Here’s a great “first look” at Disney Springs “Frontier Cocina” from the Orlando Sentinel…
The spuds were smooth, garlicky and sprinkled with salty queso anejo, a Mexican cheese that I would expect Bayless to use at his new Disney Springs restaurant, which opened Monday at the former Downtown Disney.
Bayless’ way with Mexican cuisine is well-known, primarily through his win on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef Masters.” His public-television series, “Mexico — One Plate at a Time,” is in its 10th season.
Frontera Cocina is an opportunity to show an “international crossroads” that authentic Mexican food is light and bright.
“If you’re looking for a burrito as big as your head, ours is not your thing,” Bayless said in a phone interview Wednesday evening.
Instead, try the guacamole and salsas that use tomatillos instead of tomatoes, “a complex, but not too complex” mole, or red chile chicken enchiladas with layers of flavor, he said.
“I want to be able to offer a little taste of Mexico,” said Bayless, a six-time James Beard Foundation award winner.
Although Frontera Cocina wants to appeal to many diners, there are still dishes — such as the cochinita pibil torta — that are “uncompromised” on the menu, Bayless said.
The torta features pork slow-roasted in achiote, an earthy tasting spice with a slight citrus note. The entree comes with a very spicy habanero salsa.
I’ll consider the torta in a more in-depth review. But once I saw on Twitter that the restaurant was open, I stopped by for a quick look — and bite.
The Cocina Half Chicken ($27) was marinated in ancho, giving the juicy chicken a mild spice under the crackly skin. It came with corn tortillas, grilled knob onions and chipotle salsa.
The interior incorporates four dining areas in its design.
Diners in the front bistro and orange banquet seating area can watch the open kitchen, while the middle bistro diners can check out the bar area.
The rest of the “neighborhood” is visible through large windows scattered throughout the restaurant. Tequila bottles in various shades of blue and brown are used as decor on long shelves.
A porch with twinkly lights over the dining tables looks out to the “springs” as well as nearby Morimoto Asia and soon-to-be-open Homecoming Florida Kitchen & Southern Shine.
Visitors looking for a quick bite can try the to-go window outside the restaurant. The menu offers guacamole and chips, tacos, margaritas, beers and non-alcoholic drinks.
The Disney Springs location is the first in Florida. Bayless has several restaurants in Chicago, California and Pennsylvania.
He joins a relatively recent influx of celebrities to set their sights on Disney Springs: Art Smith, perhaps best known for cooking for a “who’s who” of other celebrities, will soon open Homecoming Florida Kitchen & Southern Shine. Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto debuted Morimoto Asia in 2015; and Sprinkles cupcakery founder Candace Nelson of Food Network’s Cupcake Wars fame opened this year.
Online: fronteracocina.com or Facebook
What: A restaurant by celebrity chef Rick Bayless that features gourmet Mexican food
Where: The Town Center neighborhood of Disney Springs, 1604 E. Buena Vista Drive in Orlando.
When: 11 a.m.-11 p.m. daily
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