Food & Drink: Michelin Guide Comes To Town
Michelin, the French tire company that got into food guides to make people wear out their tires from driving from fancy restaurant to fancy restaurant, has come to Orlando.
*Photos by Roberto Gonzalez
Michelin launched the restaurant guide in the 1880s to help incentivize people to drive more and wear out their tires faster, and until recently, was mostly available only in Europe.
Two years ago, Michelin was paid over $1.5 million by Florida’s various tourist authorities to publish guides for the Sunshine State for 2022, 2023, and 2024, with an option for 2025 and 2026 for an additional $533,400 (according to reports from The Miami Herald).
As a result of the contract, four Orlando-based restaurants were awarded the coveted Michelin star at an invitation-only ceremony in 2022, held at the Ritz-Carlton: Capa at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando, Kadence, Knife and Spoon at Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes, and Soseki.
Seven more local restaurants were recognized with a designation of “Bib Gourmand,” which is a formal nod for restaurants of note that serve a full menu of starters, main courses, and desserts for roughly $49, including Bombay Street Kitchen, Domu, Papa Llama, The Ravenous Pig, The Strand, Swine and Sons, and Z Asian Vietnamese Kitchen.
Miami received 11 stars with two going to L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon Miami and 19 Bib Gourmands. Three Bib Gourmands were awarded to Tampa-area restaurants as well, but who cares, we’re really just here to talk about Orlando anyway.
But they’re not stopping there. The French tire company turned upper-crust food critic authority just added eight new Orlando restaurants to its 2023 MICHELIN Guide Florida, including:
Doshi – This Korean restaurant hasn’t been around for long but it’s already making a dent in the Orlando dining scene. Led by executive chef Rikku Ó’Donnchü, this 35-seat chef-tasting restaurant is located in the unassuming Whole Foods plaza in Winter Park.
The menu is incredibly modern and features seasonal ingredients masterfully manipulated by Ó’Donnchü’s team featuring fun takes on low brow street foods like gyeranppang or egg bread with shaved truffle and ramp sauce alongside plates of cheese tteokbokki and wagyu galbi jjim. These are dishes that love their ingredients created by a team that loves to cook.
The moody lighting and Boy Kong tiger mural at the back of the restaurant will make you want to linger and enjoy the innovative bar menu too, especially when you learn the beverage program was created by whimsical sommelier, Katie Zumalinsky.
Edoboy – This standing sushi concept is located in an old leatherworking studio in a Mills 50 parking lot. The last place you would have wanted to consume raw fish just a few years ago. It was the brain child of Sonny Nguyen of Bib Gourmand-winning Domu and just as yummy yakitori joint, Tori Tori, and is a play on Edo-era Japan.
Diners can pick a spot at the sushi bar in the center of the room and choose 12 pieces of sushi; nigiri, seared nigiri (delicious), and hand rolls, which the sushi artists make in front of you while you sip on house made miso soup and Japanese beer and sake.
You can’t really choose anything wrong here, but the Hamachi will melt on your tongue so fast you’ll wish you’d ordered two.
Juju – This sister restaurant to the always-packed Susuru near Disney Springs, is chock full of retro Japanese ephemera and features a seven-seat kappo bar in a former Pizza Hut by Fashion Square Mall. Which makes it easy to spot if you’re driving on Colonial.
The term kappo comes from the traditional method of Japanese cooking by cutting, boiling, stewing, and frying. Chef Lewis Lin is a master in his craft and he offers a rotating menu of more formal omakase with casual izakaya flair with a variety of Japanese-inspired dishes, including tasty charcoal-fired dishes.
Be sure to ask if they’re offering the kamameshi if you’re getting a reservation. It features all of the ingredients in the kappo tasting dishes, but all in one clay pot, over warm rice. It’s decadent as hell and fun to share with a cute date.
Kaya – At one time, the building that Kaya opened in was known as one of the most popular vegetarian restaurants in Central Florida, but as soon as they opened, nobody has been looking back.
The completely renovated bungalow in Lake Eola Heights is now home to a hot new concept led by the folks behind one-star-rated omakase, Kadence, Kaya is a casual fine-dining Filipino restaurant that serves tasting menus meant for groups and sharing.
Kaya has a contemporary take on classic Filipino fare like its tortang talong roasted eggplant omelet and humba dishes, served on traditional banana leaves using seasonal Florida ingredients. And in case you doubt their efforts, the restaurant currently employs a Forager/Farm Partnerships Manager on staff to source high-quality seafood and produce on a daily basis.
Otto’s High Dive – I’ve done an in-depth interview with the ownership team behind this beautiful addition to the Milk District on Bungalower.com, and I can honestly say, it’s one of the best things to happen to that neighborhood since the dairy opened there.
Led by developers Giovanni Fernanez and Elyse Sabatino, Otto’s is at once a small dive, with higher-end taste. Hence the name. Fernandez developed the concept in honor of his grandfather who always talked about “abunduncia,” or the concept of abundance or fullness – of spirit, love, family, money, and family.
The duo tapped young up-and-comers Christopher Munro, Sean Pagan, and former Ravenous Pig mixologist, Justin Levaughn, to lead the charge and the result is a Floridian/Cuban-inspired rum bar that is affordable, beautiful, and sexy.
The menu is simple and unfussy and boasts fresh oysters, seasonal fish, and medianoches, as well as a larger family-style abunduncia platter of ropa vieja made with braised short rib, a basket of bread, and a side of black beans and white rice.
Toledo – This award-winning rooftop restaurant is located on the 16th floor of Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, tucked away behind EPCOT. It specializes in Spanish cuisine with decor reminiscent of Beauty and The Beast, with fanciful chandeliers and more pink and orange stained glass than you could shake a communion wafer at, inspired by Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia Cathedral. The floor-to-ceiling windows not adorned with art feature breathtaking views of the adjacent Disney parks and their showstopping fireworks, making this an ideal place to enjoy the show without being hit with a stroller.
The menu features tasty Spanish plates like Rioja-braised Chorizo, Charred Octopus, and Pan con Tomate for starters, followed by tapas for the table. The Chef’s Signature Dinner for Two features two prix fixe options that include an appetizer, a cheese plate, an entree (hopefully the Chuleton Bone-In Rib-Eye) and a dessert for $129.
Don’t sleep on the cocktails, especially with that aforementioned view. This isn’t a cheap visit but it’s definitely more affordable than something like Le Cellier Steakhouse and it’s a bit more memorable too.
Twenty Pho Hour – Contrary to what the name suggests, this spot does more than just pho. And as the Michelin Guide notes, it’s not really open 24-hours either, but it does stay open until 2 a.m. on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.
The Pan-Asian menu features everything from steamed dumplings and squid on a stick to stir fry noodles and a variety of pho, including a build-a-bowl option with your choice of rich broth, noodles, and protein.
The dining room is straight out of a Pinterest board and resembles a coloring sheet, with black and white two-dimensional murals covering every inch of the walls, floor, and ceiling that create an immersive, and trippy atmosphere.
The combination of the excellent food with the innovative interior means there’s always a line at this popular International Drive restaurant, but it’s worth the wait. Especially if you like to photograph your food for Instagram.
Victoria and Albert’s – It’s a little strange that Disney’s flagship restaurant didn’t make the first cut of the Michelin Guide, let alone win a star. The restaurant regularly rakes in awards and special mentions for its opulent cuisine and service but it has a harpist too. A harpist.
The menu is Victorian in vibe but has a heavy “world cuisine” influence with dishes that all sound like aristocratic British drag queens like Danish Hiramasa, Miyazaki A-5 Potato Roti, and Delta Asparagus avec Champagne. Okay, that was a stretch, but fancier nonetheless.
If you can manage to actually get a reservation, Victoria and Albert’s is a must-visit for any visitor or resident alike, as it’s not really just a restaurant, but an experience.