Acting on a tip from Mark Tudor, one of the founding members of the Heathrow Wine Society, we had dinner last night at F&D Kitchen and Bar, a Gastropub located in the Pelloni Plaza at International Parkway and 46A in Lake Mary/Heathrow. The restaurant is on the western side of the plaza in the space which was home to a number of previous restaurants -- some exhibiting great promise -- which all met a similar fate. Based on last night's experience, this one could be different. I hope.
It was raining when we arrived so the external picture was taken upon our departure.
The initial sensation, in stepping into the restaurant, is a pleasing one. The setup is an open plan so you have a view of all aspects of the facility with a single sweeping glance. The reception station is directly to your right as you step in and is separated from the main dining area by some shelving. There is a bar area to the left with a bar as well as a set of high tops. The dining room itself has substantial seating on the left and right sides of the room and two-seaters in a middle column. The kitchen is to the north of the dining room, separated from it by a see-through wall and a passageway used by the staff to move orders from to the dining room. At the time of our arrival, both the bar and the dining room were full and humming.
The wait staff were dressed casually but that was in no way a reflection on their professionalism. Our server came over shortly after we were seated and enquired after our needs. I told him that I had brought some wine and could I get some red wine glasses. He immediately got the glasses and brought them over to the table and volunteered to open my wine. His pour was a little heavy but he got the message early and was flawless for the remainder of the night.
Mark had given us the name of the owner so we asked the server for him. The server promptly brought him over. During our conversation he revealed that he owned the restaurant in partnership with his father. His father was the wine guy, he said, so he would have him come over and chat with us.
In the meantime I had been perusing the menu. It was non-complex. The food was on one side and the drinks on the other. The complete food menu consisted of 11 appetizers (Social Eats in their parlance), three salads, nine entrees, seven sides, and three desserts. There was something in there for everyone. I am not a beer guy so I cannot assess the offerings. The wine list was domestic (with the exception of a Whitehaven SB) and would not be displeasing to the general customer. Pricing, at both the by-the-glass and bottle levels, was fair.
Parlo and I both opted for the Skillet Seared Rock Shrimp as an appetizer and we were ecstatic with our choice. The healthy portion of shrimp was succulent, with the garlic butter, herbs, and spices used in its preparation very evident. The sauce at the bottom of the container kept begging for the bread to be dipped therein. Alas, the slices were too thin to function thusly. Order this appetizer if you visit. I paired this meal with a 1997 Nikolaihof Vinothek Reisling. Heavenly.
By this time the "Dad Owner" had arrived and I poured him a glass of the Vinothek. His name is Charly Robinson and he had just moved back to Florida from California to open the restaurant. He had previously opened Rain Forest Cafe and a number of other restaurants on the Disney property here in Orlando before selling and moving out to California. He had been considering moving back to Orlando when someone mentioned this property. He came, he saw, he liked. And the rest is history.
They have only been open a week, he said, and they have done no advertising to date. The restaurant draws inspiration from the farm-to-table concept that is all the rage and proudly touts both the freshness of its fare and its partnerships with local farms.
They are not going to be doing lunch for the time being as they are currently focused on getting dinner right. They are going to be opening the patio in the back for dinner in the near future and will be putting outside seating along the south wall of the restaurant. In the future they will be changing the menu weekly and, eventually, on a daily basis. They will be doing Saturday and Sunday brunches soon, as well as a Sunday evening "supper." Live music will be a feature in the near-term. He is especially proud of their Executive Chef Pete Morales, who they were lucky enough to lure away from Yardbird in South Beach.
For our main course, Parlo ordered the Cast Iron Seared 1/2 Chicken which was accomapnied by Herb Whipped Potatos, Roasted Brussels, and Chicken Jus. I ordered the Beef Short Rib (Red Wine Glaze, Root Vegetable Mash, Mushroom Conserva). For this course I opened a bottle of 1995 Leoville-Poyferre. The chicken was to die for. Flavorful and succulent,. Order this if you go in. The Short Rib had just a touch too much salt and fat for my liking but I am willing to cut them some first-week slack on this one. Everything else was just way too good for this to be anything but an aberration.
All in all we enjoyed the evening immensely. Great atmosphere. Close to home. We loved the food (with one hiccup). Great service. We love the owners and staff. And absolutely loved the value exhibited in the final bill. I recommend this place.
©Wine -- Mise en abyme