While on my trip to Orlando last week, I got invited to participate in an impromptu tasting by my Instagram friend Chef Matt Oakley from Tommy Bahama. It was an honor and I was so excited to meet Chef Matt and taste his food since I began following him on Instagram.
I was immediately shown the “Aloha” spirit when I walked through the doors and was greeted warmly by the hostess who proceeded to ask if I was Denise. With a big smile, I answered yes and then was asked to follow her to a table that had been set up for me.
The Pineapple Paradisio, made with Bacardi Pineapple and St. Germain Elderflower was waiting for me on my table when I arrived. As I progressed through the tasting, two other cocktails were presented. The Coconut Cloud, made with Ron Matusalem Platino, Stoli Vanil, Cruzan Coconut and Cream of Coconut and the Mai Tai, made with Flor de Caña 4 Year, Orgeat, Orange Curaçao, Lemon, Lime, Pineapple and a Dark Rum Float. Although I am not familiar with several of the above mentioned ingredients, that didn’t stop me one bit from enjoying them immensely! (Don’t worry, not all three cocktails were consumed to their entirety during my tasting)
After meeting Chef Matt and chatting with him for a bit, he told me that Tommy Bahama and their restaurants serving Island fare have been around since 1993; the first one opened in Naples, FL. Today they can be found spreading the Island cheer all around the globe. This Tommy Bahama happened to be the company’s Research & Development for their restaurants and Chef Matt works closely with their corporate chef to create some of the menu items. (The pork belly and the Peanut Butter Pie below are two of his own creations).
Coconut Shrimp..Tiger Shrimp coated in light beer batter with shredded coconut, accompanied by a Mango Chutney and Island Slaw composing of cabbage, red onion, cilantro, jicama and dressed with a lime vinaigrette. I am in love with this “world famous” appetizer dish and could eat it all day long. But today, I had to resist and just have the one-biter presented to me so I could move on…
Ahi Tuna Taco..Crispy Wonton Taco Shell, Yellowfin Tuna dressed in a mix of Soy Sauce, Sesame Oil, Cilantro, Capers, Ginger, Garlic and a hint of Chipotle Pepper. Topped with Red Bell Pepper, Scallions and a Wasabi Lime Avocado Cream Sauce. Every component of this dish came together to create the perfect bite. It was well thought out and executed. Oh yeah and so cute too! You can find these under their Appetizer section. Chef Matt shared with me that Tommy Bahama is big on sourcing their fish from those who practice sustainability. Today’s tuna that I was served was line caught from Costa Rica. All of their fish is fresh and they never serve anything more than 3 days old. Gotta like that!
Macadamia Nut Crusted Goat Cheese…Laura Chenel Chevre coated in toasted Wailea Valley Plantation Macadamia Nuts warmed in Clarified Butter and served with a Papaya Mango Chutney and Soy Glaze paired with Lavash Flatbread. The combination of Macadamia nuts, clarified butter and goat cheese was amazing and the sweetness from the mango salsa truly made my tastebuds get up and do the Happy Dance. This is an awesome appetizer dish!
Pork Belly..Duroc Pork Belly braised in Soy Sauce and Brown Sugar. Seared then served on a Brioche Toast, topped with Pickled Vegetables, accompanied by a Sriracha Aioli. I LOVED LOVED this dish. The pork belly was lean, which is a welcome change to the usual fatty pieces served these days. The combination of flavors from the sweet sauce used in the braising of the pork belly to the pickled vegetables placed on top, to the slight heat from the sriracha aioli on the finish, all had their part in creating a really tasty, balanced dish. You’ll be able to find the pork belly in sliders only during their IT (Island Time) Happy Hour, each day from 4-6pm.
Yellowfin Tuna Salad.. Brown Chile Crusted Tuna, Kale, Roasted Corn, Quinoa, Toasted Almonds, Avocado, Island Slaw, Field Greens and dressed with a Soy Sesame Vinaigrette. The tuna had a lovely sear on it and was a wonderful accompaniament to this creative version of a field greens salad.
Kona Crusted Ribeye..Ribeye Deckle seasoned with a Kona Coffee Rub, the seared in cast iron. Served on a Cauliflower Chive Mash Croquette with White Miso Butter and accompanied by a Horseradish Aioli. Just when I think I’ve had the best bite of the day, Chef Matt goes and screws things up for me by presenting this little beauty. This here is just heaven on a plate. The rib eye was cooked absolutely to perfection and melted like butter in my mouth. I loved his cauliflower mash croquette creation and the horseradish aioli. You can find this Kona Crusted Ribeye entrée on their lunch and dinner menus.
And finally…the Peanut Butter Pie..Whipped Peanut Butter, Salted Pretzel Crust, Callebaut Chocolate Ganache, Red Hawaiian Sea Salt and White Chocolate Mousse Whipped Cream. Oh my!!! Chef Matt really hit all the right notes on this one that is for sure. Loved the sweet and salty and creamy and crunchy contrasts that came together in harmony in a single bite.
I wish that Tommy Bahama would open a restaurant closer to where I live in Boca Raton, as the closest one to us here in South Florida is in Jupiter. But in the meantime, with future travel plans in the works to Orlando, you can count on my making plenty of stops back here to this one in Pointe Orlando to visit my pal Chef Matt.
CURRENT PROMOTION: All Tommy Bahama retail locations with restaurants have implemented a 20% off retail purchases with proof of a sales receipt at the restaurant, valid on the same day. So eat, shop & save all you Tommy Bahama fans. You’re welcome!
IT = Island Time, Tommy Bahama’s version of Happy Hour. Available EVERY DAY between 4-6pm where you can belly up to the bar and partake in great bites and cocktails such as:
House Wines $5
Signature wines $7
Selected beer $4
Well Drinks $4
Classic Cocktails $6
Ahi Tuna $7
Blackened Fish Tacos $6
Angus Burger Sliders $6
Macadamia Goat Cheese $5
Jerk Chicken Lollipops $5
Pulled Pork Quesadillas $5
I want to thank my friends at Tommy Bahama in Orlando for hosting me during my recent trip to Orlando. It was my very first time eating at a Tommy Bahama and I can’t wait to come back again. To visit this location:
9101 International Dr
Orlando, FL 32819
RESTAURANT HOURS & PHONE
Open: 11:30 AM daily
Happy Hour: 4-6 PM daily
STORE HOURS & PHONE
11 AM – 10 PM Mon-Sat
12 PM – 8 PM Sun
On a recent trip to Orlando to further my education in my Wines for Humanity business and to scout out restaurants for our new culinary tours soon to be offered up there, I was invited as a member of the press to dine at Cuba Libre who just so happened to be launching a new menu the night of my arrival into town.
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar, located in Pointe Orlando on International Drive, announces its new menu, which debuted yesterday May 3rd, featuring 12 brand new classic and contemporary Cuban dinner items by Chef-Partner Guillermo Pernot, inspired by his bi-annual culinary travels to Cuba. The menu overhaul includes creative appetizers, entrees, and hand-crafted cocktails. In celebration of the popular restaurant’s extensive menu release, Cuba Libre is offering a complimentary glass of its signature red or white sangria to any guest dining at the restaurant for dinner between May 3rd and May 10th, with the purchase of an entrée. Guests must mention the free sangria promotion to their server in order to receive the complimentary item.
“I’m thrilled to introduce so many new flavorful, unique, and authentically Cuban items to Cuba Libre’s menus,” said Chef Pernot. “While many menu favorites remain, our 12 new dishes range from impressive platters for two, to trendy items with a Cuban twist, and tapas recipes passed down for generations, and I believe that our guests, both new and recurring, will absolutely love the new additions.”
The Cuban restaurant’s new menu features 50-60% new items including several massive meat entrees for two, such as the Crispy Pork Pata, a 48-hour slow-cooked Berkshire pork shank, served with grilled seasonal vegetables and Moros y Cristianos, in a citrus pan reduction; and the Ribeye Jibaro “Doble,” a 32 oz. salmuera-rubbed bone-in rib-eye steak, served with “boniato bravas” and grilled broccolini. Notable dishes in the new “Latin Steaks and Chops” section include the Vacio Steak Argentino, grilled Argentine-cut bavette steak, with Moros y Cristianos and tostones, and Argentinean chimichurri; and the Puerco Cha Cha Cha, three pork favorites in one jumbo cut: a bone-in loin chop with meaty rib and crisp pork belly, with “boniato bravas” and charred herb salsa, and chipotle allioli. A tropical seafood dish, the Pargo Frito, has also been added – crispy whole red snapper, coconut basmati rice and candied cashews, with a sprouts salad and mango red curry sauce.
Cuba Libre has also added a number of new appetizers based on traditional Cuban recipes, like the Chicken Croquetas, Crab Guacamole, Albóndigas Cubanas (or Cuban meatballs), and Octopus a la Parrilla. Guests are sure to be impressed with innovative menu items like the Cuban Sandwich Spring Rolls, and a Cuban twist on the current poke trend, Chef Pernot’s Cuban Poke – marinated seasonal fish, compressed watermelon and English cucumbers, pickled seaweed, avocado, white rice and toasted macadamia nuts, with pumpkin seed oil vinaigrette. An effervescent new hand-crafted cocktail, the Second Street 75, made with Macchu Pisco, simple syrup, lemon juice and sparkling wine, makes for the perfect pairing for the new dinner menu.
My server on this evening was James who provided me the most attentive and friendly service I have had in a long time. I asked James for some recommendations and he did not hesitate for a moment when he recommended I try the new Crab Guacamole. The plantain chips were phenomenal – so fresh and uniquely shaped, perfect for scooping up the guac. I loved both the sweetness that the grilled golden pineapple provided and the generous chunks of blue crab meat in this dish. This was a winner for sure. Off to a great start.
I washed that down with their Classic Mojito made with Pyrat Rum. Next up, I tried the Octopus a la Parilla. I have had octopus many a time, but I had never been served baby octopus apparently…until now. Wow was this ever different and so tasty. The description read truffle, another favorite of mine, but I’m sorry to say that I just didn’t detect the truffle, but I did discover some heat in the smoked potato crema from the Spanish paprika. I liked this dish very much.
Another new menu item I got to try was the Cuban Poke. Tonight’s fish was ahi tuna. A couple things I really enjoyed about this dish was how the compressed watermelon both blended in and resembled the tuna in shape and color and also how it complemented all the flavors in this bowl; toasted macadamia nuts, pickled seaweed, white rice, avocado, English cucumbers and pumpkin seed vinaigrette. Well composed dish.
As my stomach was beginning to get full, a duo of steaks appeared before me. From the existing menu I tried the Churrasco a la Cubano and from the new menu, the Vacio Steak Argentino. This was a grilled Argentine-cut bavette steak served with chimichurri, tostone and Moros y Cristianos (rice & beans). They were both terrific but I have to say that the Vacio edged out the other one by a slight margin in my book. Cooked to a perfect medium rare, the flavors were incredible. The steak melted like butter in my mouth. De-lish!
For dessert, I was presented a lovely tray of minis from which I chose the flan. But before I could dig in, I was presented with this lovely box which to select my eating utensil.
I am so excited that I got to try Cuba Libre while in Orlando and am super excited for the opportunity to work with them on some future groups. If you are traveling to the Orlando area, be sure to make this a stop on your culinary adventures.
About Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar
Cuba Libre Restaurant & Rum Bar in Orlando serves dinner daily from 5 p.m. until 11 p.m. Happy Hour is available every day from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. The bar is open until 2 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. For more information, or to make a reservation, please call (407) 226-1600, visit www.cubalibrerestaurant.com, follow them on Twitter (@CubaLibreORL) or Instagram (@CubaLibreRestaurant) and “like” them on Facebook.