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The Resort Hotels – Hard Rock Hotel:
The Kitchen


What: Casual all-day dining
Where: On the ground floor with an entrance facing the pool
Price Range: $$ - $$$
Hours: 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. daily
Reservations: Not required but accepted at (407) 503-DINE (3463) or OpenTable.com

This artfully casual eatery features “New American” cuisine in a glamorous open setting that seems to run the length of the hotel. The long main dining area features an open kitchen and a brick pizza oven. There is a separate, more intimate dining room at the far end for private parties, a small bar area, and a “Kids’ Crib,” a separate area where kids can dine apart from their hectoring parents. The furnishings and table settings follow the pattern of eclectic mismatching found throughout the hotel and the overall effect is delightful. The entire restaurant looks out through generous glass walls to the pool area and there is an outdoor seating area where the tables are shaded by snazzy square canvas umbrellas.

In keeping with the kitchen theme, many dishes are served in what appear to be cooking utensils like colanders and frying pans. The open kitchen sometimes serves as a venue for cooking demonstrations by stars and "Kids Can Cook, Too" events.

Breakfast is the most traditional meal, as the counters by the open kitchen are transformed into a sumptuous buffet. You can choose the full Breakfast Buffet ($19.50, $10 for kids), or you can order a la carte from a menu of standards, from bacon and eggs to waffles with fruit, all of them well executed.

Lunch and dinner share most of the same menu items. Pizzas (called "flats") are $12 to $15, with the most unusual choice topped with peking duck and wasabi cream. Main dishes ($13 to $32) range from a simple Mac and Cheese to Seared Ahi Tuna and filet mignon, and include straightforward interpretations of salmon, chicken pot pie, and roasted chicken. Otherwise, there are salads and sandwiches ($9 to $16).

It's rather like what you'd expect to find over at the Hard Rock Cafe, and perhaps that's the point. The food is good without making an attempt to be exceptional. In the center of the restaurant is a "chef's table" where you can sit at a curving counter and watch a sous chef prepare the evening's specials. A tilted overhead mirror gives you a good view of the techniques being employed. On Fridays, tableside magicians prestidigitate for your pleasure.

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