The Venetian Room's version of Caprese Salad. all photos by Karen Kuzsel

The Venetian Room’s version of Caprese Salad. all photos by Karen Kuzsel

Romance  in The Venetian Room whispers like butterfly wings across the white linen tables, ornately carved dark woods, dim lighting and the hushed tones of the tuxedoed wait staff. Yes, we could have been part of the post-convention corporate crowd meeting at the Caribe Royale Hotel (Orlando, FL) where The Venetian Room is secluded behind heavy wooden doors and a whimsical entry, but instead we were one of the many couples cuddled in plush booth seats, curtained from the other tables by etched glass and wood walls. We were there to recapture the romantic aura emitted by both the elegantly sophisticated décor and the artistically divine creations of Chef Khalid Benghallem that we had first experienced last September for our anniversary.

Our first visit to the Four Diamond restaurant– routinely voted the most romantic restaurant in Orlando in various foodie surveys and publications, was during the Visit Orlando-sponsored Magical Dining Month when the prix fixee’ 3-course meal was $35. We’ve tried to return many times, but each time they were already booked up, so we were thrilled to get this reservation. Imagine how significant my husband Russ and I felt when two head waiters who had served us six months prior greeted us warmly and remembered roughly where we had sat and when we had been there. It doesn’t matter if their “remembering” had anything to do with our being in their customer system now; we felt “special.” Our main server for the evening was Matsi, a well-spoken knowledgeable server who proffered wise meal suggestions.

Once again, the ambiance created the mood that we were in for a sensory treat. The meal began with an amuse bouche of a delicate pesto cream gently tucked into a tartlet and kissed by a balsamic reduction. Five

Venetian signature salad

Venetian signature salad

different breads and crackers–including a mini stuffed olive baguette and a parmesan crisp– arrived next, accompanied by a trio of swirled whipped butters, fused with maple walnut, roasted garlic or Bernaise flavors. Russ selected a red wine with which we were unfamiliar, but how could someone whose alter ego is Natasha, The Psychic Lady not agree with him that Sixth Sense was “meant to be”? The chewy, fruit forward wine cast a lovely balance to the breads, butters and to the courses that followed. One notable comment: unlike what you might expect in an upper scale restaurant, the portions are large. This is not a “pay more, receive less” type of fru-fru place.

Russ ordered the The Venetian Room’s version of caprese salad. A drizzle of aged balsamic and citron sea salt dotted the brown Sanford Heirloom tomatoes and Buffalo mozzarella cheese. A cored out chunk of English cucumber stuffed with organic baby mixed greens was garnished with a purple orchid. I chose the signature Venetian salad. It was a beautifully plated dish on a large dish with pastel green swirls, which mimicked the green in the asparagus stalks that crossed over a cored out and rolled yellow tomato stuffed with mixed greens. Also on the plate was shaved fennel and black pepper crusted Chevre cheese, lightly sauced with a chili infused vinaigrette.

A melon-scoop ball of raspberry sorbet to cleanse our palate arrived in the center of a clear glass dish shaped like an orchid and served atop black napkins shaped like a flower around the dish.

raspberry sorbet in orchid glass was the palate cleanser

raspberry sorbet in orchid glass was the palate cleanser

Russ’ entrée was a seared beef filet accompanied by barley rhubarb chard, fennel and Pernod strudel, as well as a sizeable Yukon gold potato croquette doused by a shaved black truffle red wine reduction. I enjoyed an abundant portion of perfectly-cooked sea bass topped with a crunchy citron crab crust. The fish sat on a purple Okinawa sweet potato puree, with a tongue of steamed bok choy pointing out. All of that sat in a lake of caviar sauce, one side green and the other red. I’m not a fan of caviar but this was divine. With each bite a pop of the caviar would accent the myriad of flavors.

As full as we were, we could not pass up sharing the Grand Marnier soufflé. Light, airy, eggy,  melt-in-our- mouth wonderful, especially after the crème Anglaise was poured over the center.

citron crab crusted Chilean sea bass

citron crab crusted Chilean sea bass

Russ and I don’t often take an evening to dine in a relaxed atmosphere and feel like we’ve had an experience, not just a great meal. Thought coat-and-tie is purely optional, we enjoyed dressing to the atmosphere. We can’t wait to return.

Grand Marnier soufflé with creme Anglaise

Grand Marnier soufflé with creme Anglaise

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. 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;  @karenkuzsel; @thepsychiclady.

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