort of place where reservations need to be made weeks in advance, you won’t get in without a dinner jacket, and six or more courses from their modern American/French-inspired menu (with wine pairing) will probably set you back the price of a couple of tickets into the park for the day. Orlando is not yet on the Michelin team’s radar, but Victoria & Albert’s has long been recognized as one of Florida’s best restaurants, having been awarded the prestigious AAA Five Diamond award every year since 2000. Read More...
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It's all those things people love to read: AAA Four-Diamond, award-winning, all that, but more importantly The Venetian Chop House affords diners a sumptuous evening of fine dining. With steaks and entrees that range from $32-59, you will pay for it, but the service, the detail and the food are truly exceptional. Creamy lobster bisque with chunks of tender meat lie in wait beneath a layer of flaky, buttery puff pastry, flavorful, slow-braised bison short ribs satisfy the heartiest of appetites, but if you're splurging on the luxury of the Venetian Room, you have to save room for its always-creative dessert selections. Ooh la la.
When I visit Armenteros at the shop in Princeton, he guides me into the humidor, amid shelves of boxes and hundreds of cigars. “The most fulfilling, exciting thing we do,” he says, “is when you take a customer to another level. When you open up their enjoyment. That’s the greatest thing a tobacconist, or any sommelier, can do.” He talks excitedly about the differences among Nicaraguan, Dominican and Cuban tobacco, wrappers grown in Connecticut or Ecuador, the size or “ring gauge,” from skinny lancero to coronas to robustos to thick Churchills. A Padrón cigar, from Nicaragua, “is a steak, a wagyu.” Meanwhile, another cigar from the Dominican Republic “is like fish. It’s an elegant, delicate cigar.” We compare what spirits to pair with cigars, and both of us agree that describing flavors is not easy. “Not just in cigars,” he says, “but in any world of organoleptic delicacies.” He points to some cigars he’s been aging for close to a decade. I ask if cigars can age like wine. “F— yeah,” he says.