RusTeak abandoned the sleepy College Park in vibrant South Eola. Will this rosacea bear fruit? | Restaurant review | Orlando

RusTeak abandoned the sleepy College Park in vibrant South Eola.  Will this rosacea bear fruit?  |  Restaurant review |  Orlando

When RusTeak, College Park’s most popular restaurant, closed last July and moved three miles south, it all cemented the underwhelming reputation of Edgewater Drive’s moribund dining scene. When the clock strikes 9 p.m. in South Iola, residents aren’t on their campuses enjoying hot water bottles—they’re breathing and thumping highballs.

There’s an awakening energy at places like Stubborn Mule and Broken Cage, so it made the most sense for owners Brian Buttner and Jonathan Canonaco to relocate RusTeak to this less obscure downtown neighborhood. Their possession of a Stubborn Mule and a Broken Cage may also have facilitated the move. The couple took over the NOLA-inspired Menagerie Eatery & Bar before it closed to make room for RusTeak. We were told that they incorporated the staff of both restaurants, at least those who chose to stay in the industry. Now Batener and Kanonako look like the Kings of Eola, the dictators of the Southern Eola culinary path and their skin. It’s not fancy, not beer and burger, but somewhere in between lies the sweet spot where graduates of the Culinary Institute of America love to play with their food.

I enjoyed playing with three sauces—gochujang, creamy wasabi, and Korean barbecue—served with slices of tuna ($15), but far from the fish dip, served a garnish of sudden, crunchy Peruvian paprika and crackling capers. When I saw the Can of Tomato Jam ($12) included in the app set, it made me think of the days when Nordstrom Café served in the Florida Mall. I loved the creamy mixture of ricotta, pesto, and tomato jam back then, and I love it now. RusTeak combines spinach and almond pesto in a shareable and served with triangles of grilled naan (much referred to as “naan bread” on their menu; please stop by). Back to those sauces for a moment: Korean barbecue bears a striking resemblance in look and taste to the sauce found on kung pao cauliflower ($10). Not that it was subpar or anything. In fact, I thought RusTeak’s KPC was one of the best veggie versions of the classic chicken dish I’ve eaten, crushed peanuts and all.

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The menu is, for the most part, identical to that shown in College Park, with a few exceptions. One of the items, dubbed “The Catch” ($27), didn’t show up. Montana Trout (hello, sports fans), but instead a pecan-crusted black grouper served over pearl couscous with black asparagus. The fish was given due respect – it was not overcooked, not cheated with sticky sauce, and not covered with sweet potato sauce. However, the fish wasn’t so much “pecan-crusted” as it was covered in crumbs from the pecan pie filling. I’m not sure if you paid attention to the sweet skin he gave to the dish, but this couscous mixed with a creamy lobster sauce could fill my plate at any time.

And if you’re craving a burger, there are three 8-ounce cups to choose from. The Swiss Army Burger ($15) came with everything from sautéed mushrooms and crunchy onions to semi-glace and of course, Swiss cheese. Our review: A perfectly utilitarian and fit burger that will come in handy in times of extreme hunger.

I must say extreme hunger was the opposite of what we felt before ordering dessert. But the apple tart ($10), with its apricot glaze and grani smith with strong but fluffy caramel, was a pastry round. The addition of vanilla ice cream was completely unnecessary, but we devoured it anyway. Apparently people in South Iola were doing the same at RusTeak. It was about 10pm, and while we were looking around, they were still eating this place up.

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Photo by Rob Bartlett

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