Dining near the Resort
Chain diners abound near the park entrance, so finding a plate of eggs and pancakes is never much of a challenge. But for a sumptuous early morning meal, the Sunday champagne brunch at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cypress’s La Coquina (1 Grand Cypress Blvd., 407/239-1234, 10:30 a.m.–2 p.m., $63.95) is a truly indulgent experience.
Only offered seasonally (late Sept.–early June), the meal is a pricey and decadent way to start the day; there is so much food on offer that much of the preparation commences days beforehand, a fact that guests learn as they are given a tour—yes, a tour—of the multitude of cheeses, pastries, fruit, seafood, salads, and desserts that await them. Reservations are essential, and there is a dress code.
Steak and Seafood
Johnnie’s Hideaway (12551 State Rd. 535, 407/827-1111, 5–11 p.m. daily, main courses from $14) is located in a ticky-tacky tourist zone directly across from one of Disney’s main entrances, but somehow the restaurant manages a relaxed sophistication that proves a welcome respite from the surrounding area. Steaks are dry-aged on-site and are the big draw, but a good selection of fresh seafood, including a raw bar, and Floribbean fare make for a well-rounded menu.
Similarly, The Venetian Room (8101 World Center Dr., 407/238-8060, 6–10 p.m. Tues.–Sat., main courses from $22) defies its location in the bowels of the Caribe Royale resort. Dark-wood furnishings and private dining alcoves make for a tremendously romantic atmosphere that’s accentuated by white-glove service. The traditional epicurean fare—filet mignon, bouillabaisse, duck confit, lobster—is appropriate to the classic and classy atmosphere. Be advised that there is a dress code, and reservations are suggested.
Across the street from a Disney entrance and next door to a TGI Friday’s,
Dakshin (12541 State Rd. 535, 407/827-9080, lunch 11:30 a.m.–2 p.m. Sun.–Fri., dinner 5:30–10:30 p.m. daily, main courses from $16) could probably easily get by on serving biryanis and chicken tikka to the throngs of tourists who want to try some Indian food on vacation.
Instead, the restaurant specializes in south Indian cuisine—lots of seafood and Kerala-style spices—and presents it in an upscale environment decorated in brass, thick-carved wood, and elegant Indian art. A Kottayam fish curry is a menu highlight, as are the many different dosai that are available. Service can sometimes be slow, but the staff is friendly and the food is well worth both the wait and the price.
© Jason Ferguson from Moon Florida, 1st Edition