Several years ago, the bean counters at Team Disney decided to close all of the nightclubs at the resort's Pleasure Island entertainment complex. The area was to be fully "reimagined," which is Disney-speak for "we would like to build some more gift shops here." Sadly, to this day much of the Pleasure Island area sits vacant, an empty reminder to all that visited of the great times once had here on a nightly basis. We recently visited one of the few new offerings at the "reimagined" Pleasure Island, the Central/South American themed eatery Paradiso 37.
Located alongside Downtown Disney's lakefront, Paradiso 37 is actually operated by E-Brands, the company behind another popular Orlando restaurant, The Samba Room. The restaurant features a pair of outdoor decks, one of which overlooks the lake, as well as lively bar area. The Latin theme is apparent throughout, with mosaic tile table tops, and lighting one would normally find in the art deco hotels of South Beach.
As expected on a Friday evening, we arrived to a fully packed restaurant, and the seven of us were sat at a table more comfortably designed for a party of four. In addition to the small table, the layout is simply not designed for the number of guests crammed into the space, and we spent most of the evening being bumped by servers and other patrons anytime they passed. I'm sure highly complex algorithms were used to determine the exact number of tables and their placement, but squeezing in an extra party or two seems to come at the cost of the guest's comfort.
Even more puzzling than the restaurant's layout was their choice of music. A DJ was in the corner of the dining room playing a wide range of techno/dance/remixed Top 40, and I was left confused as to whether this was a restaurant or a nightclub. Ordering surf and turf while a techno version of The Beatles "I Am The Walrus" played in the background had to be one of the more surreal moments of my life.
Despite my misgivings about Paradiso's atmosphere, the food was definitely a bright spot.
I started with the shrimp ceviche, which was fresh, and carried just the right amount of spice.
The wife and friends shared an order of the Central American Crazy Corn. Apparently there was not anything bad to say about roasted corn soaked in a thick layer of cheese.
The steak portion of my surf and turf was not the greatest of quality, but I wasn't really expecting the Morton's filet. The shrimp, on the other hand, were huge and more than offset the steak's shortcomings.
The wife's enchiladas were a hit, but as I've said before, success is pretty much guaranteed when you put her and Latin food together.
We both went with the Paradiso Stack for dessert, which was just OK. The cake was great, but the ice cream not so much. This from a guy that would eat ice cream on pizza if given the option.
Things seemed to move a little slow at Paradiso. Granted, the place was packed, but that excuse can only go so far. Our server was attentive and friendly, but there were huge gaps between each stage of the meal. Most notably, it took forever to get our check, which I will admit is a pet peeve of mine. You've done your job, it's time to get paid...get the money. Why this concept seems to allude so many restaurants is one of the universe's great mysteries.
Would I return to Paradiso? Absolutely, but with a few tweaks to the approach. First, I would dine outside where there seemed to be more space for guests, and one can escape the club electronica mood music. If the DJ is there to stay, then I feel the entire menu should be tossed into the lake in favor of a tapas approach, which would be a better fit in a pseudo-nightclub. That aside, I enjoyed the food, and found Paradiso 37 to be a welcome addition to the otherwise empty Pleasure Island.
~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~