A Hit Spin-Off

From the creators of Chef’s Table, a tastefully done addition.

Kevin Tarter outside his new restaurant, Tasting Room

Photo By ashley Mckibben

In May 2008, Kevin and Laurie Tarter made an audacious life choice, leaving secure and lucrative positions at Disney restaurants to open a fine dining, prix-fixe restaurant with only eight tables in the heart of Winter Garden. The gamble worked, and Chef’s Table, in the back of the Edgewater Hotel, has won consistent kudos and several Orlando magazine dining awards.

This past September, the Tarters took over an adjoining florist shop with windows facing West Plant Street to open Tasting Room, a beautiful wood-paneled space offering a revolving menu of casual yet intriguing items in a relaxed setting.

“I want to de-snobbify fine dining,” Kevin says. Born and raised in Louisiana, he has a Cajun joie de vivre that is both refreshing and contagious. His stints at Victoria & Albert’s and the legendary New Orleans restaurant Arnaud’s have fine-tuned his skills, but his palate is still rooted in the bayou and he joyfully talks about the opportunity to serve frog legs in Buffalo sauce (an unexpected delight at $10) or his fantasy of adapting his grandmother’s recipe for coot gumbo to a Central Florida menu.

The flexibility of tapas-style dining allows the kitchen to go a little crazy, in a good way. A massive poblano pepper stuffed with chicken lentils, cheese and chorizo sausage ($7) is a lovely snack with a draft craft beer, and Kevin’s muffaleta minis ($7) are an upscale version of the classic New Orleans sandwich.

Diners are brought through Tasting Room to get to Chef’s Table, leading those casually chowing down on crawfish beignets ($7) to watch and wonder. “People come in here and still don’t know there’s a restaurant in the back that’s been open almost four years,” Laurie says, her brilliant blue eyes flashing. “They ask me, ‘Where are those people going?’ ”

They’re going to a great restaurant. But first they have to pass through a great restaurant to get there.

Tasting Room at Chef’s Table
99 W. Plant St., Winter Garden

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