If there were an award for most-improved restaurant since opening day it would go to Galopin on Winter Park's tony Park Avenue.
I first visited soon after the restaurant opened in late September. Service was haphazard and the kitchen was inconsistent.
Jump ahead to November and Galopin is well on its way to understanding service and dependable dining.
The venue at the corner of Canton Avenue and Park is steeped in local restaurant history and deserves an occupant with a steady run.
The location's glory days began in the 1960s when it was The Barbizon Restaurant and Gallery (birthplace of the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival) and the original Beef and Bottle (where Arthur "Pappy" Kennedy, who worked at the Barbizon as well, was assistant manager when he became Orlando's first black City Council member in 1972).
It would later be the home of Circa, Sage, Park Avenue Grill, Zak's, Chapters and East of Paris — none leaving very memorable impressions.
Galopin's ultramodern decor is chic and sleek with a red and black color scheme. The restaurant is a mix of several areas: A small dining room up front with outdoor cafe seating, another room with a slightly more formal vibe, a courtyard seating in the rear and a nightclub-lounge upstairs.
The menu seems to be in transition but one thing has been consistent since opening day: All menu items are made from organic ingredients. The culinary team strives to source at least 75 percent of them locally. (Eat-local fans will see many ingredients from Lake Meadow Naturals in Ocoee, for example.)
Try the tuna tasting ($11) from the tapas menu. It's a shareable platter with diced spicy tartare, three strips of citrus sashimi and curry-crusted tuna on a sweet Caribbean sauce the color of mango. The tartare had nice pops of heat seasoning and richness from the tuna. The citrus sashimi was ho-hum. But the two curry-dusted tuna wedges were buttery good.
For the pork canapés ($7), six tenderloin rounds the size of silver dollars were seared and enlivened with a mustard glaze then topped with salsa, a sweet-tangy kiwi slice and fried red beet threads. The presentation was gorgeous; the mix of flavors and textures spot on.
At lunch, the Cajun shrimp and grits ($15) dish was mildly spiced with plump shellfish. The interpretation is not on creamy grits but on a hefty portion of flavorful Parmesan polenta (grits in Sunday-supper clothing). The cream sauce and roasted corn salsa completed the package quite nicely.
And our lemon lavender chicken ($13) was perfection. The roasted chicken was juicy and came with a mélange of fall vegetables in a light sauce.
At dinner, check out the IPA pork ($26) with a glaze made from Napa Smith IPA beer. The chop's sweetness paired well with the astringent notes of the bitter light amber.
Galopin is a work in progress. Service is now efficient and friendly and chef Guillermo Zayas is working out the kinks in the kitchen quite nicely.
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Where: 358 N. Park Ave., Winter Park (at Canton Avenue)