After much ballyhoo due to the all-star cast behind it, Orlando's new DoveCote restaurant made its debut on Wednesday. The grand establishment is a 5,000-square-foot brasserie serving Bank of America employees, and the rest of us, all day long.
I wouldn't dare review a restaurant on its third day. That's unprofessional. But I snuck in for a light lunch and here's what I found: a grand, timeless space with a pastry and coffee area, a marble-topped beverage and raw bar, an open kitchen, and several cozyish dining areas, each with its own decor. A blue and yellow mural by local artist Brigan Gresh covers a wall with large arched windows, and a more modest Wedgewood-blue mural adds an antiquey touch on another wall. It's the kind of space in which you'll want to become a regular.
The menu is billed as French-inspired, which allows for all kinds of culinary fun. I ordered a simple Niçoise salad, pictured at the top of this blog post. DoveCote put a creative twist on the bistro classic. The tuna was raw and chopped up, tartare-style. Dots of tapenade and some sort of cream dotted the plate, which had generous portions of pole beans, potatoes (fingerling, I believe), and thinly sliced croutons. There was some minced-up egg, and perhaps a white cheese, too.
I'm most excited about dinner entrees like vermouth-braised veal cheeks, and a mussels-frites combo with chorizo. And maybe that bittersweet chocolate mousse. One might start that dinner with fried frog legs, a warm fish dip with grilled ciabatta bread, or a French onion soup prepared with both oxtail and horseradish. (Do we dare try it?)
Based on the talent behind it, I expect DoveCote to become the restaurant in town for awhile. It's owned by chef Clayton Miller, a one-time Food & Wine magazine Best New Chef; he gave us Orlandoans, if memory serves, five good years as chef de cuisine when Norman's was brand new. His partner is Gene Zimmerman, who helped redefine Orlando's cocktail scene at The Courtesy. James and Julie Petrakis, whose Swine Family restaurants The Ravenous Pig, Cask & Larder, and Swine & Sons are Winter Park headliners, are also involved in some way.
Maybe I'll report back, with opinions, after dinner once the staff has time to settle in.