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Disney World survival guide

I travel at least once a month and find that most of my destinations there is no shortage of interesting places to eat.

The one city that really put me at a loss was Orlando, which seems singularly focused on the Disney World crowd. There are plenty of “high end” restaurants in Orlando, but going to Emerils or Tim Keating’s (of Quattro in Houston) Flying Fish Cafe seemed like a really bad idea. Keating may be a great chef, but what if all of his dishes are served with Mickey Mouse ears because his restaurant is located in the Disney’s Boardwalk Resort? No thanks.

I tried reading the local press for guidance, but they were most impressed with Seasons 52, owned by the people who brought you the Olive Garden, Red Lobster and Bahama Breeze. I can suspend disbelief, but there are limits to everything.

The first night I ended up at Hue Restaurant, which was packed with boisterous young professionals drinking, watching sports on large television sets and consuming large amounts of dull pan Asian food that’s all the rage these days. Rattan Bistro, in Houston, comes to mind as a comparison. I was beginning to think the trip was a complete loss.

Then things suddenly improved. I found Hanamizuki almost by chance on some random mailing list, which gave me little comfort. But the web site had virtually no English on it, so at the very least it seemed like they didn’t give a damn about Disney.

Hanamizuki is not a high end restaurant, nor does it build it’s business around a bar, but it does have very solid sushi chefs and great fish. I ordered an omakase, so I didn’t get a good look at the menu, but the place seems to cater primarily to Japanese crowd and a few locals in the know.

The fish at Hanamizuki is of very high quality. Not the transcendent stuff you find in the best Japanese restaurants, but better than vast majority of sushi places. Best things I sampled was supremely fresh aji, which was at the peak of the season at the time, and ankimo (monkfish liver).

So, if you are at Disney World and find yourself looking for something to eat, Hanamizuki is a good option. You could certainly do worse.

July 17, 2008   6 Comments