In the dartboard of Orlando's culinary landscape, Bruno Fonseca has pretty much hit all points in the inner and outer rings. He's taught at Le Cordon Bleu, manned kitchens at better hotel restaurants, operated his own food truck, and was even Jason Chin's executive chef at Osprey Tavern prior to the restaurant's opening.
That experience – the trial and error, the fine-tuning of technique, the limits set on modernist flourishes in favor of approachability – appears to have paid off, and after all the darting about, Fonseca has finally hit the bull's-eye with Millenia 106. The menu – local, seasonal, and peppered with Portuguese and Brazilian flavors – is a pleasingly focused one without extraneous frills: six mains, a handful of starters, a few salads and four pizzas. Oh, and oysters.
As happy hour (4:30-7:30 p.m.) came to a close, we took full advantage of the $1.50 bivalves, ordering crisp, fresh Black Points from Nova Scotia (not Massachusetts, as we were told) and brinier Barnstable Ladies from the Bay State. Of particular note was the watermelon mignonette and Portuguese chili paste served with the oysters. I used that fiery piri-piri as a condiment dip for the $6 happy-hour burger (regularly $13), not that it needed it given the filling of bacon jam, gruyere, tomato confit and aioli. Duxelles, a mix of mushrooms, shallots and herbs, was folded into the beef for added umami. Verdict: huzzah to the burger's smoky essence and wonderfully charred meat! Pffft to the crumbly bun and overly sweet jam. But c'mon, $6? I'm ordering this baby again, fries or no fries.
Torresmo, or fried pork rinds, are a staple snack enjoyed from Sao Paolo to Ipanema Beach, and while they're offered here as a stand-alone app ($8), a trio of still-crackling cracklings also come plated alongside the tuna tartare ($10). Odd pairing aside, Fonseca doesn't hold back with this starter. It's fancy for fancy's sake, with cured egg yolk and preserved lemon grated over a long roll of tartare interspersed with crunchy slices of Clermont radish. Those glorious Aleppo-peppered pork rinds sat in an avocado puree, and I quite liked the wee dabs of spiced watermelon syrup (more please).
But all that intricate work and plating couldn't hold our attention when out came the platter of simply grilled royal red shrimp ($15). These magnificent buggers, served whole, were a pleasure to peel and devour (that piri-piri came in handy again). Portuguese "punched" or murro potatoes, arugula and a thick smear of sofrito rounded out the dish. Equally magnificent was seared golden tile ($22) graced with a fennel-citrus-blueberry salad and served over farro verde with a splash of Aleppo pepper sauce. Unlike the tuna tartare, the fish was the undeniable star of this plate.
A fez cap of dark chocolate cake ($6) surprised us with its blazing-hot center, though I couldn't stop licking the orange-zested Chantilly cream in which it sat. There's a deconstructed cobbler ($6) of Florida strawberries and blueberries with lemon-mascarpone ice cream for those who like their endings even sweeter.
I should mention that prices at Millenia 106 are very reasonable – perhaps beyond reasonable, considering the generous portions of quality and technically proficient fare Fonseca and his team churn out. The restaurant is in one of those spaces, though – a space that's gobbled up and spit out both restaurants who've dared to move in. "I can honestly tell you we cook for the right reasons here," says Fonseca. "We love what we do."
And I can honestly say that I hope it's enough.