For a town that owes its celebrity to mouseears and a big fish, Orlando has come a longway as a center of gastronomy and is nowblossoming as an epicurean attraction.Orlando natives and visitors eat and drink every bit aswell as their counterparts in New Orleans. New andbeautiful restaurants with cocky chefs and splashymenus are springing up everywhere, especially alongwhat has come to be known as "Restaurant Row,"just minutes from the Orange County ConventionCenter on International Drive.
• Seasons 52â€”This restaurant was designed to meeta specific criterion: every item on the menu contains lessthan 475 calories. Taste is paramount, and texture andpresentation are visually appealing. The room is loftyand comfortable, the ambience is chic casual, and thecuisine is spectacular. Try the hearth-baked criminimushroom flatbread, the oak-grilled beef filet mignonwith tamarind sauce, and the big steak potatoes. Thewine list offers 120 red and white wines by the glassand bottle. For more information, visit www.seasons52.com or call 407-354-5212.
• Capriccio Grill Italian Steakhouseâ€”Located insideThe Peabody Orlando and conveniently situatedopposite the convention center, Capriccio Grill is amust if you appreciate great steaks and fish or ifyou're counting carbs. Ruprecht's of Chicago, thenation's top purveyor of prime beef, provides primesteaks and chops. Try the lobster and the fresh catchof the day, and save room for the dessert shooters. Theextensive wine list features the finest vineyards in theworld by the glass or bottle. Have a cocktail and somefine appetizers at the bar. For more information, visitwww.peabodyorlando.com or call 407-345-4570.
• Timpano's Italian Chophouseâ€”The Chophouse isa local watering hole where everything is big. Try thebig city or classic martini. Wines, big and bold, bone-insteaks, chops, and pasta bowls are accompanied bycrisp wedges of lettuce drizzled with a delicious vinaigretteand Roquefort cheese. The warm and cozyambience and the piano provide a lively backdrop inthe bar. For alfresco dining, there's a dreamy outdoorsetting that overlooks a lake. For more information,call 407-248-0429.
• Jikoâ€”Located at the Animal Kingdom Lodge inWalt Disney World, Jiko is an amazing dining experiencethat provides an authentic taste of Africa. Andyou can brush up on your Swahili: Jiko is Swahili forthe "Cooking Place." The soaring room is decoratedin African art, artifacts, masks, and weavings. Staffmembers are mainly from Africa and dress in traditionalcostume. The wine list features the best ofSouth African wines by bottle or glass. TheVeenwouden, Paarl '00 is a wonderful Merlot, greatwith pork tenderloin, and the Thelema, Stellenbosch'00 is perfect with the oak-grilled filet mignon. Formore information, call 407-939-3463.