By Peter Covino
The signs were literally everywhere if you ventured onto Disney property.
Downtown Disney was a thing of the past. Disney Springs is here.
Walt Disney World finally made it official last week, with some pomp and circumstance, a lot of confetti and the opening of a cool new lounge and a swanky Asian restaurant.
Yes, Disney Springs now has its own website (Disneysprings.com) its own Twitter address (@Disneysprings) and even a brand new, technologically advanced parking lot.
Construction is still a bit of a pain, as roadwork continues outside the entrance of the mega shopping/entertainment/dining district, but with new dining spots and shops, and many more changes in store, the former Downtown Disney is readying itself for the 21st century.
It is a major undertaking. Disney Springs, when completed will double the number of shopping and entertainment venues from about 70 to 150, in four distinct areas: The Landing; Town Center, Marketplace and Westside. Is it any wonder, the complex needed a brand-new multi-level parking garage?
The best way to celebrate a grand-opening is to gather at a new watering hole, Jock Lindsey’s Hangar Bar and dine at a new restaurant, Morimoto Asia. Both locations have definite ties to the Disney Springs theme, a waterfront town in Florida first settled in the mid-1800s, but that continues to thrive today.
Fitting in most nicely is Jock Lindsey’s bar. Lindsey was Indiana Jones’ pilot for many of his adventures and according to legend and the story, he took Jones to Florida in a hunt for the Fountain of Youth. Eventually, he settled in a small town and started an air tours service on its waterfront in the 1940’s.
Today, it is Jock Lindsey’s Hangar, a hangar-turned-lounge, and home to all kinds of liquid libations and appetizers.
Filled with lots of 1940’s décor for the traveler, it just might have the closest thing to a reincarnation of the very popular Adventurer’s Club at the old Pleasure Island.
It is a cozy kind of place, but it was fairly crowded during last week’s media preview and it probably will be crowded most nights.
This is supposed to be a drinking place and there are many signature drinks, plus bottled beer, wines, flights and even sake, but the food menu items are worth the visit alone.
They only have appetizers, but you won’t need a main course after trying/sharing a few of these items, and all of them have tie-ins with Indiana in one way or another.
If you are a big Indiana Jones fans, you have to remember his almost fatal experience with poisoned dates in Raider of the Lost Ark. There are only Good Dates on the menu at Jock Lindsey’s, and they are stuffed with goat cheese and served with Marcona almonds and pickled vegetables. As the menu says, “safe for the whole family.” They are priced at $9.99.
Remember how much trouble Indy had escaping that boulder in the film? There is no escaping Rolling Boulders Sliders, a nice little trio of spicy meatball sliders served with yogurt sauce for $9.99.
And who could forget Dr. Elsa, the woman who seduced both Indiana and dad in The Last Crusade? The menu beckons with Dr. Elsa’s Deviled Eggs. “No father or son can resist these beet juice-brined eggs stuffed with lump crab.” $7.99.
Other “winks” at the films include “Why’d it have to be Squid,” fried calamari flatbread with harissa spead, $14.99; Air Pirates Pretzels, a flight of everything pretzels with house-made mustard and beer-cheese fondue, $8.99; Snack of Ra, African salads and dips with injera and naan crisps, $11.99; Tanis Tacos, Filled with falafel, shredded lettuce and cucumber-tomato salad, $9.49; Brody’s Brats, grilled bratwurst served with mustard and pickled cabbage, $8.49; and Lao Che’s Revenge, spicy Asian chicken wings, $12.99.
Disney has some fun with the drink names as well with signature drinks like The Scottish Professor (Monkey Shoulder blended Scotch whiskey, Hendrick’s Gin, Pear Nectar, syrup and lemon juice) and Fountain of Youth (Florida Cane Orlando Orange Vodka, Bols Blue Curacao, white cranberry juice and sweet and sour) just to name two of nearly 20.
Make sure you wander around the place before and after you get your drinks and eats. There is a lot to see, both on the walls and especially, the ceiling.
Outside the lounge proper, has more seating in a old canvas-covered steamboat.
The bar is open 11:30 a.m. to midnight Sunday through Thursday and until 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday.
Just a boulder roll away from Jock’s is Morimoto Asia, a palace of Asian cooking.
If the place looks vaguely familiar inside, it should. This used to be the home of the Mannequin’s disco, a very popular spot during Pleasure Island’s heyday. Structurally, the place is the same, with two levels and lots of dining downstairs in what used to be the dance floor. You can look down on the downstairs level, (there is so much glass in this place, floor to ceiling) from the second floor, which features a long, long sushi bar, as well as intimate room dining.
The Disney Springs story tie-in can be found here as well. The restaurant was at one time a bottling plant and much of that glass can be found recycled throughout the expansive restaurant. It is a shimmering artistic marvel.
Morimoto Asia, a collaboration between Chef Masaharu Morimoto and Patina Restaurant Group, is the Japanese master chef’s first pan-Asian dining experience and showcases flavors from across the Asian continent with an emphasis on China, Korea, Japan and Thailand.
Morimoto was on hand last week for the formal opening, which included everything from Japanese drummers and a Chinese dragon to a carving of a huge tuna, that would be served up as sushi a few minutes later.
The menu is Chef Morimoto’s eclectic take on his favorite Asian flavors including moo shu pork, Peking duck, lobster chow fun, sweet and sour crispy whole fish, and kung pao chicken. Dim sum will be served during weekend brunch service, and will include a variety of dumplings, shumai, bao, spare ribs and more. Kids will have a variety of Asian-infused dishes to choose from including chicken ramen, kakuni pork bao, and karaage fried chicken.
That sushi bar will offer sushi and sashimi options from around the world. Items include toro, kanpachi, Japanese red snapper, uni, sea eel, hamachi, fluke, and salmon, as well as more ocean delicacies. A variety of specialty sushi rolls and selections from the raw bar will also be offered. While traditional sushi service will be limited to the guests seated at the sushi bar, a selection of specialty rolls and sushi platters will be available to the main restaurant’s diners.
The menu is wide and varied and also offered many alcohol selections (beer, wine, sake and specialty drinks).
Morimoto Asia is open daily, 11 a.m.- 2 a.m. daily. For reservations call 407- 939-MOTO (6686) or (407 WDW-DINE (939-3463).
There will be more openings at Disney Springs through 2015 and 2016, including a second parking garage.