Mahi Mahi Picatta

                I was willing to celebrate my anniversary night celebration on the wrong night just so I could indulge in Big Fin Seafood Kitchen’s Monday night $13.95 special for a one-and-a-half lb steamed Whole Maine Lobster. I even fantasized about eating two of them by myself just to mark the occasion as extra special. My husband had a better idea as it turned out. Celebrate on the correct night, but begin the feast of food during Big Fin’s daily happy hour, from 5-7 pm. Big Fin is located in the Dr Phillips area at the Dellagio Town Center. Whether you dine in at the Trophy Bar or outside at the Bar-A-Cuda Patio and Bar, cocktails and appetizers were a pocket-pleasing $5 each.

                As the weather was muggy that night and we dressed up, we chose to sit inside at the Trophy Bar, a casually-friendly eclectic mix of décor. Rich dark woods frame contemporary light fixtures that render a subdued glow.  A large blackboard states the night’s fresh offerings. An eye-popping checkered black & white floor design runs into the white marble bar counter and the column bases separating the bar area from the main dining room. I like the whimsy of Big Fin. The food is seriously good, but the décor has a relaxed feel that makes the corporate diners feel comfortable even when sitting in the middle of the room with their clients. The surrounding walls of the main dining room are a creamy expanse divided by dark wood . One section of wall boasts “best tails in town” above a lobster tail and another says “we’ve got crabs” above a giant crab. Centered in the room is a giant spinning globe hanging from a compass rose set into the ceiling.

                The main dining room is just one of several areas in which to enjoy Big Fin. The Bar-A-Cuda Patio and Bar area can host 150 for cocktail receptions. Two private dining rooms extend off the main room, with the Pacific holding up to 60 and the Atlantic accommodating up to 80. Full buyout of the restaurant can hold 450.

Main dining room

                Bearing in mind that we still planned on having dinner, we chose our appetizers carefully, knowing it was unlikely we’d finish all we ordered. The biggest challenge was selecting from so many possibilities, including spicy tuna roll, crisp calamari, popcorn shrimp, steakhouse roll or a full-sized Angus burger served with fries. With lobster foremost on my mind, I chose the 3-oz tail. It arrived with just a hint of broiled char on the edges, which elicited satisfying sighs after delicately dipping the succulent treat into the side of melted butter.  Russ opted for the fish tacos (a shock to me as he’s more a meat & potatoes kind of guy). We thought them packed with fish and flavor, but they were a tad too spicy for him. Good thing he had a margarita to wash it down with. As we were into over-indulgence mode, we decided we couldn’t pass up a plate of Big Fin’s signature homemade potato chips served with roasted garlic horseradish blue cheese fondue.  I am sure that creamy thick sauce was going straight from our lips to our hips, but it took every bit of willpower we both had to finally say no to “just one more.” Warning: these are addictive. Thankfully, the tartness of my Apple-tini balanced out the richness, or at least, that’s my rationale and I’m sticking to it.              

                Lucky for us, our anniversary falls during Magical Dining Month. For those of you not in the know, it annually runs September 1 to September 30 and (mostly) upscale restaurants offer three-course prix fixe’ meals for $30.  The selections for each restaurant are posted at http://www.visitorlando.com/magicaldining/. Like good Scouts, Russ and I had studied the options and came prepared to order our main courses.

                I was still in seafood nirvana and chose the Clams Casino for my appetizer and Mahi Mahi Picatta for my main dish. I’ll confess here and now. I thought I would nibble at the clams and save all my room for the Picatta. I thought that until I tasted the first on a plate crowded with diced sweet clams brimming over their shells and topped by a heady mixture of crunchy bacon bits, casino butter, roasted garlic, and scallions. The Mahi Mahi was about an inch thick, pan seared and topped with capers and thin lemon slices in beurre blanc. It could not have been cooked any better. A plentiful mound of creamy garlic mashed potatoes and green beans finished off the plate.

                Service with a smile wasn’t listed on the menu, but it could have been. Our server Dave was personable, friendly without being overbearing, witty and wise about wines, helping us select an excellent accompaniment to suit both our palates and dishes, which turned out to be a velvety smooth 2009 Ste. Michelle Indian Wells Merlot. We were wondering why he’d not brought some bread to munch on and as we saw a few other tables with it, asked. Dave said the bread is often left uneaten, so now diners have to ask for it and are charged one cent. Yes, the dense and chewy sour dough did show up on the bill. When Russ turned up his nose at the shellfish appetizer selections, Dave kindly brought him a delicious Caesar salad (his favorite) instead.

                Russ had 10-oz filet mignon, a juicy, tender serving grilled exactly as ordered. For this Iowa-born beef connoisseur, his filet was comparable to the high-end steakhouses populating the SW Orlando side of town. Two favorites, asparagus and the garlic mashed potatoes, rounded out his meal.          

Coconut creme brulee

      Dessert was next. Although I was taking part of my meal home, dessert was part of the three courses. We had to order it, right? We both ordered the coconut crème brulee, a heavenly light pudding topped by a delicate portion of toasted coconut and served in a 4×6 oval before discovering we’d gotten the last one. Don’t cry for us yet. We instead received a generous slice of tart key lime pie to-go.

                Speaking of desserts, Big Fin is showing the love in October to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Buy their Pink Coconut Dessert, a frozen soufflé confection of toasted coconut and pink lemonade for just $6.95 and $2 will be donated to The American Cancer Society’s Making Strides Against Breast Cancer Walk of Orlando. 

              

Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is a Contributing Editor-Writer for Prevue Magazine and is an active member of ISES and MPI, for which she is on the Membership Advisory Council and the Industry Advisory Council. She writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events. A career journalist, Karen has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events. karenkuzsel@earthlink.net; www.ThePsychicLady.com

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