Best Seat in the House

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A Guide to Orlando’s Chef’s Tables

Chef’s tables are popping up all over Central Florida, and at more restaurants than you might think. The tables and tastings give our local culinary talent a place to express epicurean panache while wowing diners with a one-of-a-kind feast they won’t soon forget. Check out these local spots for a memorable experience.

Cítricos

Hosted by Chef Phillip Ponticelli in The Chef’s Domain, a private room just off the kitchen, this experience features a six-course chef’s tasting menu that can be customized with at least 48 hours’ notice.
Number of guests: Maximum of 12
Cost: Price varies according to menu
Fun detail: The chef’s table has its own door that leads straight to the kitchen, so Chef Phil can easily make tableside visits. Ask for his shrimp and feta appetizer to start your dinner. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, 4401 Disney’s Grand Floridian, Lake Buena Vista; (407) 824-2981

Citrus Restaurant

With Florida native Chef Lucas Reid at the helm, expect a locally focused series of small plates with distinct Florida flair. Guests sit at a large, rectangular table in a private room as each course and cocktail/wine pairing is delivered by the chef and mixologist.
Number of guests: Minimum of 4
Cost: $60 per person, including pairings
Fun detail: Cross your fingers that Chef Reid will kick off the affair with his famous datil pepper boiled peanuts. They are terrific. 821 North Orange Ave., Orlando; (407) 373-0622

Copper Canyon Grill

This Pointe Orlando steakhouse hosts groups of eight to 14 in a plush private room. Inside, a customized five-course Chef’s Dinner Experience is served alongside optional wine pairings, when requested.
Number of guests: 12
Cost: Approximately $85 per person
Fun detail: Make a night out of it! After dinner you can head to the Improv Orlando Comedy Club, hear live music at BB King’s Blues Club or hit the dance floor at Cuba Libre Restaurant and Rum Bar. All of these venues are steps from Copper Canyon Grill. Pointe Orlando, 9101 International Drive #1220, Orlando; (407) 363-3933

Emeril’s barbecued salmon over andouille-potato hash with crispy fried onions.

Emeril’s barbecued salmon over andouille-potato hash with crispy fried onions.

Emeril’s

Guests snag seats inside the hustle and bustle of the kitchen for a feast that features a multi-course chef’s tasting menu with wine pairings. Menus vary nightly and incorporate a combination of signature Emeril Lagasse favorites as well as Chef Doug Braselman’s seasonal selections.
Number of guests: 2 to 6
Cost: $65 to $110
Fun detail: Emeril’s Signature Banana Cream Pie is the only item featured at all 12 Emeril Restaurant locations, which tells us it’s worth requesting. 6000 Universal Blvd. #702, Orlando; (407) 224-2424

Flying Fish Café

The only thing that rivals Chef’s Tim Keating’s knowledge of seafood is his passion for preparing it, and his seasonal tasting menu showcases the freshest and best offerings from sea and land. The five-course menu with wine pairings changes daily, and the special seats along the bar serve up the restaurant’s best views of the busy kitchen along with its innovative fare.
Number of guests: Up to 10
Cost: Approximately $155 per person, including wine pairings
Fun detail: The wine pairings are as playful as the off-the-menu items you’ll enjoy, and Sommelier Stig Larson and his team are delighted to answer questions and share tasting notes. Disney’s BoardWalk, 2101 Epcot Resorts Blvd., Lake Buena Vista; (407) 939-2359

Flying Fish Cafe / photo: Matt Stroshane

Flying Fish Cafe / photo by Matt Stroshane

Hamilton’s Kitchen

Chef Marc Kusche unfurls culinary magic at his five-course chef’s table inside The Alfond Inn. Guests sit at an enormous wood table overlooking the kitchen as courses are delivered one by one throughout the night.
Number of guests: 2 to 10 (option for up to 20 in private dining room)
Cost: $75 per person without wine; $125 per person with wine paired by Hamilton Kitchen’s sommelier
Fun detail: Chef Kusche also offers a four-course tasting menu that can be ordered any day from any table for a cost of $45 per person ($55 with wine pairings). 300 East New England Ave., Winter Park; (407) 998-8089

arinated skirt steak, root vegetable pave, roasted sunchokes and port jus at Highball & Harvest at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes.

Marinated skirt steak, root vegetable pave, roasted sunchokes and port jus at Highball & Harvest at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes.

Highball & Harvest

Chefs dole out five delectable courses steeped in local fare and a passion for culinary ingenuity. Courses, which are finished and plated at the chef’s side table as guests look on, are paired with wine from H&H’s expansive cask wine collection.
Number of guests: 4 to 8
Cost: $185 per person, including wine pairings
Fun detail: Each dinner begins with a delightful amuse bouche paired with a craft cocktail guests get to mix and shake themselves. 4012 Central Florida Pkwy., Orlando; (407) 393-4422

Luma on Park

A kaleidoscope of culinary adventures ensues once guests are seated at Chef Brandon McGlamery’s table, which is perched on the corner of his open kitchen. Roughly seven petite courses are served, many hailing from Florida farms and waters, for a feast that can last for hours.
Number of guests: 2 to 6
Cost: $75 per person
Fun detail: Chef Brandon often serves a huge bowl of his legendary black truffle and Parmesan popcorn as a fun snack to turn to all night in between courses.  290 South Park Ave., Winter Park; (407) 599-4111

The Kitchen at Hard Rock Hotel

Seated at the chef’s demonstration table in the open kitchen area of this rockin’ restaurant, guests feast on a three- to five-course dinner that can either be customized in advance or created with a series of surprises based on the chef’s whimsy.
Number of guests: Maximum of 8
Cost: Varies based on number of courses, preference and addition of optional wine pairing
Fun detail: Sit where the stars have prepared their favorite meals! The Kitchen Restaurant Chef’s Table has hosted rockers Dee Snyder, Lita Ford, Joan Hart and Sammy Hagar. Other visitors have included Robert Irvine, Dan Akroyd and Tony Hawk. Their chef coats adorn the walls of the restaurant. Hard Rock Hotel at Universal Orlando, 5800 Universal Blvd., Orlando; (407) 503-2430

Soco Restaurant Thornton Park

Designed and delivered by Executive Chef Greg Richie, this intimate dinner experience for up to eight guests is inspired by seasonal ingredients and the restaurant’s penchant for Southern fare with a crafty twist. Expect visits from the chefs, a full tasting menu for notes and lots of unexpected delights not found on Soco’s standard menu. Reservations must be made at least one week in advance for Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 9 p.m.
Number of guests: 4 to 8
Cost: $75 per person (tax and gratuity not included); additional $30 per person for wine/spirit pairings
Fun detail: Guests are seated with a view of the kitchen so they can watch their meal being prepared. 629 East Central Blvd., Orlando; (407) 849-1800

Victoria & Albert’s

Considered by most to be the godfather of chef’s tables in the Orlando area, this intimate culinary experience is hosted in a private space just beyond Chef Scott Hunnel’s award-winning kitchen. Guests are delivered a 10-course feast during a three-hour evening filled with surprise delights.
Number of guests: 2 to 10
Cost: From $250 per person; wine pairings from $105 per person
Fun detail: While the dining room of this AAA Five-Diamond restaurant can be a little stuffy, the Chef’s Table, formerly Chef Hunnel’s office at the back of the kitchen, is much more casual and inviting. And the chef loves a challenge, like an all-vegan or vegetarian 10-course dinner. Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, 4401 Floridian Way, Orlando; (407) 939-3862;

OMAKASE

This Japanese take on a chef’s table, which translates to “chef’s choice,” takes guests on a sushi-style culinary adventure:

Kabooki Sushi

This Colonial Drive restaurant has risen to the top of Orlando’s list of best sushi spots thanks to chef and owner Henry Moso, who blends flavors from many Asian cuisines—including some from his homeland, Laos—to create fusion fare praised for pushing the boundaries of standard sashimi and sushi roll offerings. The six-course Chef’s Dinner Tasting, which can be booked any day, gives him the opportunity to step even further outside the box.
Number of guests: Minimum of 2
Cost: $80 per person; $30 additional for wine pairing
Fun detail: While the dessert menu in most sushi restaurants is usually unremarkable, that’s not the case here thanks to the artful whimsy of the in-house pastry chef, who delivers a sweet finish with made-from-scratch masterpieces. 3122 E Colonial Drive, Orlando; (407) 228-3839

Shari Sushi Lounge

Inside the exhibition sushi bar at this chic Thornton Park sushi spot, Chef Vic Nguyen dreams up a series of five courses, each of which arrives at the table looking like a work of art. From foie gras and caviar to king crab deviled eggs, Chef Nguyen holds nothing back in this spectacular dining experience. Reservations not necessary.
Number of guests: No minimum
Cost: $69 per person
Fun details: Shari offers a feature cocktail, bread pudding and house-made ice cream each day. Consider requesting them all! 621 E Central Blvd., Orlando; (407) 420-9420

Dragonfly Robata Grill & Sushi

The kitchen at this Dr. Phillips restaurant takes a “trust the chef” approach to its omakase experience, which serves as a tour of the chef’s best and favorite dishes at any given moment. Servers will start by asking guests to gauge how adventurous they want to be, and with that piece of knowledge, chefs begin whisking out a series of eight to 15 Japanese tapas-style plates. Reservations not required.
Number of guests: 2 to 12
Cost: $45 to $65, depending on number of courses
Fun detail: Servers will offer a sake and beer pairing, as well as a sake sampler for those who are curious about this silky fermented rice beverage. 7972 Via Dellagio Way, Orlando; (407) 370-3359

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