JOE TOURIST - Mythos Revisited

The IOA restaurant was voted #1 in 2003 by TPI readers. Will it retain the title this year? Joe Lane offers his recent dining experience as evidence.

Written by Joe Lane
Published: June 15, 2004 at 5:32 AM

JOE TOURIST – Mythos Revisited
Giving It Another Try

I'm no food critic. I know what I like and I eat what I like, but when it comes to discussing the taste, texture or presentation of a meal, I fall rather short of reviews written by professionally paid journalists. So when it was suggested earlier this year that I try to offer a couple of restaurant reviews, I was intimidated to say the least. One of my first (and few) offerings talked about The Rainforest Cafe at Downtown Disney, which I enjoyed and gave an outstanding rating in response.

Naturally, people tend to disagree. Our own Robert Niles thought the RFC was "like "It's Tough to Be a Bug," with its interesting, detailed queue and theater--leading up to a lousy, unimaginative show. A theme restaurant with mediocre food's just as disappointing in my book." He mentioned the Mythos at Islands of Adventure, saying they had an exceedingly better cuisine. I myself had previously been to Mythos once before and had been rather disappointed with my meal, but I chalked that up to having an unsophisticated palette--being a college student, you tend to develop a taste for fast-food, as that's all you can afford on a daily basis. Plus, the fact that Mythos was rated number one for 2003 told me perhaps my experience had been an unusual one.

So I made a deal with Robert (although he may not remember it). I'll go back to Mythos and he'll go back to RFC and we'll give 'em a second try. It took me nearly six months, but I finally worked in a meal at the restaurant this past weekend. I'm proud to present my first official review of the restaurant and I must say, despite the saying about first impressions, I think second time around was much better.

I arrived roughly about 12:45 in the afternoon and was seated immediately. One of the first things you notice about Mythos is the theme. The restaurant is built in a giant mountain in The Lost Continent of IOA, across from Poseidon's Fury and just beyond the entrance to Seuss Landing. The outside of the crag features a few ominous faces. Inside, the walls and ceiling have the appearance of being worn away by water, making a nice look of an underground water cavern, but with plenty of light. Large crystals provide additional lighting, and the floor is decorated with tile artwork. There's even a small waterfall and a little stream in the middle of the dining hall.

My waitress did her job very well--she was cheerful and friendly and helpful in suggesting menu items--like the Cedar Planked Bay of Fundy Salmon. I passed on the fish, however, because I'm not that big of a seafood fan. I also forced myself to avoid selecting one of the pastas or the Mythos Hamburger--my goal was to try and choose something I wouldn't usually order, but something I knew I could eat and still enjoy. I decided on a starter of Creamy Mushroom Soup and the Grilled Chicken Club.

The soup tasted of mushrooms, hence the name, but it wasn't overpowering. It had a pleasant taste--the cream of the soup consisted of tiny pieces of mushroom, and it was topped with a mushroom foam, which I was apprehensive about eating at first, but found it to be just as good as the rest of the soup. It went well with the bread that was served--a new multi-grain bread that the restaurant recently started serving and the taste was rich and easy to chew.

The Chicken Club was topped with applewood bacon and ranch dressing. It also had an interesting combination of a yellow tomato slice along with the red tomato slice. This reminded me of the Tomato Salad I had ordered months ago during my first visit--which I had been grossly disappointed with. But what I didn't know then was that taste and texture varies little between colors of the vegetable. The bread was moderately toasted, the chicken wasn't too dry and wasn't too juicy and the bacon really added to the sandwich with its smoked flavor. The fries served along with it were of the shoestring variety. I prefer beefier fries, but these managed to have a pleasing taste and texture despite their similar look.

The soup cost $4.75. The club, $10.25. Along with a $2.25 Coke (with free refills), plus tax, the total ran up to $18.38. This is sans a dessert item, which would run anywhere from $5 to $7 dollars per item, making this meal just a tad bit cheaper than a starter, main course, and dessert from RFC--and as we all know, cheaper IS more attractive. But what really sets Mythos apart is the caliber of quality in the food. The skill of the chef shows in how an everyday meal like a chicken sandwich can find enhancement through culinary craft, and this is what gives Mythos that extra inch above RFC.

So, when it's all said and done, Mythos certainly lives up to the hype. It's no wonder the restaurant was voted number one by folks. Whether it will retain the title in this year's 2004 Theme Park Insider Awards is yet to be known, but regardless of the outcome, Mythos will remain a must-eat restaurant. Until next week, folks, keep on ridin'.

Readers' Opinions

From Robert Niles on June 15, 2004 at 10:18 AM
Mushroom foam? Okay, either El Bulli is now totally played out, as savory foams have made their way into a theme park -- or Mythos really is cutting edge.

How 'bout a little bit o' both?

From Robert Niles on June 15, 2004 at 10:20 AM
Actually, how much coin would Universal, or some other company, have to drop on Ferran Adrià to get an El Bulli-type restaurant in Orlando or L.A.? Wouldn't highly themed food fit in a theme resort? I know the economics are a bit out of whack, as an El Bulli meal goes for way, way, *way* more than the owners of the Rainforest Cafe would ever fantasize about charging. But if we can get a Cirque show at WDW, which costs more than an entire day at any of the parks, I'd think that El Bulli could fit a niche at WDW, UO or USH. (I don't think it'd work in Anaheim, as the California parks depend far more upon tourists, and while there are enough loaded locals near USH to support an Adrià restaurant, there aren't nearly enough in Anaheim.)
From Robert Niles on June 15, 2004 at 7:09 PM
I just *killed* your discussion by going off on a tangent about a fancy restaurant in Spain, didn't I, Joe?

Sorry. I'll go hide and read my Cooks Illustrated now....

From Joe Lane on June 15, 2004 at 8:51 PM
There was a discussion?

Actually, I was trying to look it up, but everything was in Spanish, so I couldn't understand it.

What about Masaharu Morimoto? He was on Iron Chef and few times and opened his own restaurant in Philly in '02. Maybe a few Morimoto dishes could make it in the Orlando area?

From Carrie Hood on June 15, 2004 at 9:49 PM
Now don't get me wrong I'm a huge fan of Iron Cheif and Morimoto but you can't help but see another big name chief resturant in the same topic as Orlando theme parks and not think "Oh great, another Emerils".

Now while I'm in the same boat as most with the "I eat fastfood and pizza, thats what I can afford". I've heard Emeril's was a huge let down from many many people. I'm no food buff but I know that resturant doesen't fill up a good half of the time and not because of prices.

Then again when I have that kind of money on head to splurge on a meal the first words in my head are "BENIHANA!"..and now I'm babbling. I think you might get the drift though, at least I hope.

From Kevin Baxter on June 16, 2004 at 12:52 AM
I was really following this thread right up until the point Joe finished. The rest is a blur.

While many people complain about the cost of food in theme parks, your bill was remarkably reasonable. I figure any time I can escape a mid-level restaurant for under $20 (sans tip, of course), I'm doing really well.

Unlike Joe, I'm both old and have money to eat out fairly regularly and I have found that Universal Orlando's food is almost "universally" (ha!) above average. In fact, the only thing I have never really enjoyed may have been their hamburgers. I wish they would get a Mythos-quality restaurant in USF. And I wish they'd dump half the crap in USH and follow UO's lead in the food department.

From Tim Hillman on June 16, 2004 at 5:42 AM
Mythos is my favorite restaurant inside any theme park. I still remember the first time I ate there and the executive chef who designs the menus for the eateries in both IOA and USF came out and asked how our food was. (To my shame I can't remember his name, but his picture is in the park guides if you want to look it up.) After eating excellent food in very comfortable surroundings, that little bit extra sealed the deal for me. Since then, I always find time to eat lunch in Mythos whenever I visit IOA.
From Brad Watson on June 16, 2004 at 6:34 AM
totally off subject from fine restaurants, but why doesn't UNI hook up with Wendy's or Burger King to make a few extra sponsorship bucks? It seems to me that Wendy's is USF's biggest buddy when it comes to outside advertisement. Why not a Wendy's souped up restaurant smack in the middle of New York's streets? Is this too far fetched? People?
From Joe Lane on June 16, 2004 at 7:16 AM
In terms of food quality, yes. I'll cheer on Wendy's as a fast food business, but I sure don't want to see one in the Universal theme parks. Disney's already made that mistake letting McDonalds in their parks--albeit for French Fry stalls alone. Course, Disney is supposed to be held to a slightly higher standard than Universal.
From Robert Niles on June 16, 2004 at 9:44 AM
Since when?

I know, I know. You're talking about public perception, rather than the perception of hard-core theme park fans. But I've talked to many casual visitors who now consider Universal (and SeaWorld) in the same quality category as Disney.

That said, I agree that the nation fast food chains ought not to be in "theme" parks, because the lack of a theme is no theme at all. I ammore forgiving of fast food in a park like SeaWorld, where the theme is animal life, rather than a specific time or place. But even then, I want something special -- even if trivially so -- when I splurge for a day at a park. A Wendy's or McDonalds fails to deliver that special experience.

From Joe Lane on June 16, 2004 at 10:15 AM
It's hard to explain my meaning. Disney--especially the Magic Kingdom, is a fantasy world through and through. You go there to get away from the outside world--to escape everyday life--that's part of what's supposed to make a WDW or DL trip so unqiue, but when you're walking through Frontierland and you see a wagon with the golden arches on it, you're reminded of the outside world, and the attempt at a fantasy illusion isn't as successful. At least, that's the basic idea--it's something like that.

Universal can get away with it. Universal Studios, especially--a world that takes possible real life situations and makes incredible things happen, like twisters, earthquakes, man-eating sharks, aliens, etc. A fast-food joint in the New York backlot wouldn't be too far-fetched, but it would be cheap, that's for certain. On the other hand, a Wendy's or Burger King over at IOA wouldn't work at all, because the theme is so stylized. For a while there, the pizza place in JP was turned into a Pizza Hut Express--I don't know if they still serve Pizza Hut brand there anymore or not, but I haven't seen any signage.

From Ben Mills on June 16, 2004 at 1:02 PM
To add my two Sterling Pounds...

If a McDonalds, BK, or KFC, (preferably the latter) were to come along and add a restaurant to one of the parks while keeping at the SAME prices that they offer everywhere else, I'd be for that. It's good to have somewhere that doesnt charge the typically OTT prices that Disney, Universal, etc hit us with. Some us just can't afford some of these ridiculous prices twice a day for theme park food hits.

Bring on the Golden Corral Epcot's American Adventure!

From Rhys Evans on June 16, 2004 at 6:24 PM
Back to the original subject of Mythos... it was simply one of the best meals of my entire life! And I'm not implying that most of my meals are McDonalds or Wendy's. We splurged, had soup, entree and dessert; every morsel was so delicious and memorable that I gave the place a perfect 10. I had a pork tenderloin on pad thai noodles, crab bisque soup, we shared a tomato and fresh mozzarella appetizer and also shared two spectacular deserts. Again, one of the best meals of my entire life, yeah, it was $70 for 2, but there's no way I wouldn't go back on my next trip. Compared to a soggy corndog or heat-lamped mystery meat, I give IOA full credit for an awesome place like Mythos (and I'd love to see it open at USH).
From Brad Watson on June 16, 2004 at 7:47 PM
USF needs an injection of creativity, plain and simple. They have the sets and the hevy theming that could promote escapism, but seriously, when was the last time you walked down NY sets smelling brick oven pizzas or some weird indian or asian fare. Those elements make you think NY. Better yet, where's the tubby guy wearing the Yankees cap and the plain white T-shirt behind the hot dog cart. Speaking of pizzas, Italian cuisine deserves a full service restuarant more than Irish food. A matter of fact, I know it's prevalent in NYC, yet is corned beef and cabbage vacation munchies? I bet if you posted a voting java application on the front page asking that question, the majority might say no. Suggestion for replacing of the Irish restaurant in USF: Chinese/Japanese with sushi (when they're selling it in most supermarkets, ya know it's huge)
From patrick sayre on June 19, 2004 at 11:11 AM
The problem with having outside food inside is.
1. no theme.
2. Higher prices for smaller portions than outside the park.

Try going to Six Flags Vallejo for a shocker. "Subway Sandwiches"..known quanitity and cheap..YA THINK? Noo. 6" sandwiches at the price of a 12"..and 4$ soft drinks.

Why you ask? Basic Mafia technique called Skimming.

The Theme park sells the concession at a price..x amount no matter what right off the top.As Henry Says.."Lighting strike, so what Pay Me"
In order to meet this demand the concessionaire Must raise prices in order to make sure his Shop doesn't get the boot.And lets not rule out good old fashioned GREED. Actually Themepark food should be CHEAPER than outside given the scale of economy they deal with. With volume comes lower cost. And the fact they are almost guaranteed x amount of patrons per hour. And the fact that (when Park owned)their insurance,workmans comp, and utilities are shared with the park in general which can be lower given the rates for large corps Vs. Small business.

No...keep the outside food outside....and keep celeb Chefs out. Whats needed is Good food, Great Theme and ethical treatment of people that have already paid a considerable amount to be there in the first place.

From Herminio Rodriguez on August 7, 2004 at 8:00 PM
If they put another restaurant in the New York Backlot it should be something like Katz Delicatessan or Papaya King Hot Dogs. Restaurant's like this will add to the theming in the Backlot.

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