Knives and spoons now open on the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes in Orlando
Just over a year after Norman closed, the Ritz-Carlton Grande Lakes added a new restaurant to its offering. Knife & Spoon is open and is now taking reservations.
Tesar and the strange case of utensils
The new spot is the brainchild of head chef John Tesar. Celebrity chef fans can recognize Tesar’s name from a number of awards he has received throughout his career, including multiple nominations for the James Beard Award and appearances on the television series “Top Chef.” Chef de cuisine is Gerald Sombright, whom we saw earlier at The Four Seasons here in Orlando.
The name “Knife & Spoon” given to me by my server pays homage to Tesar’s other restaurants in the Dallas, Texas area. Although Spoon Bar & Kitchen is now closed, it has focused on seafood in raw and lightly cooked preparations. Knife’s two locations, one in Dallas and the other in Plano, are best described as “reinventing the steak,” using both Texas beef and local produce. (If you want to learn more, be sure to check this out Tesar’s conversation with Jennifer McKee, editor of Where Dallas, last year.)
For Orlando’s Knife & Spoon, Tesar merges the two concepts. Team Surf offers thoughtful options for raw, chilled, and lightly cooked fish and other seafood preparations along with some of the dishes it made famous during its television appearances. At the other end of the culinary spectrum, beef dominates the rest of the menu, with some space in the middle for pasta, chicken, and lamb.
We were invited to a media preview ahead of the restaurant’s opening on October 7th. Here are some of my first impressions of Orlando’s newest gourmet eatery.
A look around
From the entrance, guests are greeted in an airy, refined and modern ambience. A subtle sign is crowned by a modern fluorescent lamp installation that marks the waiting area outside the restaurant.
When I turned right to go into the lounge, I noticed these doors with their eye-catching details.
The comfortable lounge with its low furniture seemed like a good place to have a drink with friends, either as a precursor to other fun or before making a reservation in the dining room.
My meal attendant and I were shown through the lounge and past the bar to the hostess booth before turning back to the dining room.
Fans of Norman will surely recognize the space, and yet everything is different. Modern furniture in a palette of gray and blue tones has replaced the dark-stained wood and Mediterranean flair of the previous decor. The center of the room that once housed bottles of wine has been opened, with a distinctive ceiling detail at the top and a mossy mound below.
And while a tour of the room will be of interest to you, I am sure that this is the food you came for. So let’s get started.
Drinks and dishes
At the beginning we couldn’t miss any of the Knife & Spoon cocktails and the Seared Citrus old fashioned ($ 20) with Barrel-Select 1792 Full-Proof Bourbon and Seared Orange Cordial didn’t disappoint.
And when they say “full evidence”, believe them. I probably should have skipped the glass of wine with dinner or not finished this (perfectly tasty and) potent drink.
At that point it became clear that I was in a restaurant that was a mix of ghosts: there was a lot in the mix that reminded me of other Ritz-Carlton occasions, from bread service to a lovely amuse bouche to mignardise at the end of the meal (photos of these jewel-like goodies). But I’m ahead of myself. I’m showing you everything because I want you to know how lovely the flow of this meal was.
A steward with a linen-lined tray filled to the brim with delicious bread offered us a selection. It wasn’t an easy choice.
After asking detailed questions about the offers, we made our selection. A delicate ravioli with roe and a sauce reminiscent of lobster bisque was the perfect start to our two-bite meal.
We decided to focus on the seafood offerings as the first course and shared that Pounded Big Eye Tuna ($ 36). The solid piece of incredibly fresh tuna covered a hidden treasure of foie gras torch perched on wafer-thin toasted baguette slices.
You may not think sushi-grade tuna goes well with foie gras. But you’d be wrong. The richness of the foie gras meets the meaty texture of the tuna in a calculated combination, and the crispy baguette serves as the perfect foil. I would have been happy with that as my meal.
Friends dining nearby enjoyed the Passmore Ranch Caviar (mp), inventive served with sturgeon chicharrones. Instead of the traditional sour cream in the bowl, spicy yogurt was served.
At the recommendation of our server, we started our starters with the Deconstructed Scampi ($ 32), a dish reinvented with Alaskan king crab instead of the traditional prawn. The warm crab is served on a herbal emulsion that was so good that we brazenly dipped our bread in it. A garlic foam, reminiscent of sea foam, rounds off the dish artistically.
However, Knife and Spoon was billed as a “steakhouse concept” from the first announcement, so we felt obliged to try one of the steak offerings. It wasn’t a difficult choice: we left with the show stop, 45-day dry-aged 32-ounce bone-in-ribeye ($ 130). And I have to say it. This is the best steak I’ve ever had.
The aging process gives the meat rich, buttery notes, wonderfully distilling its aromas and giving it a tenderness that I had never experienced in a ribeye. If you are a red meat lover this is a highlight of your culinary journey. (Keep in mind that there are also options for 60, 90, 150, and 240 day ages, as well as unaged beef if you’re prone to.)
This is a hefty steak; Even though I shared it with my meal partner, we still took leftovers home with us.
Another note about beef: Chef Tesar sources most of his premium beef 44 farms in Texas, a 1909 ranch that uses a variety of best practices to produce some of the best beef products on the market. You can read more about them on their website. (The menu also includes some Heart Brand Akaushi beef choices.)
As is common in many steakhouses, the sides are separate and generous. We chose that Kimchi creamed spinach ($ 17) and the Mashed potatoes ($ 15). While the mashed potatoes were absolutely perfect, I’ll give the far more interesting spinach the edge here. It’s everything you’d expect from that classic side and more: subtle spice, creaminess, and a bit of a sour note to balance the flavors. I plan to beg for the recipe in the near future.
We decided to skip that Financier french fries ($ 27), a move I later regretted when I saw this plate on our friends table. Instead of french fries, the dish consists of potato plaster (a layered, fried potato preparation) topped with caviar, chives, truffles and bonito. I can’t speak to the taste, but the dish looked pretty impressive.
We decided not to call it night without looking at the dessert menu, which is simply organized according to the dominant tastes of each selection. I decided orange ($ 15), a fluffy Grand Marnier souffle topped off with a puckery passion fruit sorbet.
My companion chose that raspberry ($ 15).
Under the spun sugar cage, the candy consisted of an almond macaroon (also known as macaron) topped with diplomatic cream and yuzu sorbet. The menu terminology, while classic, proved a bit confusing as my friend was expecting a coconut macaroon instead of an almond macaroon. Still, it was a pleasant end to the meal.
But we weren’t quite done yet. In addition to our desserts, we were pampered with a collection of jewel-like Mignardisen that accompanied our lavish cups of coffee.
From the miniature babas to the pate, all were exquisite.
A meal at Knife & Spoon is clearly intended as an experience. It’s perfect for vacationers, city congressmen with a sizeable spending account, or locals looking to celebrate a special occasion.
While the prices are high, the quality of service and cuisine we enjoyed is what one would expect. This is especially true of the aged beef, some of which are waiting to be your dinner for most of the year and which makes for a truly remarkable dining experience. And with some special occasions cropping up in our family, I’m sure I’ll be dining at Knife & Spoon again in the near future.
We were invited to a free media dinner at Knife & Spoon. The views and opinions expressed are our own.
Categories:: eat, Where Orlando
Keywords:: aged beef, Creamed spinach, dessert, elegant dining, Foie gras, Grande Lakes, John Tesar, Knife spoon, new restaurants, old fashioned cocktail, Orlando food scene, Orlando restaurants, Mashed potatoes, Ritz-Carlton Orlando, seafood, steak, Steak house, Top chef, tuna