Hours: 10:30am-10pm Monday-Friday, 9am-10pm Saturday, 9am-4pm Sunday
You'd hope that the wave of high-rise development in downtown Orlando would eventually give rise to cuisine equally as lofty. After all, when it comes to downtown dining, there's nowhere to go but up. Enter real estate developer Steve Kodsi. The condo mogul responsible for the Sanctuary just south of Lake Eola and the Star Tower under construction nearby is trying to make a difference while forging new ground in the contemporary landscape of condo dining.
The Sanctuary is home to the swanky Beacon cocktail lounge, the soon-to-open Graze restaurant and this pastry shop/cafÃ©, named after Kodsi's mother, who, I'm told, hates to be called 'Fifi.â?�
'Foo-fooâ?� may be a more apropos moniker, as a pink hue imbues the dining space, which can best be described as cute. A trio of butterfly hearts by local artist Donna Dowless graces one wall, a series of 14 puckered lips smooches another, and mosaic tile columns bisect the room. Snowflake chandeliers dangle over diners who pack the place on weekends for breakfast. It was so packed, in fact, that I chose to take a seat outside on a chilly, though thankfully snowless, Sunday morning.
The construction site across the street made for a less-than-appealing view, and the sight of the French rolled omelet ($8) wasn't much better. The whipped eggs looked a tad Spartan on the oversized dish that came with nary a croissant, biscuit or potato. But the cylinder stuffed with herb-seasoned duck confit was wonderfully flavorful, with the goat cheese providing a nice finish. The three slabs of vanilla-cinnamon French toast ($6) were expectedly eggy, and serving them with real Vermont maple syrup was a triumph. Charging $3 for orange juice in Florida, however, was absolutely criminal, but at least it was fresh-squeezed. Weekend mornings are bustling, so don't expect your cup of Illy-brewed coffee to be refilled in a timely manner.
If you're a late riser, the dinner menu has a selection of breakfast items, including steak and eggs ($15), comprising two medallions of New York strip steak, two eggs any way you want 'em and grilled tomato slices. Nothing spectacular, though fulfilling enough. The potato and beer soup ($3), a special for the night, was pleasantly light and refreshing. My only complaint was that it was served in a bowl the size of a butter dish. I also liked the French onion soup ($5), liberally laden with bubbling GruyÃ¨re cheese croutons.
Shucksters will revel in the mussels meuniÃ¨re ($10), a plate of about 20 plump and mildly sweet bivalves treading in a creamy white wine sauce spruced up with fresh thyme. The meaty shank of the lamb osso buco ($19) yielded plenty of perfectly braised flesh, and the side of glazed snow peas had me craving more. Pass on the sodden chicken, brie and asparagus crepe ($9).
Don't feel compelled to order one of the plated desserts listed on the menu, though if you must, the triple chocolate sponge cake and tiramisu (each $7.75) will please pedestrian palates. Instead, head over to the display case and enjoy a sampling of the daily changing sweets whipped up by the cadre of in-house patissiers. The Nutella-strawberry Bavarian ($4.50) was the rich and creamy converse to the light and subtly flavored strawberry mousse crunch ($3.25), though the bottom layer of dark chocolate and peanuts was a little hard. The chocolate croissant ($2.50) is magnifique with an aprÃ¨s-dinner coffee, though I was sorely disappointed by the lack of crema atop my double espresso ($3.75).
Serving sizes may be disproportionate to the swelled pockets of Fifi's clientele, but Kodsi's, nevertheless, got a good thing going. And given the pell-mell of construction in the area, it's a welcome sight.
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