Four Orlando restaurants that deliver memorable celebrations

Holly V. Kapherr

Clients traveling to Central Florida to celebrate — whether it’s a birthday, anniversary, retirement or other milestone — will likely look to you for options for a five-star dining experience.

Luckily, many of Orlando’s luxury hotels feature singular signature restaurants worthy of (and happy to provide) an expensive bottle of Champagne for a toast plus some unexpected extras.

Here are four fine-dining restaurants located in some of Orlando’s most high-end addresses to reserve for clients looking for an impeccable evening.

Bull & Bear Steakhouse: Waldorf Astoria Bonnet Creek

The low lighting, wood-paneled walls, rich linens and comfortable chairs and banquettes are all signals of a bygone era of power lunches and classic steak temples. But somehow, the Bull & Bear Steakhouse at the Waldorf Astoria at Bonnet Creek, on Disney property, pulls those traditions into the modern era.

Here, the check may raise a few more eyebrows than other restaurants around town, but for those with the budget to indulge, it’s worth loosening the purse strings a little for a special evening. Clients who order the 38-ounce, bone-in, Allen Brothers prime tomahawk ribeye for two, carved tableside, will never forget it.

If you’re making the reservations, request that clients are seated facing the windows so they can see the fireworks at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and Epcot, just a couple of miles away. Ask the reservations specialist to help you choose a time for the reservation that will synchronize dessert with the pyrotechnics for a fabulous finale.

Capa:  Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World

Clients staying at Orlando’s only AAA Five-Diamond property, the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World, will likely be primed for a special evening at the rooftop Spanish-fusion steakhouse Capa, where from 6 to 10 p.m., chef Gabriel Massip serves only the best quality steaks, seafood and composed plates in a sexy, modern dining room.

Foodies looking to write home about new gustatory experiences will no doubt zero in on the three types of caviar (all with accompanying three-digit price tags) on the raw-bar menu. Bacon-wrapped Medjool dates stuffed with almonds and spiked with maple and tart tamarind make a perfect app, and the 30-day dry-aged, bone-in ribeye is an unforgettable steak. Of course, there’s the pride of Spanish cuisine on order, as well: acorn-fed jamon Iberico, sliced to order.

Clients should allow two hours for dinner and top it off with a nightcap to take out on the restaurant’s private balcony to watch the fireworks over the Magic Kingdom. It’s likely their server will remind them about the show, as well, should it slip their minds while their bodies slip into calorie-induced ecstasy.

Norman’s: Ritz-Carlton Orlando at Grande Lakes

The Ritz-Carlton Orlando’s signature restaurant, Norman’s, is named for and overseen by one of America’s original celebrity chefs, Norman Van Aken. The restaurant is certainly one of Orlando’s most beautiful dining rooms, with a private round dining table in the center surrounded by wine cabinets for privacy and overlooking the resort’s Greg Norman-designed golf course.

Van Aken’s signature fusion of local Florida ingredients and inspiration from South Florida, the Caribbean, Central and South America is on full display here. Dishes include smoked lamb empanadas with roasted tomato salsa; Brazilian-inspired conch chowder with saffron, orange and star anise; and pork Havana with plantain crema, golden grits and Van Aken’s 21st Century Mole sauce.

The six-course tasting menu is recommended to give guests a true survey of the kitchen’s chops. The menu changes seasonally and is a relative steal at $120 per person plus an optional $60 upgrade for wine pairings by sommelier Yusuf Yildiz, who also serves as the restaurant’s general manager and who has been with the restaurant since its opening.

The Palm: Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando

It’s not all cutting-edge at Universal Orlando, after all. Orlando’s location of the legendary Italian steak- and chophouse, the Palm, located in the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando, is like stepping back in time to a more civilized age.

Black-jacketed career waiters perform nightly. On a recent visit, our waiter, who presented us with his business card at the end of the meal, sang a stirring “Happy Birthday” to my husband in a rich baritone that stopped every diner midbite to listen.

The 93-year-old, family-run restaurant still has some of its classic dishes on the menu, including veal Martini with mushrooms and shallots, the Monday Night Chop Chop Salad, and seven-layer cakes for dessert. Just advise clients to try to ignore the calorie listing to the right of each menu item. Celebration calories don’t count.

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