Columbia Restaurant

**** (4 stars)

This location features a beautiful interior design, much nicer than the original in Ybor City, and yet retaining the feel of a place that’s withstood the decades (and I guess it’s almost 20 years old, now that I think about it).

The food is the same as at the other Columbia restaurants, which is to say rich. A good third of the dishes include chorizo, and many are casseroles with no small amount of butter. So it’s not light dining! But it is tasty.

My favorite dish was the scallops, although the empanadas and quest funded were also good. The 1905 salad is also tasty, but ask them to go light on the dressing.

Service is best described as bustling and well-intentioned, perhaps not quite fine dining caliber, but certainly appropriate to the always busy atmosphere.

There is an extensive wine list that is not offered by default, so if you’re interested in Spanish wines be sure to ask for it, as there are many high end selections at reasonable prices.

Columbia Restaurant
649 Front St
Celebration, FL 34747
(407) 566-1505

Jean Pierre’s Bistro

***** (5 stars)

For some time I’d been wanting to try Jean Pierre’s Bistro, a French bistro and bakery in Water Tower Place, the cute shopping village in front of Disney’s Celebration. Orlando doesn’t really have any true French bistros, with the possible exception of  Chefs de France at Epcot, which isn’t exactly convenient–or cheap.

I had some doubts when we arrived at Jean Pierre’s for dinner, because the place was deserted, and quite brightly lit, more like what you’d expect from a bakery or a sandwich shop–both of which it is, during the daytime. So it wasn’t exactly the ambiance I was hoping for from an evening bistro. But the food was everything I’d hoped for.

We started with the house made paté, a cheese plate, smoked salmon, and a salad with traditional French vinaigrette. All were excellent, especially the pate (really a terrine), which was fresh, flavorful, and had a wonderful mixture of spices on the outside. We could have used some soft, stinky cheeses, but I understand why American tastes run to firmer, less fragrant ones, and the half dozen choices were all very flavorful. The salmon was fresh and very smokey, with just the right accompaniments, and the salad was perfect, just like in Paris.

Our main courses were Beef Bourguignon and Chicken in a mushroom and madeira sauce. Both sauces were excellent, and each was accompanied by a rich, creamy dish of scalloped potatoes. A particular highlight was the fresh baked French baguette, which was plentiful and very authentic. As parting gifts the owner bestowed upon us glasses of Muscat and a fresh loaf of this wonderful bread to take with us.

I was impressed that the owner, with little assistance, could turn out such a diverse offering in so little time; and there were at least twenty other dishes we could have chosen. Prices are very reasonable, and the wine list has a couple of nice choices at good prices. It’s too bad his location isn’t higher profile, and that his website is fairly poor, because this is just the sort of French bistro Orlando needs.

Jean Pierre’s Bistro
17 Blake Blvd
Celebration, FL 34747
(321) 939-7588