Service, creativity distinguish visit to Universal's Mythos2006-12-27
By Robert Niles: Mythos Restaurant at Universal's Islands of Adventure offers a rare combination in theme park dining: a sense of whimsy and wonder coupled with food that would attract loyal diners even if offered outside the park's gates.
Let's face it: Eating is an afterthought to most theme park visitors. Eager to cram as many rides as they can into their day, many are happy to choke down some calories whenever they can. So theme parks deliver appropriate fare – mass produced meals, often fried, dished up over the counter or out of a cart. If a park offers more, the effort tends to be made in theming and show, with fancy décor but the same lame food.
Fortunately, a few parks offer alternatives for visitors who want their palates engaged along with their other senses during their special day. Disney's made international dining one of the main attractions at Epcot, and the Busch theme parks offer plenty of notable dining experiences to better showcase its line-up of beers.
Theme Park Insider readers have honored Mythos as the industry's best for the past four years. So I planned a visit to the restaurant to see for myself if Mythos continues to live up to that standard.
Mythos' staff impressed from the moment we walked through the door. A friendly host pointed out the bathrooms as he walked us to our seat in Mythos' literally cavernous dining room. Disa, our waitress, guided us through the menu with a refreshing enthusiasm that she kept up throughout the meal. Mythos' warm and professional staff provided a welcome contrast to the ham-handed service we'd experienced at Disneyland's Blue Bayou two months before.
We started with the two soups, a tortilla soup for me and a cream of mushroom for Laurie. Both hit the spot on a chilly December day, with the tortilla soup offering plenty of cumin-infused heat while Laurie's soup did not skimp on meaty mushroom flavor, a typical disappointment with other cream of mushroom soups.
Based on Disa's recommendations, I ordered for my entree the day's risotto, served on a red wine demiglace and topped with pepper crusted scallops.
Laurie chose the Pastabilities, which that day was a fettucine in a roasted
The kids each opted for the “Dueling Dragons” cheese pizza, which featured mozzarella on one side with cheddar on the other.
Of the three, the risotto was the clear favorite, with enough sharp notes from the pepper and the sauce to balance the risotto's inherent richness. Getting the right texture in a risotto tests a kitchen, and Mythos passed well. Laurie's pasta didn't offer the bold flavor that my risotto did, as her chicken came out a bit overdone, drying the meat and muting the pesto flavor. Still, the pasta was cooked to al dente and coupled with the chicken for a relatively satisfying, though unspectacular, meal.
As for the kids' meals, this duel was no contest. The mozzarella sides of the pizzas disappeared quickly, while a couple bites satisfied everyone's curiosity about the cheddar. There's a reason why you rarely see a sharply flavored cheese like cheddar on a pizza. It just clashes too much with the naturally acidic tomato sauce to please the palate. No mind, though. The kids' pizzas easily could have served two, and no one went hungry leaving the cheddar side alone.
Since we're reviewing the place, we couldn't skip dessert, could we? And I'm glad we didn't. Mythos' desserts offer plenty of fun without overloading diners with too many extra calories at the end of the meal.
The kids loved the “sushi,” which replaces the traditional rice with Rice Krispies, the fish with fruit roll-ups and the seaweed wrap with a coating of rich chocolate. An artful swirl of raspberry sauce and a pair of wooden chopsticks completed the presentation, which the kids barely noticed in their rush to devour the treats.
Laurie and I opted for the dessert “shooters,” each a digestif-sized glass of confection. Laurie chose the Key Lime pie, with layered the familiar pie filling with graham crust, raspberry sauce and whipped cream, in a miniature parfait. I selected the carrot cake, with tiny layers of cake alternating with a rich cream cheese frosting.
It was just the right portion to complete a delightful meal. Too many American restaurants overwhelm diners with gargantuan portions, feeding a troubling assumption that more calories equals greater value. But the best restaurants still value taste, texture, presentation and service over volume. Mythos is one of those restaurants.
If you're willing to travel across the country in pursuit of the greatest thrills to turn your stomach, why not do it a favor and treat your stomach to a reward in return? You're splurging already on your theme park visit. So why not spend a couple extra bucks (and believe me, coming from L.A., Mythos' prices are a bargain) to thank your stomach and support fine theme park dining? Next time you are at Universal's Islands of Adventure, do not miss a visit to Mythos.
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