The Ultimate Stuffed Grape Leaves

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 Sayat Nova – Chicago, IL

Grape leaves are sort of like pizza for me in that even the bad ones are still pretty good. But what sets these apart is their moistness. Too many others taste like they were made with rice from leftover Chinese delivery the night before. The other thing that makes them shine is that they are done Turkish style (I know the place is technically Armenian, but the style is one in the same) as opposed to Greek. Sorry Grecian folk, you may have given us philosophy, but the true question you should’ve been asking yourselves is this: If you don’t put currants in the grape leaves, is it even worth asking if they exist?

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Kouzzina

The Boardwalk • 2101 Epcot Resort Blvd. Lake Buena Vista, FL 32830(407) 939-5100 • disneyworld.disney.go.com/reservations

Kouzzina5

Oddly enough, the second best restaurant at Disney just happens to be right next door to the first (Flying Fish Café). Yes, Kouzzina actually lives up to the hype. And I have to give it extra props, because as far as celeb chef restaurants go, most of them fall horrendously short of expectations. For example Bobby Flay’s Americain and Mario Batali’s Babbo. But Cat Cora finally manages to convert her celebrity into something worthy.

Right out of the gate you can tell you are in for a treat with the stuffed grape leaves and grilled shrimp to the creamy hummus and fresh pita. Even the Greek olive oil, with it’s peppery finish. All of the above are all great. But the true stars came next…

All three entrees were phenomenal. The shortribs with a glass of Russian River Pinot Noir. The Branzino with the chili oil- such a great blend of Mediterranean and Thai influences. And the pork- which I didn’t actually try, but my mother wolfed it down amidst a symphony of “oohs” and “mmms.”

But could Cat stick the landing? Would dessert live up to its predecessors? Indeed. The chocolate “lava” cake was incredible. Skip the raspberry ice cream is comes with though. It cheapens the dish, which is plenty good all by itself. The other dessert, the baklava, was also good, but very non-traditional. Done more like a spring roll (again, mixing Asian influences). This one, however, is just okay by itself, so I do recommend having it with the cinnamon ice cream to get it over the hump of just “eh.”

So, after such a glowing review I’m sure you are wondering why only 4 stars and not 5- and that is because the rest of the experience was lack luster. The service was absolutely atrocious. She was nice and well-meaning, but a terrible fit for such a good restaurant. She should be a server at Chili’s or Applebee’s. Not here.

And the other big miss is décor. Fortunately we forced our way to a table outside, so if you make a rezzy, be sure to request outside, because inside feels like a dining hall, woefully lacking anything that resembles what some might call “décor.”

So, the good news is, if you eat outside and you get a better server than we did, you are quite likely to have yourself a five star meal. At Disney, no less!

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