Lombard's Landing - Universally Excellent Diningby Roan Poulter, contributing writer
From time to time, even the most ardent theme park fan can get overwhelmed with the constant barrage of characters, music, and thematic stimuli. Sometimes you just want to go to a standard restaurant for a standard meal. At Universal Studios Orlando, if you find yourself in that predicament, consider dining at Lombard's Landing.
Built over the waters of Lake Universal and meant to evoke a sense of oceanside California dining, Lombard's Landing's entrance is set a bit off the well-travelled paths. The entrance does little to reinforce hope that the dining experience will be anything memorable; the sun-faded and cartoonish exterior do little justice to the gem within.
Once inside the building, spirits rise as the Victorian style greets the eye, and the smell of a full service restaurant come to bear on your senses. We rarely have an issue getting a table, but if it's an extremely busy day you can reserve a table by calling 407-224-FOOD or by visiting them online.
From this moment on it's really as if you're not at a park, or that you're at one of the highest end restaurants at a Disney park. Certainly there is a stark contrast from other Universal dining options such as Moe's. Cushioned chairs, real cutlery, and a well-heeled staff are the first indication that good things are in-route.
The menu has a strong seafood presence, but options exist for carnivores, pescatarians, vegans, gluten free diners, and the nut allergy afflicted. They have beer, wine and a full bar menu as well.
Meals start with sourdough rolls, completed with Universal Orlando shaped butter. We don't recommend you take the butter as a free souvenir unless it's a very cold day. If you're planning to order the clam chowder, save some bread or let your server know you'll need it replenished.
The New England clam chowder is excellent, striking a fine balance between cream and clams; each element is given the appropriate weight to not overwhelm the other. Large pieces of potato fold well into the chowder along with a secret blend of spices that make this the best clam chowder I've ever had in a theme park, with apologies to the chowder bowls in Disney California Adventure.
The edamame duo—consisting of steamed beans with sea salt and a fried edamame wonton with tomato jam—is a vegan treat worth trying. The fried edamame wontons are a little bland on their own, but with the sharp tang of the tomato jam cutting through they bring a smile to even the soy bean doubtful.
The Chinatown chicken and noodle bowl, which can be served vegan without the chicken, was surprisingly good. The miso broth provides a solid foundation for the crisply-cooked Asian vegetables and udon noodles. The portion is on the small side, but the attention to detail on the vegetables was impressive.
A hamburger may not be the logical next dish, but the Lombard's signature burger was my catch of the day. Anytime you can get a burger topped with two other meats, the carnivore gods are pleased. This fresh burger is topped with braised short ribs and caramelized onions. Buttermilk blue cheese, bacon, roasted tomatoes, and fresh greens make this a stacked burger. The portion was large enough that my wife and I shared it, and neither of us actually even finished our halves. The fries were standard fare, nothing to write home about.
Lombard's fresh catch, however, was the show stealer. Blackened whitefish with a caramelized sear set off a flaky interior that exploded with flavor. It can also be served grilled or baked, but we and the staff recommend blackened. The vegetables underneath were not great, but the fish was phenomenal. I cannot overstate how the citrus buerre blanc enhanced the dish; the sauce's subtle acidity adds a final bit of complexity to put it over the top.
We need to return to sample their desserts; I am sure they are as phenomenal as everything else.
Dad (41): 4.8 of 5 – Wonderful food at a reasonable price, also gives discount with Annual Pass. Nice to escape the madness of the park for an hour or so.
Mom (41): 4.5 of 5 – Fantastic fish. Thought the prices were very fair.
Daughter (17): 4.2 of 5 – Enjoyed the Chinatown Chicken and Noodle Bowl. Liked that she wasn't compelled to share a meal with her brother.
Son (15): 3.5 of 5 – Loved the Lombard's Signature burger. Thought the theming was lacking.