Tapas joints are popping up everywhere in Orlando lately. It doesn't seem to be a trend that is loosing it's edge any time soon. One of the newest to the mix has popped up on Fairbanks Ave, a block shy of Park Ave. It's in the old Tatame spot, which I was never a personal fan of; so I was very excited to see new construction in this intimate space.
The first thing I said to my friend when we sat down was how I loved the feeling of walking into a restaurant that completely takes me out of Orlando. This could have easily been a gem you find in the Rittenhouse Square neighborhood in Philadelphia, a street in Hells Kitchen, or even an upscale spot in the Queen Anne neighborhood in Seattle. The decor is understated city chic without being overly "Manhattan pretentious".
Although they may not label it communal style eating, it definitely uses its small space wisely by creating a long but comfortable bench along the wall with tables and chairs on the other side. All the tables are very close together, so here is hoping you don't have women singing to one another sitting next to you...maybe that just happened to me.
Our server took us through the whole concept along with all the specials. She was extremely knowledgeable about the process that went into each dish as well as the flavor profiles we would experience. She was so well versed I wondered if she may have more stake in this establishment than simply our server for the night. She truly added to my dining experience and it was refreshing to hear information about the food I was about to consume with knowledge and passion.
My friend and I started with a plate of breads and spreads. House-made brioche and ciabatta were our carbs for the evening. We kindly refused the refried beans and asked if we could "double-up" on the other choices. We got a homemade curry blueberry butter along with a local strawberry jam. The breads were fresh and the spreads had great textures and taste. A perfect start.
Our next small plate, was actually a small basket, of hand-cut potatoes fries with fresh oregano & saffron aioli. These were quite possibly the best, hearty, crisp and indulgent fries of my life. The show stopper for me was the saffron aioli. I normally eat my fries with no accompanying sauce, but this aioli was the perfect extra flavor pop.
For my main small plate I got the Pork Belly Adobo; soy-glazed pork belly, calamansi juice, micro cilantro, carrot puree, black rice, and scallions. There was so much going on in this dish and it blended together so beautifully. The pork belly was so tender and flavorful, and the black rice (which I had never had) added a nice texture. This dish was far beyond my culinary prowess. You can just eat cilantro? YES, you CAN! The only problem with this dish was that I was left wanting more. Darn small plates.
I stole this photo from one of my favorite local foodies - follow him on instagram @dafoodie
I suppose it was a blessing in disguise that I was still drooling over the pork belly as she took my plate away, because I had the perfect amount of room in my stomach to fit in dessert. My friend ordered the chocolate pistachio torte while I went for a classic creme brulee.
Not the best capture of our treats but the lighting was against me.
I've had some really good creme brulee in my 31 years, but this was perfection. I almost didn't want to try my friends dessert because I didn't want to take this taste away from my buds for a second. Not only was it rich and creamy but it was very generous in portion. The chocolate torte was amazingly intense. I would probably order it for pick up on a monthly basis...if you know what I mean.
It's places like Scratch that get me really excited about the the food scene in Orlando. Less fast casual, quick serve in-and-out, turn those tables as fast as you can for a mediocre experience. More about fresh ingredients, made by talented passionate people, who want you to have an experience; not simply be a guest count. Scratch offers all of that and more. (Like a Barbie themed women's bathroom).