Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Siro Urban Italian Kitchen Orlando Review: Disney area's best Italian with a modern twist

Did you know that Orlando is home to the biggest Marriott in the world? It's true. And it's big!

The Orlando World Center Marriott Resort & Convention Center, at 8701 World Center Drive (International Drive extension), near the Disney World Resort, boasts 28 floors, 2,004 rooms, a 38,000-square-foot, nine-story atrium, the largest "pillar free" ballroom in the world, and 450,000 square feet of total meeting space. The giant hotel has six swimming pools (one that is the largest in Florida), a 18-hole golf course, and, most importantly, 10 restaurants and lounges.

There's Hawk's Landing Steakhouse & Grille, Mikado Japanese Steak House, High Velocity Sports Bar, Solaris Restaurant, a Food Court, and even a Starbucks in the lobby. A great variety of dining spots for the thousands who stay and convene on the property daily.

I was recently invited to come out for a tour and sample the menu at the newest restaurant on property: Siro Urban Italian Kitchen.

Right off the gigantic lobby, in the heart of the hotel, I found the atmosphere at Siro to be of the industrial modern house of design, yet charming, the service to be attentive and knowledgeable, and the food to be an incredible blend of old-world recipes and modern cooking techniques and presentation -- all of it geared toward today's palate and expectations.

The Orlando World Center Marriott is a big deal in the tourism and convention business, and Siro Urban Italian Kitchen is a big deal on the Orlando dining scene.

My guest and I started off with the Toscana Board, a spread of bread sticks, fenel-laced Finocchiona salami, sheep's milk Pecorino Toscano cheese and tender, aged-beef Bresaola, served with pork roast almonds and a mixed bowl of olives ($12). I simply loved the dish of roasted almonds and bites of pork. I could snack on it all day.

Next up was some of the best-tasting bread I've ever tried -- an airy loaf of sliced Focacia Bread baked with a generous serving of olive oil. How can bread with this much olive oil in it taste so light? What might be served at the start of a meal to tempt your appetite before service at other restaurants, I confess that I nibbled on the loaf throughout all the courses. I couldn't put it down.

At this point I should mention that I decided to forgo the typical glass of Pinot or Chianti I usually get with an Italian meal and, instead, opted for one of the hand-crafted cocktails I saw on the menu. My Sicilian Mule ($14), served in an aluminum mug, was cool and refreshing with Russian Standard vodka, blood orange juice, a lime squeeze or two and mixed with Fever Tree ginger beer.

My guest's Smokey Salute ($14) was not my cup of tea, or my kind of cocktail -- definitely an acquired taste -- with the predominant flavor of smoke and a dash of sriracha and red peppers. That's weird in a drink, but adventurous if it's your kind of thing, and set the right note for the modern, trendy theme of the restaurant.

Our next plate was a simple one, but one that blew me away. The fresh-picked, organic, grown locally and hydroponically Ripe Tomatoes ($8) were served with a Ricotta salata and a little basil and mint. These heirloom beauties were a highlight of the evening. There's nothing like the ripe, sweet taste of farm to table tomatoes -- simply beautiful, and usually underappreciated.

The best dish of the evening was, by far, the Roasted Marrow Bones ($11) with Agrodolce onions, parsley and grilled toast. These bones might just be my new favorite thing to eat in all of Orlando.

Executive Chef Anthony Burdo, and the culinary team at Siro, have created a simple masterpiece. The single bone, sliced accurately and beautifully down the center, revealed a butter-like, sweet, earthy trough of divine marrow. Spread on toast, with a garnish of onions, each bite tenderly melted in the mouth. Lips glazed, I smiled brightly after each tasting. If you decide to try Siro, for no other reason than this dish, get in your car and drive here right now. These bones must not be missed.

And food kept coming. We sampled Burdo's Famous Veal Meatballs Pomodoro ($11) which were fantastic and also the Golden Beets ($8) which were served with pistachio and goat cheese. I've never been a big beet fan, but these were wonderful.

For another main course, we went seaside for the Pinot grigio steamed North Atlantic Mussels ($12). Another dish, and another hit out of the ballpark. The mussels were perfectly steamed, tender, and dripping in a fabulous wine sauce that I asked to be left on the table so we could tip our bread into it. Just when I thought the bread couldn't get any better, I discovered this sauce for dipping.

We told our server we couldn't eat any more, so she brought us a pizza we had to try. A pizza? I couldn't eat another bite until I saw this creation. Hand tossed, with Mascarpone cheese, house-ground sausage, Capicola, Supressa and an amazing Calibri sauce, the Pizzatarian ($14) had to be eaten -- one slice at least -- with the rest for lunch tomorrow.

What's this? A burger? More food? What is Siro trying to do to us? If it's one thing I love, it's a burger, so I just had to take a bite. Make that two. Okay, three.

The Burger ($17) is quite pricy, but I'd have to say worth it. With a giant patty of 100% ground chuck, caramelized onions, on a house-made bun with crisp pancetta and a side of house-made pickles (yes, they make them in house) and house-made ketchup and mayo (I'll be damned if they don't make the ketchup and mayo from scratch too), this might be a candidate for the best burger in Orlando.

Well, since I've gained 10 pounds at one dinner, why not have dessert?

The sugar coated Zeppoli ($6) was a fun little brown bag of Italian-style donuts, and Ramon's Cookie Jar ($8) was just as cute, as the cookies came to the table in tiny cookie jar. But the Panna Cotta ($6) was my favorite, and the Sorbetto with Pizzelle ($6) a close second.

I just can't say enough about how much I enjoyed my meal at Siro. But let me not fail to mention our server, Lauren, who was a delight and walked us through the menu with her superior knowledge of modern Italian cuisine. You'd have thought she'd worked there for years, but the restaurant just opened a few weeks ago. It's obvious attention to detail is as important to the wait staff as it is to the kitchen staff. It's a pleasure to be able to say that about a new restaurant in Orlando, and one in a mega-hotel on top of that. Bravo Siro.

5 Deliziosos out of 5

Note: I dined compliments of Siro.

Siro: Urban Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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