Lake Nona is quickly becoming one of Central Florida’s richest neighborhoods – not only rich in its diversified businesses and booming medical presence but also rich in flavor. The addition of Canvas Restaurant and Market to the Laureate Park development just outside of Medical City in February brought bold bites to the area’s expanding dining scene.
Canvas is a seasonal restaurant that was developed by Tavistock Restaurant Collection, Tavistock Development Company and Concentrics Restaurants, which is known around town for upscale concepts like Luma on Park and Prato in Winter Park and Slate in Dr. Phillips. Executive Chef Bryan Thoman developed the menu, which features new American cuisine that highlights Florida’s southern and Latin American roots.
While the waterfront restaurant is only open for dinner, there is an in-house market that serves breakfast and lunch items like smoothies, sandwiches and salads straight from the Canvas kitchen. The market also sells family-style dinners that typically come with one meat and two sides as well as a selection of housewares and local goods.
At the bar, happy hour runs Monday through Friday between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., featuring drink specials and bar bites. Cocktails like the Muy Bien Peche, a margarita-like mixture of El Jimador Blanco, Giffard Peche de Vigne, Orgeat and lime juice, as well as the Coastal Breezeway with Tito’s vodka, Tempus Fugit Kina L’Aero, Aperol, orange, hopped grapefruit bitters and soda, are perfect for enjoying on the patio overlooking the water.
Each Canvas experience begins with a handful of house-seasoned oyster crackers coated in salt, pepper, paprika and the restaurant’s version of Old Bay seasoning, an offering that replaces the typical bread service that many people have come to expect before a meal. Stepping outside of the recipe box in this way is a theme that stretches throughout the entire menu.
To start, the Calamari Fries offer a new take on this familiar deep-fried dish. Instead of cutting a large squid into rings and tossing in pieces of the tentacles, the chefs at Canvas slice the squid the long way to resemble curly fries. A swipe of harissa aioli along the bottom of the plate adds a touch of heat.
In a bowl of Mussels Tomatillo, the plump mussels aren’t swimming in a wine-based broth but are drizzled with a tomatillo-chili puree. Slices of sourdough bread charred on the oak grill provide a smoky flavor that balances the slight heat in the sauce. The same bread is also served with the Apple-Bourbon Braised Short Ribs, a hearty stew-like starter with brown butter, wild mushrooms, tomato confit and house-made ricotta cheese.
When it comes to the main courses, the varied options range from sandwiches to plates of steak and seafood, touching every bit of the craving spectrum along the way. It may be difficult to decide what you want, but that makes Canvas a place where you are always tempted to try something new.
The Cured Pork Shank entree is cured for an entire day before it hits the plate to make it especially tender and the perfect base for a side of ham-stewed collard greens and apple crisps. A popular, year-round staple at Canvas is the Chimichurri Hanger Steak, prepared on the wood-fire grill and served with black beans, saffron rice and a dollop of chimichurri marinade. The marbled cut of beef has just the right amount of fat to impart flavors that play well off the Latin and Middle Eastern blend in the sides. For a lighter plate, the Pan-Roasted Meyer Lemon Scallops is just right. Coated in Meyer lemon marmalade and served with a sunchoke puree, grilled asparagus and sunchoke chips, this dish stands out not just for its refreshing flavors but also for its expert use of the trendy Meyer lemon.
This is stated often, but make sure you save room for one (or more) of Canvas’ delicious desserts. The Spiced Chocolate Cream is every chocolate lover’s dream. A pot de crème type custard is topped with whipped cream and berries and is served with the chewiest, gooiest freshly baked double chocolate chip cookies around. You’ll crave it for weeks after it’s gone.
But the chefs at Canvas know that chocolate isn’t for everyone. The Sweet Potato Cheesecake with a cranberry reduction is an excellent non-chocolate choice, and the Key Lime Pie is served with unique extras: toasted meringue and blueberry compote.
Whether you just stop by for happy hour or stay for a whole meal, Canvas Restaurant and Market is just the place to relax after work with coworkers or on the weekends with a group of friends and family.