Best Bite boogie time. Every month, Orlando Eats highlights a sampling of top tastes in Central Florida; three random nibbles that delighted, surprised, or befuddled with their brilliance.

It was an odd September. Mid-month, a Chew Chew voodoo doll undoubtedly landed in the hands of an unhappy Orlando chef and she tore its lungs asunder. Bronchial sicky-ickiness sidelined me for nearly two weeks. In addition, two of our Orlando Eaters were scattered to the winds. Miraculously, we still managed to squeeze in an awful lot of eating, resulting in unusually mean competition for our monthly Best Bites.

Grandma’s Chicken Stew @ Sticky Rice Lao Street Food ~ $9

Go-Kart Romeo and I did a Sticky Rice drive by a coupla weeks back to sample its new menu and walked away buzzed and besotted (and a tad relieved – standby faves survived the cut). Plenty to like, even if we’ve yet to try a dish or two.

Chicken Stew at Sticky Rice Lao Restaurant in Orlando

Pic’ed here is Grandma’s Chicken Stew with slow braised chicken, eggplant, lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves; floral, fatty, punchy, soul-huggy. What my fat mamaw’s chicken & dumplings could be if she didn’t deem herbs and spices the seed of Satan. Don’t tell Lao Grandma, but we felt it needed an extra splash of fish sauce and a dash more chili kick (both easily remedied) but do tell Lao Grandma we loved it overall and will be ordering it again (soon).

Sticky Rice Lao Street Food
1915 E Colonial Drive
Orlando, FL 32803
(321) 800-6532
Check ’em out on Facebook here

Shrimp Tempura with Cashews @ Ravenous Pig ~ price? Magic 8-ball says reply hazy, try again

Just goes to show ya – simplicity, quality and talent. It’s all you need to succeed in the restaurant biz — plus luck, money, connections, marketing savvy, a winning location, stable economy, cocktail umbrellas, urinal games… Ahem. Sorry. Simplicity, quality and talent. Quality crustaceans, a gentle hand with batter, an expert fry, and a subtle turn of the flavor screw (cashews and microgreens) and – whammo – you’re face to face with perfection on a plate. We devoured these little pretties while funneling rum punch to counter a category 5 bout of anxiety. A highly recommended approach. Hunger sated, anxiety numbed, and Dorian kept offshore. Shrimp and booze win again.

Tempura Shrimp with Cashews at Ravenous Pig in Winter Park Florida
The Ravenous Pig
565 W Fairbanks Avenue
Winter Park, FL 32789
407-628-2333
www.theravenouspig.com

Pan-fried Pork Belly Gyoza @ Tori Tori ~ $6

Had an up and down experience at a recent soft-open dinner at Tori Tori. Ups? A winner of a room and, as is evidenced here, some of the food. Downs? Uniformly watery drinks from bottlenecked bartenders and a pretentious undercurrent that was borderline vibe killer. A burly security guard (in one of those awful strip-club t-shirts), a forced wait in an outdoor queue, admission wristbands, and a conceptual spiel delivered so heavy handedly that it left little room for individual discovery and experience — unnecessarily orchestrated and clumsily self-conscious — a caricature of in-demand dining. All of it felt particularly out of place in a Mills 50 ‘hood known for its easygoing, live-and-let-live authenticity.

Warts and all, we’re sure Tori Tori will be a hit and sincerely hope it settles into a more genuine groove in time for its Grand Opening on Wednesday, October 16th. We want to like this place and truly enjoyed certain dishes. Dishes like this pan-fried pork belly gyoza with yuzu remoulade and clover sprouts. Yes, lots of tasty words here. Equally tasty when made tangible. Exploded in the mouth like a fatty, piggy Tsar Bomba.

Pan fried Pork Belly Gyoza at Tori Tori in Orlando
Tori Tori
720 N Mills Avenue
Orlando, FL 32803
Phone? Phone?! There’s no phones where we’re going, grandma.
www.toritoripub.com
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