Osprey Tavern - Take Two

A few weeks ago I had my first experience at the Osprey Tavern in Baldwin Park. While the gorgeous space was a mixture of cozy decadence, every item we ordered was sadly very lackluster.

After leaving an honest review of that evening, the owner reached out to me, clearly concerned about my experience and eager to resolve it.  I’m always honest with my reviews, and very rarely does the owner reach out, so I immediately was impressed with the passion he had for his brand.

At his request I came back for dinner not really sure what to expect. Jason, the owner of the Osprey Tavern made his way over to me and we dove right into frank discussions about food, expectations and the Orlando culinary scene.  Although no rookie to the restaurant world, he shared with me his vision for Osprey and the passion behind reaching out to me from the review I had left.

He graciously decided to guide me and my friend Kristine who had been with me during the first visit, through some items on the menu that he wanted to let us explore. Feeling slightly terrible but very excited we assured him we were happy to eat anything he set in front of us.

We had no idea what our bellies were in for.

Oysters paired with Voirin-Jurmel champagne was our first course. I immediately thought this is what Jay-Z and Beyonce must feel like, I better soak this in while I can.  However I was honestly a little nervous about Oysters since I had never had them before. I’m not a huge seafood fan and the texture of Oysters always looked unappealing to me, but I will try anything once, so down the hatch they went.

The ½ dozen oyster dish comes with three different types of Oysters. The Beavertail, which was a medium brine, the Hurricane Harbor from Prince Edward Island which was a little sweet, and the Malpeque, also from Prince Edward Island, which was the lightest and also had quite a bit of brine.

Eating Oysters was like swallowing the ocean, in a good way. They were incredibly fresh, and the flavor was potent in all the right ways.  I learned quickly that good Oysters are not tampered with.  If they are fried or slathered in anything, more than likely it’s covering up a false pretense of freshness.  If you are a lover of Oysters this would be a great place to indulge your seafood side.

Next up was the always exciting Charcuterie board.

The chicken liver was probably my favorite, but there was a nice mix of items like duck prosciutto and pork rillette. This is a beautiful and shareable spread.

Next was the Baby Beet salad.

First, when it comes to beets, they are a tough sell.  They can be a really polarizing item in any dish let alone the main focus of one.  These beets thankfully were wonderfully fresh and complimented by hazelnuts, gooseberries, goat cheese, fennel and salmon roe. It was a really satisfying dish, not to mention beautifully presented.

The Charred Peel & Eat Shrimp came next and smelled divine and needed our immediate attention. Again, I'm not a big seafood fan and I’ve never had shrimp prepared like this before, but now I don’ think I could go back to any other way.  There was a smokey flavor with a sprinkling of different herbs that made this a must have dish.  I will never look at a standard shrimp cocktail dish again, not that I have given it much attention before.  We had more of a side eye type of relationship. This Peel & Eat shrimp though, will get nothing but love and affection from me.

Although it was served with a sauce I never even bothered dipping these babies, as they were perfect to consume just as they were presented.

Just when we thought we could fit no more, our main entrée arrived; the Beef Bourguignon.  This dish is braised for 72 hours in red wine and couldn’t be more tender and succulent.  It’s served with the wine sauce it’s braised in and after sipping some of it from a spoon you could tell why this dish is so flavorful. I would have likely sipped on a mug of the sauce all on its own. The fingerling potatoes and blistered tomatoes gave it that cozy comfort food feeling that really endears you to this dish.

To end our seemingly never ending feast  we were spoiled with two desserts, the first a Tiramisu and the second the Chocolate Caramel.

I am a huge lover of Tiramisu, so upon looking at the dish I was served I was a little confused. This was a new take by Osprey.  It consisted of Espresso cake, vanilla mascarpone cream, praline crema, espresso pastry cream and candied lemon.

I was quite surprised at how good it was, and the espresso cake had a powerful kick to it. This won't be your mothers Tiramsu, and that's ok with me.

The Chocolate Caramel consisted of a flourless chocolate cake, salted caramel, caramelia cream and coco nib ice cream. One scoop of the ice cream and I was helpless against devouring this whole dessert.  It’s hard to explain why a dessert is that good without using the word decadent.  That word really sums it all up.

Although my first experience left everything to be desired, I'm glad I came back for two reasons.

The food was executed flawlessly and I was really impressed with the ambition and follow through of the dishes.  Not many restaurants in Orlando are attempting what Osprey Tavern is. Take a long hard look at their menu and you will notice exciting ingredients and flavors you wouldn't think to match that are well suited for each other.  Don't play it safe with a pizza, if you dine here really open yourself up for a new experience.  Many of the items I tried, I may not have ever ordered on my own, but allowing Jason to guide us through the menu was the best possible treat because I could really appreciate all that went into each dish.

The time I was able to spend with him listening to him explain his vision and the distraught feelings he had when reading my first review really showed that he cares about each dish that his guests are tasting.  I'm not Scott Joseph, he had no real reason to want to redeem himself or his restaurant to one lowly Yelp reviewer, but his passion and commitment really shined through. The love of Orlando and the desire to see it expand and grow into a real foodie city is important to him, and that is a great thing to see in any restaurant owner.

The skeptic in you and me might say, well of course your meal was amazing the second time around when the owner invited you back, he probably ensured each dish was properly executed before it went out.

While that could be true, I think we all know there is risk when dining out that a meal may not be a five star rave every time, but it’s even more disappointing when it happens and the price tag is well above your standard Chipotle burrito bowl.  Jason admitted that for the price range of Osprey less than rave-worthy meals shouldn’t be happening.  While it’s quite possible that an average dish could find its way to your table, know that at the very least the staff here is eager and committed to striving to get better ever,  perfecting the craft that will continue to put Orlando on the foodie map.

So go and explore the menu for yourself. My advice would be to take your time before ordering and really think about each dish.  I would highly recommend any of the ones listed above.