Sky’s the Limit at Eleven at Reunion Resort
Eleven at Reunion Resort offers a window into prime steaks, with personable Chef Jake Brenchley at the helm of a creative kitchen.
There are restaurants just a walk away, places within a short drive that you just plain like, destination eateries that are worth a bit of a haul for special occasions, and those you’ve heard of that seem so far away you’ve pretty much written them off. I know people who won’t drive to Winter Garden because it’s too far. And the theme parks? Forget it.
So I’m sure that many of you reading this will look at Reunion Resort’s Kissimmee address and make some kind of dismissive noise. Take the drive—you’ll be rewarded by Eleven, and an impressive dining experience.
Under the guidance of Chef Jacob “Jake” Brenchley, the refined 11th-floor restaurant, replete with dark woods and a window wall leading to a stunningly presented view from the terrace, offers a compact menu of carefully considered items. Steaks are rare, charcuterie is hand-selected, and the seafood is so fresh it practically swims up the elevator.
The literature describes Eleven as having an “exposed kitchen.” It’s visible through a large opening at the back of the restaurant, and the exposure makes one thing crystal clear: it’s pocket sized. I’m told the original concept was a tapas restaurant, and tiny plates require a tiny kitchen. So even after several refurbishments, there’s not much more room than a well-equipped food truck, which makes the caliber of meals coming from it a testament to Chef Brenchley’s talent and organizational skills.
Eleven Reunion Resort
Chef Jake is a personable, no nonsense guy, and he can often be seen in the dining room, delivering plates or checking in with guests. A Midwest boy married to an actress, he has a reputation for refining and focusing menus, as he has done at Bohemian Hotel Celebration, Scholars Inn in Indiana and Boca Kitchen in Winter Park. He holds degrees from Ecole des Beaux Artes in Annecy, France, and the late, lamented Le Cordon Bleu in Orlando, and is willing to converse en français at a moment’s notice (he said his wedding vows in French). Brenchley was awarded “Best Young Chef of Indianapolis” by the alternative weekly Nuvo.
He’s been residing in the Eleven kitchen since March and still finds things to tweak and improve, evidenced by the recently revised menu.
Eleven is, before anything else, a steakhouse, and the offerings highlight hand-cut, dry-aged filets, rib eye and sirloin (the 20-ounce porterhouse, at $49, is a luscious meal—enough for days). Eleven sources grain-fed Black Angus steaks from the 1855 program in Colorado, heavily marbled and done to a steak lover’s delight, and there’s a “secret” 11-ingredient spice mix, including coriander, sumac and cardamom, that forms the flavorful crust on Brenchley’s beef. I enjoyed the various enhancements such as cherry hoisin sauce and a piquant salsa verde, but none is actually necessary with such tender steaks. Under the “House Creations” section, a dish of perfectly grilled sea bass ($39), complemented by a smoked cabbage and sunchoke, is every bit as flavorful as the steaks.
Brenchley combs the world for cheese, sausage and cured meats for his charcuterie board ($19), adding, when available, a noteworthy house-cured duck prosciutto. Another worthy starter is the filet mignon eggrolls ($15)—Angus beef bound in a crunchy wrapper and set atop a watermelon jicama salad.
Break out of your habit and get in the car. You’ll have a nice drive beyond the city and discover a chef who is, literally and figuratively, at the top of his game.
Room at the Top
Reunion Resort is a compound of hotel, golf courses and water parks. And while seemingly daunting, it’s only 30 miles from downtown Orlando and eight miles from Animal Kingdom. The delight at the end of the road is the rooftop pool and terrace that frames Eleven and offers a unique view of the theme parks and still-verdant Florida.