Last night we got a rare night out without the kids and, after our Plan A fell through, ended up trying a restaurant in Winter Park’s Hannibal Square called Mi Tomatina, a paella bar and tapas restaurant. I was excited to go once I got over my disappointment at not getting to the see the show that had planned to go to since I love “small plate” dining and it’s always good to add another restaurant or two to the rotation. Plus, as much as I love those boys of mine, sometimes you just need a break.
Hannibal Square is a few blocks off Park Avenue in Winter Park (just around the corner from Dexters), so you have the advantage of not mingling with the Park Ave crowd, 90% of whom make me want to pummel them with a tire iron within the first 15 seconds of conversation. It is also located next to a dedicated stringed instrument store, something I have never seen before.
We got to the restaurant about 45 minutes before our reservation and managed to park about 50 feet from the front door, but it was raining so hard and there was so much water flowing down the street that we couldn’t get out of the car. Flashback to 45 minutes before when I uttered this fateful sentence, the dumbest thing I’ve ever said in my life: “Don’t worry about bringing the umbrella, the rain will stop by the time we get there.” The lesson here is, as always, I am a moron.
After waiting in the car for 45 minutes watching one of the hardest downpours I’ve ever witnessed, we did finally managed to dash into the restaurant and claim out table a few minutes before our reservation at 7:30 without getting completely drenched. The interior of Mi Tomatina is fairly small but quite comfortable, so I’d definitely recommend making a reservation if you want to go for dinner and sit inside. There is a plentiful outside seating, but that wasn’t very practical with the quasi-monsoon blowing through last night. I do look forward to coming back in the fall when the temperature drops a bit and enjoying one of the outside tables.
They’ve got a very nice selection of Spanish wines available by the glass or by the bottle, and are happy to offer a sample if you are unsure about what you want or are deciding between a couple of selections. We went with a bottle of Albarino that we enjoyed very much (though the name escapes me at the moment) and started off with a platter of Spanish cheeses while we decided what else to order.
All three of these cheeses were excellent, especially the goat cheese topped with roasted nuts and honey on the front of the platter and the manchego and dates at the far end (Rolling on of those dates up in a slice of manchego got the Ratatouille “Remy eats strawberries and brie” reaction from me). We briefly considered ditching our original plan of tapas and ordering one of their house specialty paellas, but there we too many tapas selections that looked too good to pass up. In the end we ordered a plate of roasted asparagus and red peppers, a dorado (basically mahi mahi) with some more asparagus, grilled scallops, and an amazingly tender oxtail served with a sherry reduction and potato mousse. All of these were excellent, but the oxtail especially can hold its own with any dish that I’ve had in Orlando. Let’s roll the food porn:
We had both been craving asparagus, and this was a great, simple preparation. The red peppers were especially tasty.
We enjoyed the fish and potatoes a lot, though I could have done without the sauce on the asparagus.
The scallops were seared to perfection and were enormous. Loved this dish.
This dish was phenomenal. The meat was braised until fork tender and melted like butter in your mouth. It was good enough to make me glad I skipped on the duck and lamb dishes that were my next choices, and it’s not often I’m happy saying no to duck or lamb.
On of the best things about tapas is that the service and plate sizes encourages sharing and sampling, so that you don’t eat one giant entree and end up overstuffed. This is a much healthier way to eat, I think, and has the added benefit of leaving plenty of room for dessert. All six of the items on the dessert menu looked pretty amazing, but we decided on a chocolate mousse with an olive oil and orange zest base and a crema catalana (similar to a creme brulee). Both of these were just really excellent, but I especially enjoyed the mousse – don’t be put off by the addition of olive oil, it completely made the dish.
Anyway, Mi Tomatina was excellent all the way around (even the flamenco band that finally got set up outside after the rain subsided was great), and I look forward to going back and trying different dishes. It’s a great place to go with a group since the intimate setting and tapas encourages sharing and conversation. Highly recommended to all of my Orlando peeps.