I rarely step into a restaurant unless it has been open six weeks. Waiting allows the staff to shake off those wobbly newborn steps and gives me an idea on how an eatery will be driven once the management scrutiny of the initial opening weeks subsides.
I made an exception for a lunch visit to Kingfish Bistro in Orlando's College Park. My original destination was another Edgewater Drive restaurant, which was packed with no chance of an open seat anytime soon. Across the street I could see Kingfish was open with a good number of tables filled. The legs were wobbly as I expected. But how staffers handled themselves was a sign of good training and good things to come. On my second visit weeks later for dinner, the restaurant did not disappoint.
Kingfish sits on the busy corner of Edgewater Drive and Princeton Street. Its small dining room has great natural lighting in the daytime thanks to large windows. The space, which was once home to a tile shop, is a mix of high tops and regular tables.
The lunch was punctuated with a great give-and-take:
Waiter: Can I get you something to drink?
Customer: I'll have unsweet tea.
Waiter: Our brewing machine isn't ready yet so we only have sweet tea.
Customer in an enhanced Southern drawl: What is this? Georgia?
By my second visit, unsweet tea was plentiful. And all was right with the world in this region of the South.
At lunch I sampled a calzone ($8.95). The half-moon shaped dough was filled with generous amounts of ricotta, pepperoni, sausage, bacon and ham. Paired with a salad, it is easily shareable.
The meatball parmigiana sandwich ($6.50) was presented on fabulously fresh bread. The two large meatballs were lightly seasoned and tender, the latter being a sign of a deft hand not overmixing the ingredients. My only quibble was the tricolor corn chips served on the side — an odd match for the acidic tomato sauce and cheese.
At dinner, the fried calamari ($7.95) served with a side of marinara rocked as did the four small fried egg rolls ($6.95). The wonton wrappers encased pork, shrimp and shredded carrots and came with a soy dipping sauce.
For the salmon di marco ($16.95), a piece of Alaskan king salmon was pan-roasted with mushrooms and artichokes in a creamy tarragon sauce and served over linguine. It was more than I expected from this casual bistro. The flavors and textures were balanced and the fish expertly cooked (juicy, fork tender with just a slightly rosy center).
Chicken piccata ($12.95) was prepared in the traditional manner with wine, garlic, capers and a lemon butter sauce. The requisite fresh parsley was lacking. In some piccatas, meat is pounded thin. In the Kingfish interpretation, strips of tenders are a fine stand in.
Kingfish Bistro has an eclectic mix of Asian and Mediterranean influences. Given its name, it is interestingly light on fish offerings.
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Where: 2124 Edgewater Drive, Orlando (College Park)
When: 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday and Saturday