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Katie Davis

@PopCultureCuisine

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Bam!

Thursday, April 21, 2011 @ 09:04 AM

044The Florida heat sure is looking good right about now. Still cold up here in Indiana, and although we are getting closer to May, it is still averaging only 40-50 degrees here each day!  So, needless to say, I’m longing for the days when I got to enjoy warm weather, which ultimately takes me back to our anniversary trip to Orlando last October. Great trip of friends, fun, great weather, and of course….food! On that specific trip, we knew we wanted a couple of nicer meals to celebrate our anniversary, that being the reason for our trip and all, and one spot that was on the top of the list was Emeril’s.

While Emeril has gained lots of notoriety as a TV personality and with his big three restaurants in N’awlins (including his famed stint as the head chef at the famous Commander’s Palace), his now 12 restaurants around the country has helped to expand his name even more. So needless to say, with that much notoriety, we knew we wanted to experience a little bit of what makes his culinary world so great when we got the chance….in this case at Emeril’s Orlando at Univeral Studios City Walk.

Adam and I thought given the popularity of Emeril’s name and where this restaurant is located (in such a touristy hot spot like City Walk), a reservation would be our best option.  So on that designated night we set out on what I thought was going to be a very romantic and wonderful meal. Unfortunately, it certainly didn’t start off that way.  First, we opted to take a cab even though it was only a short distance (I was wearing heels and preferred not to have to walk), and our cabby was pretty much an ass. Rather than just driving to where we asked, he kept giving us his two cents on where to drop us off, until Adam finally told him to simply pull over and we’d go from there. On a side note, this is a pet peeve of mine, your job is to drive me where I say, that is what I am paying you for, so if you feel the need to make that difficult and tell me a better way or how I need to get out, last I checked that wasn’t in your job description.  Anyway, I digress, but let’s just say that was not a great start.

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We arrived at the restaurant right at our scheduled time, but were told we would need to wait a moment. Another bummer, because again….a pet peeve….I am starting to think restaurants don’t know the meaning of the term “reservation.”  If you are going to offer this service, you better be prepared to actually be able to accommodate people who make them, because that is sort of the point…so you don’t have to wait!  Then, while waiting Adam and I may have gotten into a little “tif” about my lack of confidence about my blog and about “selling it” to those working at the restaurant. Regardless, by the time we were seated, the romantic mood had turned from wonderful to downright UNPLEASANT!

Things really didn’t get any better when our waiter, who clearly hadn’t been trained in the art of customer service. He sort of impatiently asked for our order about 5 seconds after we sat down, and at this point I had had it! I was on the verge of tears, not feeling romantic whatsoever, and MAD! I didn’t want to bother with this place that obviously could care less that we were about to pay a pretty penny for a meal and seemed to rather just want to hurry us out.  Adam too wasn’t all that impressed at that moment, but the saving grace of it all was a brief chat with the manager and our secondary waiter Spencer, who we promptly asked to be our main guy.  After a few calming words from Adam and a few sips of wine, I began to ease up and enjoy the meal….Wine makes everything better. 😉

So after perusing the menu we decided the best “course” of action was for me to get a salad and Adam would order a steak that was big enough to split. Also, he would order a side that I could have a few bites of.  For how expensive the food was, I was honestly not hungry enough to get a whole entrée for myself, and honestly it worked out perfectly for me to have a few bites here and there.  So I went with the Emeril’s Salad, Adam chose a steak, and then of course…, the Chipotle Louisiana Crawfish Mac & Cheese.

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Overall everything was very tasty, and although maybe a tad overpriced, I guess to be expected from a place with that type of location, atmosphere, and well….name recognition.  Also, I was very glad I just had a few bites of this and that because I was pleasantly full and not overly stuffed.  I even saved a little room for one of their desserts…., the Godiva White Chocolate Bread Pudding…., YUM!!!!

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I have had more amazing bread pudding, but this was still delicious. Also, it was sweet of them to add a little candle for us, which of course helped make up for the lack luster start to the evening.  I believe the manager even gave Adam a complimentary glass of wine…score! As I mentioned, that manager and our waiter Spencer truly saved the experience for us, because up until they came along, I was not greatly impressed with good ol’ Emeril’s. Good job guys…and thank you for making our 2nd anniversary a good one!

SIGNATURE DISH: While Emeril himself is very famous, he is not known for any one dish in particular, but rather the flavor and often creole or southern inspired flair he brings to his dishes.  This restaurant is no different and although not heavily focused on Creole cuisine, you can see the influence on a variety of the dishes…like the Chipotle Louisiana Crawfish Mac & Cheese, for example.  There wasn’t any one dish that stuck out to us as being a “signature” per se, rather just a standard menu of this type of fare.

TASTE: Everything we ordered tasted very good, but nothing blew our socks off…except maybe the mac & cheese and the bread pudding.  Again, this restaurant is more known for just being high-end good food. Regardless of what you order, there is a good chance you’re going to like it. Emeril has made sure of it.  That being said, everything we ordered was pretty standard, but all of it was cooked very well and we definitely enjoyed it.

AMBIANCE: Being an upscale spot, you would hope they would hit this one the head.  I thought they did a fantastic job of making you feel that although you are really dining in the middle of a tourist trap, you don’t know that unless you step outside.  The décor was all modern and hip and I thought played really well with the food they were serving.

SERVICE: This is almost what did our whole experience in.  One, we were not impressed with having to wait initially, and two, then feeling rushed by our first waiter. I’m sorry…but as a head waiter, our first guy sucked!  If I’m going to pay you $100 for a meal, you better let me enjoy it and take my time.  Luckily, the manager apologized and explained that they were swamped. He then stepped in and paid us some attention, which is always appreciated.  Also, the backup waiter, Spencer, was so kind and pretty much took over our table, which then allowed things to progress very smoothly. Spencer…if you’re reading this….you deserve a promotion. Good job!

PRICE: Due to the name and type of restaurant Emeril’s is, I’m sure you can assume that the prices would be pretty high…., and they were.  However, we knew that going in; and being located in the heart of City Center, we also knew that would increase the spike.  I would equate this to any other fancy restaurant out there and expect to pay $10 or more for a salad and $30 – 45 per entrée; and given that we were celebrating a special occasion, we didn’t mind the cost. Still, I would have to say given the meal itself…, I’ve had better for the price.

In the end we did enjoy our visit and are glad to say we have now eaten at Emeril’s.  Our meal was good and we were still able to celebrate our anniversary romantically, after all.  Although there were many things I hoped would be better, we still enjoyed the experience (much thanks to our eventual service), and thus give Emeril’s Orlando 3 1/2 ‘Little Piggies.’

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