Thursday, October 1, 2009

Orlando Magical Dining & Le Coq Au Vin

Orlando Magical Dining month is a "culinary celebration sure to please our palate and your wallet."  During the month of September, select Central Florida restaurants (both casual and upscale) participated in this  fantastic charity event benefiting the Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children (each restaurant donated $1 from each meal).  There were more than 75 restaurants participating this year!  Each restaurant provide a special menu where diners could select an appetizer, entree and dessert for either $20 or $30.

Being budget conscious this year, we weren't able to fully indulge in all that Orlando Magical Dining had to offer. Due to our recent culinary reemergence, we couldn't let this month pass without at least trying one of these restaurants.  Marily and I set a date for tonight (the last day of the event!).  She asked me, "So, where do you want to go?"  As we looked over the list of 75+ restaurants, we first had to narrow things down.  We decided we deserved a nice night out, so we skipped the casual restaurants and went straight for the upscale listing.  I wanted to try something different...something that I felt would have more unique offerings and landed on Le Coq Au Vin.  Marily reluctantly accepted the choice.  She always wanted to try it, but the special menu just wasn't appealing to her senses.  I managed to convince her somehow (or she just gave in...I can be pretty stubborn!)

Le Coq Au Vin

Here is Le Coq Au Vin's special menu.

If you've lived in Orlando, you must have driven by this restaurant at some point in your life (located off Orange Ave and Holden).  This is definitely an unpolished diamond in the rough (speaking of the surrounding area, not the food).  We arrived around 6:30pm on a Wednesday to this out of place French country cottage.  To our surprise, the parking lot was pretty full (a testament to their existence since 1976), considering it was the middle of the week.  There was a quaint courtyard out front with tables and seemed like a nice place to enjoy some wine and cheese.  As we stepped  over the threshold, we were transformed into another country.  The interior of the restaurant oozed what we assume must be French country decor (having never been there).  From the hostess attire to the chandeliers to the stained glass windows, we thought they really hit a home run with the ambiance.

Our waiter was a recent transplant from Miami with a friendly attitude and very knowledgeable of the menu and wine selection.  We informed him that we never had the pleasure of dining at a French restaurant and he immediately suggested to try the special menu, since it would give us a good introduction to French cuisine.  After listening to his recommendations we chose to go with the following:

Tarte a L'Oignon 
Alsace style caramelized onion tart, crisp smoked bacon bits, herb boursin, goat and cottage cheese

Mousse de Foies de Volailles
Chicken liver pate served warm with toast, onions, tomatoes and cornichons

Sanibel Golden Tilefish
Tilefish served with ratatouille finished with mango vanilla bean vinaigrette

Beef tenderloin steak on shredded shortribs, bleu cheese crust, morel mushrooms, port
wine sauce, carrots with thyme, au gratin potatoes

Creme Brulee

While we waited for our appetizers, the waiter brought out some fresh, hot baguettes with rooster shaped butter, that even the waiter questioned and guaranteed us it didn't taste like chicken!  We have never had such perfectly made bread...wonderfully crunchy crust and perfectly soft on the inside.

The appetizers arrived and while excited to try the Mousse de Foies de Volailles, I'd never had liver before, let alone chicken liver pate.  I didn't know what to expect...but couldn't wait to dive in.  I spread some on a slice of toasted baguette, topped it with the other fixings and took a bite.  It didn't have a strong, overpowering, iron taste like I expected.  It had probably what most would call an acquired taste...but we definitely enjoyed it.  The other appetizer was the star of the first course.  It was like a buttery phyllo pastry with with bacon and onions and yummy, creamy cheese.  Alongside was warm greens with a vinaigrette to cleanse your palette.  Sorry no our excitement, we ate it all up before remembering the camera!

The main course brought two very very hot plates, one with two thin filets of tilefish and the other with the a nice sized filet.  The tilefish was topped with an amazing beurre blanc and mango chutney.  We couldn't get enough and were sad when the fish outlasted the sauce.  The Tournedos was certainly the best part of the meal.  The perfectly cooked (medium rare), blue cheese crusted filet sat atop of braised shortribs in a port wine sauce and it was must be what people eat in heaven.  The filet simply melted in your mouth and may have been the best filet we've had in Central Florida.  The au gratin potatoes, haricots verts and carrots complemented the proteins nicely.

The dessert course brought us creme brulee.  It was well prepared, with the custard cold, the correct texture and a nice crunchy carelmized layer on top.  It wasn't the best creme brulee (that goes to Bravissimo's Espresso Creme Brulee), but it was good and cooked well...which you can't say for every restaurant.

During our meal, we couldn't help but notice the constant influx of customers and the dining rooms (there were three) filling up.  We had to ask the waiter if it was normally that busy and he responded "this is actually a slow night!"  That says a lot to me that a restaurant is regularly busy midweek and is a testament to the chef.  Overall we were very pleased with our experience and we will definitely return to try more of their menu (they have foie gras and sweetbreads!).

Le Coq Au Vin on Urbanspoon

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