Cara Goldsbury

Article Summary:

Fine dining in Orlando used to take place at a table; Here are five upscale restaurants with counter seating.

Fine Dining In Orlando: Counter Dining

Fine dining in Orlando used to take place at a table. Not so now. In many of the city's restaurants the best seats in the house are to be had at the counter where a front row seat to the action in the kitchen along with food and drink is the order of the day.

Jiko
Nab one of eight counter seats facing the kitchen's giant, twin clay ovens at one of Disney's most exciting restaurants. Nosh on the off-the-menu sampler platter of appetizers, move on to the smoky wood-grilled pork tenderloin with sweet potato dumplings and a brothy mushroom ragout, and don't leave without ordering the unbelievably wonderful chocolate-filled beggars purses, one of Disney's best desserts.

California Grill
This may be the most difficult ticket in town, but Disney's legendary dining mecca located high atop the Contemporary Resort offers two seats at the kitchen counter, four seats in front of Yoshie's sushi counter, and two facing the pastry counter (YUM!). You can request your preference when reserving a table, but nothing is guaranteed. Try to time your meal to see the Magic Kingdom fireworks from the restaurant's observation deck afterward.

Emeril's
Perched in front of the exhibition kitchen are the eight seats of the Chef's Food Bar. Pick from the 2,000-bottle wine display (awarded the Wine Spectator Best of Award of Excellence), then kibitz with the chefs and catch the up close action of this exciting restaurant. Make your dining reservations up to six months in advance to assure yourself a place.

Tchoup Chop
At this gorgeous restaurant's ten-seat counter guests may order off the regular menu or choose the $48, 4-course Chef's Tasting Menu. But those in the know set aside the second Saturday of the month for the 5-course Teppanyaki Dinner where the lightning quick chef provides the show.

Tempura Kiku
Devotees of tempura will love this delightfully cozy space in Epcot's World Showcase where they'll find the lightly battered, deep-fried meats and vegetables so popular in Japanese restaurants. Compensating for its compact size is charming bar-style seating around a U-shaped counter rimming the cooking space allowing a view of the chefs as they prepare the tasty tidbits. No advance reservations taken so get in line.

Cara Goldsbury is a former travel agent and agency owner. Cara is the author of "The Luxury Guide to Walt Disney World Resort". For more information visit her website at Luxury Disney Guide.

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