In today’s post, Seth Kubersky, author of The Unofficial Guide to Universal Orlando, takes us on a visit to the Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen.
Looming across the CityWalk lagoon like Willy Wonka’s summer home, Toothsome Chocolate Emporium & Savory Feast Kitchen (Toothsome to its fans) is an original concept from Universal Creative that draws heavily on both Roald Dahl’s crazed confectioner (closer to the Johnny Depp version than Gene Wilder’s) and steampunk, the Jules Verne–influenced sci-fi style that ditches futuristic chrome for Victorian-era copper. This multistory brick-faced venue seems to be a whimsical factory from the outside, complete with billowing smokestacks, while the inside is a wonderland of imaginative industrial contraptions (both physical and projected on large video screens) adorned with antique doodads.
Much of the ground floor is devoted to a takeaway milkshake counter; a glassed-in kitchen where you can watch sweets being assembled; and a shop full of chocolates, candies, and steampunk souvenirs.
Upstairs seating includes decadent semicircular booths and a private dining room; make sure to get a good look at the fiber-optic ceiling sculpture near the serpentine second-floor bar.
House specialities include warm chocolate almond bread, baked Brie, pork belly sliders, salads, flatbreads, sandwiches, hamburgers, pasta, steaks, and all-day brunch with quiche and crepes.
And, of course, there are drinks, desserts, and milkshakes with lots and lots of chocolate.
Actors portraying proprietress Penelope Toothsome and her animatronic assistant Jacques roam the restaurant, interacting with guests. Brush up on their backstory (found on the first page of the menu) before they arrive at your table for a more in-depth conversation.
Rising from the ashes of the largely reviled NBA City, Toothsome takes a trendy aesthetic and potentially gut-busting gastronomic concept and combines them into an unexpectedly upscale eating experience. Many (though not all) of the offerings include some form of cocoa, from the old-fashioned cocktails with chocolate bitters to the chocolate mole sauce served on the pork chop (ask for it as an accompaniment with the brisket and mushroom meat loaf).
Prices are moderate, aside from the wallet-busting steaks, and portions are big enough to share or take home leftovers. Be sure to save room for the dark chocolate mousse, which is richer than any we’ve tasted outside Paris.
Toothsome’s signature milkshakes have proved so popular that at peak times they may be unavailable for table service and are only served at the downstairs to-go counter. The $12–$13 price tag may have you quoting John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, particularly since the shakes themselves are achingly sweet and not especially thick or large. But they are served in a souvenir Mason jar and crowned with an absurd mountain of toppings, such as an entire cupcake, brownie, or slice of Key lime pie.
Be warned that the sour ice cream used in some varieties lives up to
Our biggest problem with Toothsome is that it’s extremely popular and doesn’t accept reservations, leading to hour-plus waits at mealtimes; try to slip in around 4 p.m., or ask if you can sit at the second-floor bar. Once seated, the restaurant often seems understaffed for its size, so come expecting leisurely service.
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