A Dining Experience for All the Senses
By GERRY BARKER
North Palm Beach Life
ORLANDO _ A cruise down International Drive is the closest you may get in Florida to the Strip in Las Vegas.
While maybe not as gaudy, with a little less neon, the area abounds with restaurants and tourist attractions galore. It makes the daily "where do we want to eat" decision even more daunting.
On a recent visit, we opted to bypass the chains and "usual suspects" in favor of something new and different. And we are so glad we did.
Our choice was Cafe Tu Tu Tango (got to love the name right off the bat). We knew nothing about it and didn't call for a reservation. We just popped in.
The first hint that it might be popular was the parking lot. It was full and there was a line of cars and taxis at the valet stand.
Located almost in the shadow of the towering Orlando Eye observation wheel (which does have plenty of neon going on), the restaurant's sign glows bright red. The sculptures in front say this is a place for art. Is it ever.
Inside, artwork adorns virtually every square inch -- including the chairs where you wait for a table. The vibe is at once funky and fun, and harkens back to the coffee shops of the Sixties. Before we got to the hostess stand (and very welcoming they were), a flamenco-dancing couple emerged from one of the dining rooms, performing their high-energy dance to a pulsating beat.
Oh yeah -- this is our kind of place!
As luck would have it, we were able to snag a comfy booth. Time to peruse the menu.
Just as the restaurant celebrates the Bohemian lifestyle and its spirit of sharing, the food choices are made for sharing as well, tapas-style. So many tempting choices ... where to start?
Happily, we had a guide to help us: Our waitperson, Gianna. Smiling, friendly and efficient, Gianna patiently took these "first--timers" through a wide array of starters, soups, salads, pizza and flatbreads, tacos, sliders, main courses and desserts.
We opted to begin the evening with one of Pam's favorites, "Olives and Feta," featuring artichoke hearts, oven-roasted mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes ($5). I chose the "Guacamame Hummus," which combines edamame, chickpeas, avocado, salsa, roja and chips ($6).
Both dishes were amazing. I'm not a huge olives and feta fan, but guess what? I am now. It had a sauce that was insanely good. The hummus was artfully prepared and equally tasty.
It should be noted we selected their own special blend of sangria -- one white, one red -- to accompany our meal. Made from "an authentic recipe from Barcelona," we had to go that route. The best sangria we ever had was in Barcelona. We weren't disappointed.
Moving on, we so wanted to try everything. But reason prevailed, and we landed on the "Vindaloo Chicken," prepared with yogurt marinade, papaya slaw and toasted cashews ($8). Gianna suggested we might want to sub yucca fries for the slaw, which is very spicy. Good call, Gianna!
Along with that, we had to try one of the chef's daily specials: "Risotto a la Funghi" -- crispy parmesan risotto cakes with wild mushroom sauce and aged balsamic ($8). Oh my, it was heaven on a plate.
Even though we had hit our limit -- and maybe a little past it -- we had to go for dessert. Options included Chocolate Dipped Cheesecake Lollipops and Banana, Cinnamon and Caramel Pizza. We went the more traditional route: Creme Brulee ($6). We made room!
Again, major kudos to Gianna, who not only provided great guidance, but also great service. And another shout-out to Manager Julie Chewar, who gave us the background story on how Cafe Tu Tu Tango came to be.
Next time we are in Orlando, you can bet Cafe Tu Tu Tango will be on our "must do" list. When it comes to their goal of "Food - Fun -Art," all we can say is "mission accomplished!"
Food. Art. Fun.
The "mission statement" of the restaurant is simple: "Food. Art. Fun."
Currently with two locations -- Orlando and Orange, California -- the idea originated, according to their website, in 1991 after three friends returned from a trip to Barcelona.
"While in Barcelona they marveled at the creativity and culture that surrounded them at so many of the cafe's and coffee shops...artists scribbling sketches, writers working on novels, poets weaving sonnets as together they shared inspirations, encouraged one another's creativity and noshed on small plates of unique and eclectic foods. Being the creative souls that they are, they began imagining ways to bring this magic back home with them, and this was the genesis of the super creative, always evolving and sensory invoking experience that is CAFÉ TU TU TANGO today!"