One of my favorite steakhouses in Orlando, Bull and Bear at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando, has re-vamped their menu. It’s become, if you can believe it, even better. You can see my initial review of the Bull and Bear here, to compare notes.
Dark, luxurious, and plush. When you walk into this restaurant through the “library” of wine and the pleasant lounge, you don’t just hope for an incredible meal. You anticipate one.
We arrived for a tasting of the new menu and couldn’t wait to explore the new dishes. We’d been told that the chef, David Sears, wanted to expand a bit, creating dishes that one might not see on a standard steakhouse menu…
We started the meal with a bang — literally. Our first tasting plate was prefaced with a beautiful Taittinger Brut Prestige Rosé champagne. This was easily my favorite pairing of the evening — fresh, fruity, very light. What a great way to begin!
This was paired with a rare salmon (Chef Sears flies this line-caught salmon in at the rate of just a few per week) cured with citrus and tarragon and finished with mache lettuce, pommelo, and pink peppercorn granité.
The salmon was mild and had a fresh flavor. Together with the bitter-sweet pommelo (which is like a sweet grapefruit) it was excellent. Even if you’re not a seafood lover, you’ll enjoy this one. The whole is absolutely more than the sum of its parts!
The pink peppercorn granité was a nice palate cleanser to follow the salmon. The spicy-sweet flavor and icy texture was like nothing I’d ever tried before, and though I liked it, it wasn’t my favorite part of the meal. (And you should take all you can from that, dear readers, because that’s about as negative as I’m going to get about this meal! I’m pretty sure this menu is what they serve in heaven.)
That said, at this point already I know we’re in for a treat at this meal, and that Bull and Bear guests will never find his menu boring as long as Chef Sears is here.
We started the next tasting course with a 2009 Cade Sauvignon Blanc, which complimented the absolutely amazing soup that followed!
The Zellwood corn soup (the corn is from Zellwood, Florida — check it out — they have a festival!) is just about the richest, most decadent appetizer you could ever dream of ordering.
We begin with a sizeable “grilled cheese sandwich” at the bottom of the bowl — a truffle and brilliat savarin cheese sandwich that is…with caviar.
Then the soup is poured table-side, drowning the poor little sandwich in unbelievably creamy liquid. But I must admit, it looks lovely. And watching the soup poured into the bowl elicits a mouth-watering response. The aromas hit your nose, the colors tease your eyes, and you can’t wait to dive in!
The first taste is exquisite — especially for those who are soup-lovers like me. This is like a velvet cream — hugely thick and rich with flavor. The sandwich and caviar are a wonderful compliment to this dish, adding strong, salty notes to the sweet, rich soup. I could probably eat this every single day. But be warned — you will fill up on this soup!
By the way — here’s a tip: when I asked what made the soup so incredibly smooth, thick, and creamy, Chef Sears mentioned that he’d used a bit of potato in the recipe. Brilliant.
We started the third tasting with a Ramey Chardonnay, a fun and moderately strong compliment for the next very interesting dish!
This tasting was one that you might not expect, or even initially want to order, but, my friends, it was divine. Lick-the-bowl divine.
Escargot & Gnocchi with shimeji mushroom and black garlic. Oh. My. Heavens. I’ve never seen escargot served like this, and Chef Sears admitted that he’d heard his fair share of skeptics when he first mentioned this dish. But the pairing of the gnocchi with the escargot is a smart one as the textures balance each other well. And the garlic cream sauce in this dish is absolutely inspired.
When we returned to Bull and Bear a few nights later to dine on our own dime, we were sorry to hear that the Escargot and Gnocchi were already sold out for the night! (By the way, the presentation was much better than this…before I started eating it…)
Our fourth tasting course, the rabbit ravioli from Seely’s Ark Farm with baby fennel, creamed cippolini, and pancetta, was paired with a Drouhin pinot noir. An interesting pair with a lighter dish, but it tasted great.
So in addition to being absolutely gorgeous on the plate, the rabbit ravioli was a great blend of textures and flavors. The savory saltiness from the pancetta, the sweet/savory tang of the creamed cippolini onions, and the thick and fresh pasta were great compliments to the rabbit, which had a pulled pork texture and a light meat flavor — not gamey at all. Definitely a winner, and one of my favorite dishes of the night.
Sigh. It’s beautiful, right?
After all of these delicious appetizers, it was on to the main event — the Tomahawk Steak for Two! We shared it between three of us, but it was just as filling! As you know from my last review, this steak is massive, is sliced table-side, and is probably the most flavorful thing you will ever put in your mouth.
BUT — and here’s what I haven’t been able to wait to tell you about — they’ve added a fun new embellishment to the Tomahawk.
Do you see that candle next to the steak?
Yeah. That one.
It’s not just for decoration. It’s for flavor. That candle, my friends, is made entirely of beef fat. It accompanies the Tomahawk (and the Tomahawk only, as we sadly found out on a return visit) to the table to add even more flavor to the steak!
As we know: fat = flavor. And as Chef Sears noticed that he had a lot of fat left over in the kitchen and wanted to be resourceful, this is the fabulous-tasting outcome!
Now, I know this might not yet have clicked yet, especially in this day and age of draining fat off of the meat as you’re cooking it. But I can’t tell you what an intense and positive addition this is to an already incredible meal.
You guys have got to trust me on that one. (I know you’re still not sure.) Two thumbs up, Chef Sears.
Next up — an Atalon Merlot along with the side dishes. These were plated table-side as well, but they were left on the table for us to help ourselves through the meal.
The side dishes have changed slightly from our last visit, and we got to sample the butter mashed potato (creamiest mashed potatoes I’ve ever…EVER…had), the Bull & Bear French Fries (decadent and delicious — crispy, salty, flavorful), the Mac and Cheese with Pancetta (still on the menu, natch, ’cause it’s amazing), creamed corn (again, the dark horse winner of the side dish battle; scraped from the cob, creamed, and fantastic — I could eat this all day) and the wilted tatsoi (it sure looked good; can’t say I had much room for it!).
They’ve added a Meyer Lemon Scented Risotto to the mix, and guests can also order seasonal wild mushrooms, and asparagus.
I also noted a new sauce on the menu — Belete’s Spiced Chimichurri, which I’m guessing is named for restaurant Manager Manny Belete. Having met Manny, I promise that when it says “spiced,” it means “SPICED!”
For dessert, we tried two brand new items on the menu: The Lemon, and the chocolate bar. I know — they sound innocuous, don’t they?
The Lemon is a brilliant new dessert — an actual lemon is turned into a sweet, intense dish. Filled with a mixture of lemon curd, cream, sorbet, and wonderfulness, your job is to eat the whole thing — rind and all! (The rind has a “fruit leather” type of texture and still has the strong, though not bitter, lemon taste.)
I loved this. A light, very different dessert that you won’t find anywhere else! A great antidote to the sometimes tired panna cottas and creme brulees…
The chocolate bar, on the other hand, is a lush, purely decadent dessert. Made with valrhona carmelia chocolate and topped with chocolate vodka syrup, this is a chocoholic’s dream! But don’t worry that it’s going to be another overly rich, heavy dessert. It’s surprisingly light and easy to eat (not sure if that’s a fortunate or an unfortunate thing). I wanted to only take two bites, but this is the kind of dessert that has you looking down at the plate five minutes later and wondering where it all went!
Once again — thanks to Chef Sears for this incredible new menu, and for spending time answering all of my inane questions! After this tasting, I can honestly say that it was difficult for us not to go back to Bull and Bear every evening that we were in Orlando.
As I said, we were treated to this dine around of the new menu by the Waldorf Astoria, but when our flight back to Dallas was canceled and we were stuck in Orlando for an extra night…we went back to Bull and Bear on our own dime. No kidding. We couldn’t help ourselves. That should pretty much give you a good idea about how much I genuinely like this place.
It’s posh, but extremely comfortable. The staff is incredible. The service is excellent (one of our favorite servers gave us a surprise take-out container of beignets — my husband’s favorite dessert — to take with us at the end of our second meal there). The location is spectacular — right in the middle of Disney World property. And the restaurant as a whole simply forces you to relax and enjoy. Many of us don’t relax nearly enough on our Orlando vacations, so that last attribute is a welcome one.
Plus, did I mention the food is phenomenal?
So what do you think YOU’D try first? Let us know in the comments section below!
Like I said, the Waldorf Astoria Orlando kindly invited us to this tasting and provided accommodations (please see our disclosure policy). I was not obligated to write a review at all, much less a positive review, but what can I say — this place is addictive. A beef fat candle?! How can you stay away?