Vito’s Chophouse, Orlando FL. Mother’s Day Visit

Vito's Chop House on Urbanspoon

I’ve been here several times… I trust them with business, my family, and every special event. Without fail, they’ve met the highest standards in service and quality… simply amazing. They really took care of my mom for mother’s day (including a complimentary lobster bisque) and maintained the high level presentation and attention to detail that I’d built her up to expect.

Good job!

Sumo Sushi, Lakeland FL.

Sumo Sushi on Urbanspoon

Menu Items Tried:

  • Sushi Boat
  • Tempura Vegetables
  • Soup/Salad
  • Lion King Roll

I’ve tried to go to Sumo Sushi on several occasions, and have been thwarted by their bizarre operating hours every time.

For some reason, my sushi clock is entirely out of sync with their 2-5pm down time. After a few failed attempts, I had sworn them off for good, to be honest. Kind of unfair, considering that I should be able to read the door and remember it. Although terrible with numbers, my mammalian brain always retained the sting of finding the door shut when I was primed to paw the river for fresh fish.

A very good friend of mine who isn’t too familiar with sushi invited me for his initial foray into the cuisine, and I figured I’d give them another crack at my wallet. “If they’re closed this time, I’m done pretty much forever” I thought. The customer is always a jerk. Is that how it goes? Anyway…

My initial impression of the place was a bit guarded. The carpet smell I’m always on about was present. Not obscenely so, though. The place was relatively clean, with the wooden sushi bar taking center stage. Our table was a bit close to the wall, set at an odd angle, so the chair closest to the wall made the table feel a bit like the tray of a highchair. Also, the partition separating us from the other diners had a bit of unidentifiable and unappetizing black schmutz on it… could be excess varnish. Hard to tell. Still, I was along for the ride. Silverware was clean… can’t beat that.

The salad and soup arrived first. A standard highschool brown plastic bowl made an appearance with the soup, which was quite good, surprisingly. The aroma foretold a rich and balanced boullion flavor, not distinctly store bought, with a hint of scallions. The little panko crumbs sprinkled in right before service were a nice touch, in a dish rarely known for texture.

Their homemade ginger dressing was tangy, pungent and not-too-sweet, with what appeared to be carrot blended in with the ginger. Just different enough to be their own, and often the standard by which I measure Japanese faire, I’d call this dressing another a win for this sumo.

Next came the fairly standard tempura veggies. The fresh sweet potato that I tried was quite good, with a hearty crunch and perfectly moist potato inside.

The real treat was the first sushi boat. Yes, with the boat special (roughly 85 bucks), there are two. Entirely sashimi, all the fish was exquisitely fresh and chilled. The tuna was firm but supple, not flaky. The salmon was tender and succulent with no blemish. I’m not a fan of white fish, for the most part, but even those pieces were delectable. In fact, we were both thoroughly impressed with the escholar, a buttery white fish with a very mild flavor and gentle texture.

I thought it a particularly nice touch that they had gently sandwiched the thin slices of clam and octopus between even thinner slices of fresh lemon, standing in creative little lean-to’s at either end of the boat. For a first trip, my friend had a significantly heartier experience than my early toe-dipping into california rolls.

Next came boat two, containing salmon and tuna nigiri, along with two specialty rolls. Both of the rolls were fried and contained cream cheese, which, in both cases, are a huge no from me. I would have preferred a choice in the matter. Even so, the rolls were quite good, and the nigiri rice had the peak tenderness and flavor evident of a sushi master.

Throughout the adventure, the wait staff was attentive, and the authentic sushi chefs kept an amused eye on us as we happily devoured and discussed each morsel.

All in all, the ambience could use some polish, along with moving that back table away from the wall… but I was overall very glad that I’d finally paid a visit to unlocked doors, and now that I have the schedule down, I’m certain that I’ll be happily making my other two rounds. From my first impression, I have high hopes that the mastery shown in this visit will continue.


Visit 2

The location was fairly clean, this round. I had sushi and sashimi dinner for one, for roughly 26$. Nothing really stood out about the flavors, this time. Although the selection was good for sashimi, it lacked in the sushi department. a single, small tuna roll didn’t quite hit the spot. Especially considering that this relatively small serving was nearly thirty dollars. I ordered a rainbow roll to polish off. The fish on top was quite good. Fairly standard. Nothing to write home about, but my wallet was a bit lighter than I’d hoped by the end.

CarneVino, Las Vegas

Carnevino on Urbanspoon

Should you go? YES!

Menu Items Tried: Spaghetti nero, parmasean potatoes,spinach, fiorentina porterhouse, reserva porterhouse

I recently had the opportunity to dine in Vegas and I took a bit of a dining budget to sample the higher quality fare. As my friend likes to say, “gambling is a tax on people who don’t understand probabilities”. Although entertaining to watch, I really had no interest in those tables.

I wanted to try Bouchon, but they couldn’t support our party size on short notice, and we found ourselves instead at Mario Batale’s CarneVino.

As we made our way to the table through the impressive dining room, I took note that the general “foul carpet” smell that seems to always linger at even the finest restaurants- wasn’t present. Sometimes subtle, sometimes stunningly overpowering… most folks seem to just ignore it. I was pleasantly surprised to find that, aside from food smells, CarneVino had an intentional aroma of “clean”. The entire place was spotless, without the the caustic odors of bleach or ammonia. Places with that subtle touch are well maintained by folks who pay attention to customer impact. Along with balanced, impeccable signature silverware, this was a very nice beginning indeed.

The wait staff was helpful and upbeat, and as I strained to find a defect in the ambience, they gently guided me to a simple but interesting menu. So far.. perfect.

Bread appeared quickly thereafter, and I was pleasently surprised again by an interesting combination of butter and ‘lardo’ served with the bread. Although creative and fresh, the tastefully herbed lardo didn’t quite steer me away from the butter, which was also very good.



Next we tried the spaghetti Nero… I was able to find a lump of crab, but couldn’t for the life of me determine where the advertised jalapeno had gotten to in this fairly bland dish. I had to ignore the dark pasta… while visually unappealing, occasionally veggie pasta speaks to a flavorful uniqueness of a dish. However, on this occasion, the awesome was simply missing. Maybe on the second trip… we shall see.

We then coasted past the fifteen dollar spinach (of little note) into some fantastic parmesean potato halves, as the server carved up the Fiorentno porterhouse (top steak in the image below). The presentation and preparation of this steak was absolutely superb, although relatively similar in texture and flavor to other great aged steaks I’ve had (without Vegas pricing).


What really made this meal significant was the reserva. Simply amazing. This steak is aged 214 days, using a special process… and it tastes of buttery, tangy bleu cheese, and truffle oil. It simply melts in your mouth, but at ninety dollars an inch, it should. I’m supposed to use plenty of big boy words here, but I don’t know that there are enough in the English language to entirely capture the experience. You just have to go. If you’re reading this page, your interest is piqued… and from a Brutal Foodie, CarneVino gets the nod.

Bring some cash and some friends. The family atmosphere and stunning reserva do not disappoint. I’m really looking forward to the second and third tastings, should I be so lucky.

Also of note: On the way out, be sure to ignore this particular view of the decorations:


…Because we aren’t all Cordon Bleu Chefs

I watch the food shows.

I like clean restaurants, fresh ingredients, tasteful presentation, thoughtful service, and creative fare in a setting with personality. Is that too much to ask?

Frankly… yes, in many cases. Still, you’re probably here because you’d like someone to give you the lowdown on a quality restaurant, sparing no punches. Someone who entertains guests, and is knowledgeable enough about food but won’t bore you to tears with chemistry.

That’s why I’m here.

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