We meandered down to Orlando, Florida, last week for a work conference. We stayed at a huge hotel with almost 3,000 people just for our conference, plus thousands of others who were attending other conferences held there.
The hotel housed half a dozen restaurants, but they were incredibly noisy. After a couple of days of hoarse voices from talking over other people, we decided to venture off-site for dinner. After a quick Google search for nearby places, we decided on Casa del Marisco, a seafood restaurant that features Peruvian and Ecuadorian seafood.
The worry began when we arrived. The restaurant seemed to be in the basement of a repurposed hotel. By repurposed, I mean there were tattoo parlors, fast biz cash loan offerings, and other questionable business ventures.
Our sense of dread did not abate when we opened the restaurant doors and found ourselves the only customers. The restaurant was white and clean, yes, but with its mirrored walls and tiled floors, the ambiance harkened back to the 1980s.
We were quickly greeted and seated, however. After perusing the menu, I looked up and could see through a window into the kitchen. The cooks looked like they could be Mexican or Edcuadorian. I suspected that this dining experience could be either very good or very bad.
Our waiter was friendly, and it was obvious that English was a second language to him.
I chose the arroz marinero, a paella rice and seafood mixture served with fried plantains. It arrived as pictured above, with healthy doses of mussels, shrimp, squid and scallops. As my dining companions enjoyed their dinners, it didn’t take long for my taste buds to realize that this was going to be a great dining experience!
The rice was zesty, but not too spicy for my Minnesota palette, the seafood was not overcooked, and the plantains were tender and sweet.
Only one other person entered the restaurant during our dinner, and that was to wait for a to-go order. But the kitchen staff was busy, presumably making other to-go orders. An “uber pick-up” sign made us think the place must do a good take-out business.
When the check arrived, the numbers were in Spanish, with a comma where the decimal point should be. It all seemed thrillingly ethnic to us northerners.
So I am here to say, don’t let the appearance of this place put you off. The food is worth the retro ambiance. In fact, some people might even like the ambiance, since the 1980s are hip once again.