Food & Drink » Restaurant Review

With an eclectic menu, the Menagerie in downtown Orlando doesn't take itself too seriously

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Jonathan Canonaco and Brian Buttner, the new sultans of South Eola, are packing them into their well-received, perpetually poppin' and very gastropubby Stubborn Mule, while across the street, liquorists and boozicures seem taken by the chic cocktails at the Broken Cage. Next door to the Broken Cage sits their latest venture – the Menagerie – and by now you're likely sensing an animal theme, though the only animals at this Menagerie, with the exception of the occasional badly behaved bar patron, are dead. And cooked. And delicious. Well, mostly.

Canonaco and Buttner, a couple of serious grads of the Culinary Institute of America, aren't afraid to have a little fun with their so-called "social eatery and cocktail parlor." How else to describe the inclusion of cod crusted in Frosted Flakes ($15)? It's served on a toasted brioche bun with a schmear of Tiger Sauce blended with cucumber mayo and pickled peppers. But the Frosted Flakes? They're GRRReat!, claims the menu, and we really couldn't disagree.

The lobster roll ($17) on the other hand, well ... I mistook the lobster for tuna fish. It's not a meaty, chunky number like the lobster rolls served at Lombardi's, Monsta Lobsta or Bad As's and, subsequently, not anywhere near as gratifying. In fact, we found more pleasure in the side of seasoned zucchini fries.

The "Show Starters" are bona fide bar food, like the Taiwanese Night Market chicken ($8) – think popcorn chicken served with a garlic sambal sauce and fried basil – and the curry tempura cauliflower florets ($7), even if the curry seasoning tasted more like blackening spice. We relished the pisco sour relish, too. Caramel-lacquered Asian pork belly ($8) would've been a hit had it been a bit more melt-in-your-mouth, less chewy.

And by now you're likely sensing a very eclectic and international theme. Yes, the menu is a veritable menagerie, criss-crossing international culinary boundaries with carefree abandon. Fusion? Mmm, not quite, though you will see Spain and Italy get some love in the steak salad ($15) comprising pincho skewers of flank along with Roma tomatoes, roasted cauliflower-cilantro gremolata and crispy capocollo.

Order the half-rack of lamb ($25) and you'll see a little Greece – they're coated in feta cheese – which produced a lot of, umm, grease. Loved the fries that came with it, though – they were proper British chips, which led to improper potato larceny amongst some at the table. Those chips, by the way, would go quite nicely with the cod.

By now, you're likely sensing that the Menagerie doesn't take itself too seriously, and we very much enjoyed the pretense-free aspect to it all. That goes for desserts like the doughnut bread pudding ($8), using nice fat rings from DG Doughnuts, and the cheesecake ($8) with a crust fashioned from – surprise, surprise – animal crackers.

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