I knew Bernard Carmouche was one of the two culinarians behind Two Chefs Seafood. He'd made great meals at Emeril's Orlando, in my experience, so I trotted over recently to see what he's doing now that he's untethered from celebity chef Emeril Lagasse.
Beautiful surprise! Two Chefs is humble -- super humble -- but the food is delightful. It's not exotic, it's not uber-creative, it's just straightforward fare prepared exceptionally well.
Two Chefs Seafood is hard to find. It's in the North Quarter district with a pretty sign that's difficult to read. The letters are too curly. Once you figure out that you're in the right place, you can step into the bar or the restaurant. The dining room looks like it might have been a deli in a past life. A diner-like dessert fridge and pizzeria-esque soft drink cooler dot the no-nonsense dining room. The tile floors have a budget feel. And the open kitchen feels happenstance more than designed. To compensate, the restaurateurs put white linens and pretty, tasteful fresh-flower arrangements on each table. I kind of like the lack of pretension. It makes Two Chefs Seafood feel like a find.
Our server was super-friendly but didn't know the menu well. I'm pretty sure he said he hadn't tasted anything on it, although he did know what's "popular." That left The Hub and me to follow our instincts, and that worked out well. All five dishes we sampled were boldly flavored, perfectly prepared renditions of what the menu promised. The portion sizes were modest. Thank goodness! I know most of America disagrees, but I feel quality trumps quantity every time. We did not leave hungry, I promise you. These were rational, fair portion sizes of expertly made foods prepared with top-quality ingredients. As it should be.
You can see our menu from the photos on the blog post. The flavors tend toward New Orleans, but they span the globe. The linguine with clams and pancetta is Italian, for instance. Chef Larry puts his name on a fried chicken entree with homemade pickles. Grilled salmon has an Asian vinaigrette. And so on.
Prices are moderate. Dinner entrees range from $13 to $28, except for one $36 bacon-wrapped filet mignon. Each entree is a full meal with side dishes.
The menu ventures way past seafood. A more accurate name for the restaurant would be Two Chefs Having Fun. It's clear that, released from their corporate duties, Chefs Bernard and Larry are stirring, steaming and saucing with glee. The whole staff has a happy vibe.
The next time you lament your dining choices, "They're all chains! I'm sick of chains!", go feed off Two Chefs' glee. You'll be glad you did.