Tuesday, November 15, 2016

An unforgettable dining experience at 1921 by Norman Van Aken

Mount Dora Fla., Orlando, Orlando restaurants
Photo by Shad Bookout
If Mount Dora's charming shops and spectacular lake background are not enough reason for you to visit this town, I have discovered a restaurant that will make Mount Dora become a destination for you and your family.

My husband and I had a completely unique, memorable experience at 1921 by Norma Van Aken. We started out at the restaurant's partner across the street, the Modernism Museum - a visit that I would highly recommend. Once you immerse yourself in the art, history and culture of the works at this museum, you have a greater understanding of the philosophy and modern wood and metal decor featured throughout the restaurant - including the authentic chairs and tables that are used.

In addition to gorgeous art pieces scattered throughout, the stunning drapes in one of the dining rooms really help you feel the drama and "Old World" American feel of the eatery. 

1921 by Norman Van Aken's cuisine is equally as dramatic and unique - and I mean that in a very good way. Chef Van Aken, also the founder of Norman's at Ritz Carlton, is lauded as the founder of "New World" cuisine, a celebration of Latin, Caribbean, African Asian and American flavors. 1921's dishes feature some of these flavors, but with more of a modern Florida and local seafood focus.

In fact, the restaurant uses only Florida, sustainable seafood - including some lesser-known species that are very tasty. Kudos to Chef Van Aken for keeping Florida fishermen working, while providing outstanding meals and atmosphere to guests. I would highly recommend 1921 to anyone - especially for a special occasion like an anniversary or birthday party. With the high level of service here, you will definitely feel special and pampered.

We started with a Roasted Beet Salad with burrata, toasted sunflower seeds and a citrus-vanilla vinaigrette. The burrata mozarella provided a nice creaminess against the golden and red beets and the crunch of sunflower seeds. We paired this dish with a Muga 2015 rose wine - a wine which we really enjoyed and paired perfectly with this dish. For snacks and starters, you also need to try the Conch Fritters and the Spiny Lobster & Rock Shrimp Dumplings.
1921 by Norman van Aken, Chef Norman van Aken, Shad Bookout, OpinionsVary
Photo by Shad Bookout

Next, we feasted on Cape Canaveral Wreckfish over a Charred Zellwood corn puree with potatoes, mussels, chorizo and sauce mer noir, as well as the Ponce Inlet Golden Tilefish in a coconut curry sauce with conch fritter, charred pineapple and acorn squash. In both dishes, the fish was absolutely cooked perfectly. The wreckfish was seasoned simply with salt and pepper. With the tilefish, the coconut curry sauce was so light, it did not detract from the flavor of the fish; instead, it added to the complete meal.

For dessert, we would highly recommend the Zellwood Corn Panna Cotta, with popcorn tuile and maple crumble. The crunchy maple crumble was the perfect texture to mix with the smooth panna cotta. And a cookie made from popcorn: what a revelation!

The restaurant just started serving Sunday brunch, and I will definitely be back for that. Among the unique and delicious brunch dishes: S'Mores Doughnuts with Chocolate & Fluff Sauces, 'Korea Town' Chicken & Waffles with Asian Spiced Syrup and Smoked Brisket Hash with Confit Potatoes, Pickled Sweetie Drop Peppers, Thyme & Vinaigrette & a Poached Farm Egg.

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