Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Living the Island Lifestyle in Orlando at Tommy Bahama Restaurant, a review

Who doesn't love the Tommy Bahama aesthetic? Comfortable. Caribbean. Luxurious. Cool. Exclusive. Well-made. Casual. Expensive.

Defined 20 years ago, with the famous tropical-print silk camp shirt, the Tommy Bahama brand has grown to encompass women's sportswear, home furnishings, watches, rums, fragrances, shoes and even restaurants.

I recently visited Orlando's Tommy Bahama Restaurant at Pointe Orlando to sample their newest menu and live a little bit of the Tommy Bahama island lifestyle -- even if I can't afford the shirts.

The restaurant is attached to a Tommy Bahama store (or is it the other way around?) and features an expansive patio area perfect for being seen living the island lifestyle, and/or people watching. Just inside, a huge, wrap-around bar takes center stage, with the main dining area to your right. The dining room is themed 50s diner with bold neon signage and pink wallpaper. Just kidding. It's themed casual, tropical elegance of course, and features wood paneling, expensive-looking (yet faded oh so perfectly for the faded Caribbean glory look) wallpaper and plantation life prints. There are wicker chairs, rich wood tables and rattan chandeliers above. It pretty much looks like you just stepped into the Tommy Bahama catalog. Do they have a catalog?

My guest and I started with tropical drinks. Duh. I enjoyed a Blood-Orange Margarita ($12) made with Sauza Gold, Solerno Blood Orange Liquerer, fresh blood orange and a house-made sour mix. My guest sipped a Crazy Cuban ($12) cocktail made with Tommy Bahama Golden Sun, Cruzan Coconut, 99 Bananas and pineapple. Delicious!

With drinks in hand, we decided on just tasting a few appetizers to get a feel for the menu. We were offered a plate with a sample portion of Coconut Crusted Crab Cakes ($14.50), Macadamia Nut Encrusted Goat Cheese ($12.50) and World Famous Coconut Shrimp ($16.50).

The plump shrimp were crispy and not as sweet as suspected with a papaya-mango chutney. The accompanying Asian slaw was some of the best I've had in a long while. I could eat a whole bowl of it.

The creamy goat cheese, served with strips of flatbread was a tangy-sweet delight dripping in a sweet soy glaze. The crab cakes were only average. Nice flavor, but there was no crunch or bite to them at all.

Next we sampled two salads and a soup. The Red, White and Blue salad ($8.00) was a portion of hearts of Romaine lettuce topped with tomatoes, onions, candied spiced nuts and Maytag blue cheese dressing - some of the richest you'll find, and made right here in the USA. Attention to detail appreciated.

My favorite of the two salads was the Bungalow Salad ($8.00) with a mixed bed of lettuce topped with tomatoes, toasted almonds and macadamia nuts, dried cranberries, Feta cheese, pepitas and a Meyer Lemon Vinaigrette. Tangy/sweet is obviously a fixture of the menu and this salad fit the bill perfectly.

The Crab Bisque ($9.50/$6.50) was good. With lump blue crab meat, cream and a bit of sherry, the soup seemed a bit bland and not as creamy as expected. Good, not great.

Next, we sampled three entrees from the menu.
The Macadamia Nut Encrusted Snapper ($29.50), served on a bed of almond rice and topped with Hawaiian red sea salt and a wasabi soy butter was amazing. Tender, flaky and richly flavored, the snapper was wonderful.

The Crab Stuffed Shrimp ($29.50) was delicious and we fought over it. With only one butterflied prawn served with our tasting portion, we both wanted more. The accompanying charred Brussel sprouts ($5.00) were a nice addition.

Finally, we sampled the Shitake mushroom topped Filet Mignon ($38.00) in a red wine demi-glaze. The meat wasn't as tender as we expected, but the taste was a delight. Savory, with a hint of sweetness, the lone beef item on the menu definitely fit the island lifestyle flavor profile.

I'm wearing a roomy tropical print camp shirt, so why not have dessert? Again, we sampled three items from the menu, and all three were fantastic.

The Pina Colada Cake ($10.00/$6.00) was rich and delicious. A sweet vanilla cake made with Myers Dark Rum, diced pineapple, white chocolate mousse and topped with toasted coconut, I can even type the description without a bit of drool dripping from the corner of my mouth. Of no, my shirt!

The Key Lime Pie ($8.50/$6.00) was a fine example of how to make a pie sweet, yet tangy -- the way a key lime pie should taste.

The Butterscotch Pudding ($9.50/$6.50) was the dessert triumph of my platter. A small chocolate cup was filled with chocolate ganache, scratch caramel and a white chocolate mousse and topped with a plumeria petal. Beautiful.

I thoroughly enjoyed my slice of the Tommy Bahama island lifestyle. The menu was diverse while all having a tropical slant. The restaurant décor is splendid if you enjoy an island plantation theme. And the service was friendly and inviting. Our server, Dan, was extremely knowledgeable about the menu, the ingredients and preparation method as well as keen to offer suggestions including wine and cocktails.

Whether you are in town on business or pleasure in the I-Drive area, make a point to visit Tommy Bahama Restaurant. And if you live in Orlando, stop in sometime and enjoy the island lifestyle before you're back to I-4 traffic, afternoon thunderstorms, the heat and every other distraction that comes from living in Central Florida. It's good to get away, even if it's just for dinner.

Note: I dined compliments of Tommy Bahama.

4.5 Paper Umbrellas out of 5

Tommy Bahama's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

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