I attended the Damon continuing education meeting in Orlando last weekend. Depending on who you ask, Damon is either an orthodontic bracket (brace), or a religion. It was held at the JW Marriott, which is part of the Grande Lakes complex, along with the Ritz Carlton.
I had dinner Thursday night at Norman’s, Norm Van Aken’s restaurant in the Ritz Carlton. It is a beautiful restaurant, dark and rich as you would expect in a Ritz Carlton. We were a party of 10, and ate at the ‘Chef’s Table’, which, surprisingly, was in the middle of the main dining room surrounded by wine storage. I had always thought the chef’s table was in the kitchen, but I guess that’s in the eye of the beholder.
The food was good, although not great, and I was particularly disappointed in the limited seafood offerings, and the unenthusiastic description of the seafood dishes by the waitstaff. What was incredible, however, was the steak tartare appetizer. I could hardly get enough of it- almost indescribably delicious. We also enjoyed several bottles of a relatively inexpensive Cabernet called Decoy. I will look for it again in the future. Overall, I was a little disappointed. I really enjoyed the ‘No Reservations’ episode where Bourdain cooked at Norman’s house in Key West, and I was expecting a transcendent meal. Yet again, the Orlando outpost of a celebrity chef proves to be a weak sister. Emeril’s ‘Tchoup Shop’ at Universal proved to be particularly disappointing when I ate there several years ago.
One positive note is that the banquet/meeting food at the JW Marriott was outstanding- without a doubt the best I have ever had at an event of this type.