Every once in a while, a restaurant comes along that is so special, it causes a seismic shift on the restaurant scene. The whole staff performed such a dazzling job at our dinner at Citricos that it earned my highest recommendation even though dinner for two easily runs more than $100, and from some areas of town, a visit could involve a 45-minute drive. But Citricos is worth the travel and expense.
Part of Citricos intrigue is the setting on the second floor of Disney's Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, a Victorian luxury hotel that evokes Old Florida. While the restaurant's menu upon opening late last year called for a Mediterranean-Florida fusion, the current fare is more southern French, with international influences. The atmosphere has modern sensibilities, with earthy tiles and rich decor. The kitchen is "onstage," so you can watch chefs whip up gourmet creations.
Our waiter guided us through the menu, offering suggestions and tempting descriptions of meats sizzled over oak-mesquite log fires and dishes cooked in the hand-made, iron Chandler oven, acclaimed for bread-baking and slow-roasting excellence. The bread basket got our dinner off to a sensational start. It would be hard to exaggerate how moist and exquisite these breads were. The best were flecked with seaweed and pecans.
Among the appetizers, we preferred a scrumptious ravioli filled with six-hour-braised veal shank ($8), which was buttery tender and smooth. It was wrapped in thin roasted potatoes that were so fine and crisp they resembled phyllo, served with soy glaze. A lighter choice would be the citrus and chicken sausage links, sliced diagonally and served with an intriguing chive-curry-orange vinaigrette, atop a phyllo pastry.
Among the entrees, roasted loin of lamb ($36) is arranged around an incredible Maine lobster ratatouille, with quarters of buerre blanc and spicy cabernet sauce. Another winner is the pork tenderloin ($25), roasted on a rotisserie, served with basil pesto, a spiral cut log of scalloped potatoes, and mixed Mediterranean vegetables.
Desserts include Key lime cheesecake and citrus crè'me brûlée, but we favored the bittersweet chocolate ravioli a crescent of sheer escapism, cradled around a divine scoop of licorice ice cream.
Citricos is worthy of the most special of occasions, or if you're just in the mood for an epicurean indulgence.