A week doesn't go by without a phone call or two asking about a lounge with live music that serves food — substantial food.
Le Rouge Wine Bar & Tapas on Orlando's Sand Lake Road fills that bill. Not far from Le Rogue, the bar at Ocean Prime somewhat fits as well.
Now there's a new player in town. Jazz Tastings in Maitland is serving up impressive small plates with a side of live jazz.
Created by husband and wife Rory and Cathy Frazier, the location was chosen by chance.
"I like to think the location chose us," says Rory. "One day I was looking for another route home and drove by the open spot at the Village Plaza. The size was right. The location was right. It just seemed meant to be."
The Fraziers dreamed of owning a jazz lounge for more than 20 years.
"We wanted to create a sophisticated place that made people feel relaxed," says Rory. "But we wanted a food component as well."
Chef Jose Bofill has been helping the Fraziers complete the package since Jazz Tastings opened in February.
The music is the star here with the food performing back-up quite nicely.
The 15-item menu is not extensive, but it scores well on small plates. Wine selections are limited, too, but the Fraziers have chosen well and the price range of $8-$12 is moderate and appealing in a listening lounge.
The herbed goat cheese crostini ($9) is a basic nosh that hits a high note with the subtly spiced fig jam on the side.
The shrimp and grits ($13), beef filet tournedos ($15) and crab cakes ($13) were presented on rectangular dishes with three servings, making sharing easy.
The large shrimp had a wonderful flavor and the creamy sweet potato grits were comfort-food good. The buttery beef was tender and tempered with the natural acidity of the wilted Swiss chard and dark beer demi-glace. Our three-lump blue crab cakes were presented on pools of spicy roasted tomato relish with a horseradish- and caper-infused turn on a remoulade sauce. The cakes had a nice balance of flavor but there were no anticipated lumps of creamy shellfish meat inside.
The mussels diablo ($10), which came with grilled crostini, upstaged all of the dishes. The plump mussels were steeped in broth flavored with shallots, white wine and fresh parsley. The kick on the finish came from sambal oelek, a red chili paste with a sassy sizzle.
As the jazz ensemble kicked in a groove, we finished with the pecan bread pudding ($8). The dense square cake had nicely played undertones of bourbon and butterscotch.
In addition to Jazz Tastings, the Village Plaza has other food and beverage destinations including The Copper Rocket Pub, Café Jean Paul, a new juice bar and café, and Topos Hot Dogz 'N Pastrami. When Brown's New York Deli, a kosher delicatessen and restaurant, opens this year the marketplace will have quite the eclectic mix.
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Where: 164 Lake Ave., Maitland (off U.S. Highway 17-92 in the back of the Village Plaza across from the Village at Lake Lily)
When: 5 p.m.-midnight Tuesday-Thursday, 5 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 2-9 p.m. Sunday
How much: $9-$15; $5 cover added with live music
Beverages: Beer and wine
Wines by the glass: From $8
Extras: Live music, outdoor seating, table service, takes reservations
Wheelchair access: Easy
Noise level: Soft buzz early in the evening, loud when the live jazz cranks up
Credit: American Express, Discover, MasterCard, Visa
Online: jazztastings.com and Jazz Tastings on Facebook
Diningon a budget
The tapas servings are quite filling and an inexpensive way to dine.