April 21, 2011
An open kitchen anchors the middle room at sprawling Kouzzina restaurant, in Disney's BoardWalk.
In early April, I twice visited Kouzzina, a sprawling, noisy restaurant, at Disney’s BoardWalk, in Orlando, Fla.
Disney operates the restaurant, which carries the imprimatur of U.S. celebrity chef Cat Cora, seen on the Food Network’s Iron Chef programme.
I’m often skeptical of restaurants opened by carpetbagging celebrity chefs who don’t even live in the same city and ‘run’ the restaurants in absentia.
In this case, Cora lives in Malibu, Calif. – quite a commute from Orlando.
Well, I needn’t have worried, because Kouzzina is superb.
Reflecting Cora’s Greek heritage, the menu delivers trad dishes from that sun-drenched country, wrought with a careful hand.
A tasting trio of dips (smoky eggplant, creamy whipped feta, intriguing harissa-tinged yogurt scented with cinnamon) get things off on the right foot.
The daily fish is beyond reproach. Daurade (similar to Mediterranean seabass, but juicier and meatier) is wild-caught off the island of Crete, flown to the restaurant within 18 hours and baked until the flesh is moist and succulent.
A tasting trio offers some of the menu’s more interesting dishes: moist and tender cinnamon-stewed chicken on herbed orzo; brightly seasoned lamb burger; and, best of all, pastitsio, a Greek version of lasagna, featuring bucatini noodles, cinnamon-perfumed ground beef and a rich bechamel.
Desserts are no afterthought, be it the Greek yogurt with honey, the Greek-yogurt sorbet with mint syrup and berries, or the custard-and-phyllo dessert, galaktoboureko.
Adding to the fun is the boisterous room, whose three airy sections feature a post-and-beam roof and bare-wood tables. A large and lively open kitchen anchors the middle room.
On both visits, service is exceptionally friendly and knowledgeable. Would that all celebrity-chef restaurants be this good…
A private dining area seats 24.
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