Restaurant: Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando, Orlando, Florida
I am a foodie. Hard to believe with all my food allergies and intolerance…and the fact that I am a vegetarian…that this is a true statement. But I LOVE food. I love to eat food. I love to enjoy food. And I love to cook food. I love to share food. Food is love. And, as an athlete, food is also fuel.
I am on a nice vacation at the moment, enjoying myself and my time away from the stresses of life. And, as is the way me and my traveling compatriots do vacations…we work in one nice meal out. And, as we were enjoying some time at Universal Studios today, we opted to eat on the Universal Studios Citywalk…at Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando.
Now, I have loved Emeril Lagasse for a long time. He is, not only, one of the most recognizable and quotable chef’s (“BAM!”)…he is just awesome. His food is simple, pure, cajun goodness!! He is pure Louisiana. And that’s what we went there for.
We were in for a treat. White tablecloths. Chairs were pulled out for us. Napkins were dropped into our laps. I sort of felt under dressed with my roller-coaster windblown hair and my Wonder Woman t-shirt. But, none of the staff minded. We were greeted soon after by our waiter for the night…which was actually going to be three people seeing to us. Our waiters were amazing and funny and extremely helpful. We were given the menu to look over and I mentioned that I was a gluten free vegetarian…and after some witty bantering…he pointed out the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day (which changes from day to day) and explained to me that it was a noodless lasagna…where the chef layers squash, zucchini, eggplant and roasted red peppers, all seasoned with amazing herbs, and makes them into the noodles. They could even make it vegan for me. They let us peruse the menu and I noticed the special as well being a Roasted Cauliflower in a tomato broth with crispy kale that sounded SO good. I needed to ask about it being gluten free. Cathy had settled on the Grilled Double Cut Pork Chop and Jenn said she was getting the Shrimp and Grits (I had a feeling all the veggies would be tossed aside…LOL!). But then, after checking with the chef about the gluten-free status of the cauliflower special (it was), and answering Jenn’s question as to what an étouffée was (all the veggies)…he went on to say that the Shrimp and Grits was the best dish on the menu. So…Jenn was sold. He also went on to say that the other dishes he considers the best served there were the Scallops and the Short Rib.
So now Cathy was undecided. And I still was torn between the special and the menu special. Both were special. LOL! But…both were different enough that I knew that I couldn’t get them anywhere else. So, once Cathy decided on the Scallops instead, I was still torn. And my dinner buddies weren’t making the decision any easier. Back to our waiter for his opinion…and with his help, I opted for the Vegan version of the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day. This meant none of the cheese or alfredo would be added to the dish. Gluten free and vegan vegetable goodness.
As we were going to have a little wait while our food was prepared, Jenn and Cathy decided they were going to split an appetizer. They ordered the Cast Iron Skillet Corn Bread with Honey Butter and Bacon Jam ($8.00). The cornbread looked fantastic. They said it was light and fluffy and just soft and amazing. Cathy was a big, big, big fan of the Bacon Jam (pork belly cooked in butter with brown sugar and reduced). Jenn said she could take it or leave it…but the honey butter at the bottom was just soaking into the bread. I thought it was just…awesome looking. But, alas, so not something I could eat.
Before too long, our entrees were being served. They had Cathy and Jenn’s backwards, but that was easily fixed. The plates were changed out and we were ready to dive in.
Jenn ordered the Shrimp + Grits, which was Louisiana shrimp, étouffée, Anson Mills rice grits, and local cherry tomatoes ($30.00). She said the shrimp was nailed to the perfect cook. The grits were smooth and creamy. I looked at them. I thought it was rice at first…with all the cheese. Much of the étouffée was cast aside, as she is not a cooked vegetable person, but the rest of it was devoured. I really do think it was a 1/1 ratio of cheese to grits…but it looked awesome. Her only qualm…the tails were left on the shrimp. It’s kind of hard to be classy in a nice restaurant when you have to use your fingers to remove the tails.
Cathy went with the Blackened Diver Scallops, which was served with a Creamy Corn Moque Choux, Wilted Greens, and Local Tomato Jam ($32.00). It looked GORGEOUS!! The corn sauce fascinated her. She said it was almost like a corn chowder. The greens were cooked perfectly. They weren’t mushy or overly done. She said the tomato jam was sweet and paired beautifully with everything. But the star…the scallops. They were tender and buttery and had a perfect sear. She said they were the best scallops she ever had.
So…my perfectly gluten-free and vegan dish is now up. As I stated, I ordered the Chef’s Creative Vegetable Plate of the Day ($23.00). This was a noodleless lasagna, where the noodles were stacked slices of eggplant, zucchini, squash, and roasted red pepper. The seasonings were crazy good. And all of this was topped off with an amazingly rich marinara and greens. I could hardly make out the noodles, and I didn’t want to destroy the dish to get a picture. So, trust me…there are tightly stacked veggies under there. OMG. The tomato sauce, for starters, was killer. Just mouth watering, savory, amazing flavor. The vegetables were cooked perfectly…not limp and wet, but perfect, with still a little crisp to them, but tender to bite into. Almost like real noodles. I didn’t miss the cheese or the heavy Alfredo. This was pure perfection. Why go back to noodles when you can do this to have lasagna?! Seriously…so glad the waiter talked me into this one. I was one happy girl.
And while we were all rather full from dinner…we decided we had to do dinner. The waiter had tempted me with a Flourless (and Gluten Free) Chocolate Torte earlier that evening. And I had been on the fence. He did deliver dessert menus to us, to let the Cathy and Jenn choose what they might want to have…and then said the sorbets (strawberry lemonade, coconut, and passionfruit tonight) were another option for me.
In the end, we decided to split the Flourless Decadent Chocolate Torte with a Butter Pecan Sauce ($10.00) between the three of us. I am so glad we did. While the slice of torte isn’t as huge as say, a slice of Emeril’s famous Banana Cream Pie…it was rich. Smooth, perfect, rich, creamy, amazing, sinful, decadent, chocolatey goodness. Pure sinful goodness in each bite. And that butter pecan sauce…oh yeah…that just tied it all together. Cathy and Jenn split the whipped cream. I ate the strawberry. This…was a perfect end to a perfect meal.
I was beyond impressed with the service, setting, and food that we received at Emeril’s Restaurant Orlando. They were so good at working with me and my dietary needs. Didn’t even bat an eye. Immediately knew what to ask about and explained to me what I could eat and what was delicious. Our waiter was awesome. He made me laugh, he made me feel so good about the food that was going to be made for me, and he even helped me make a decision on my dinner that night.
If only more restaurants turned out a meal and an experience like this one did. Emeril is an amazing chef…and his restaurant didn’t let me down. This was a meal I will be talking about for a very long time.