Marriott Illume’s New Rooftop Lounge is a Great Place to Grab a Drink and Fireworks | Restaurant Review | Orlando

Illume, the new Japanese fusion lounge at JW Marriott Bonnet Creek, is an ambience. The moment you exit the elevator on the ninth floor, you may be wondering if you’ve taken the wrong direction and ended up at the spa. Dim lighting, soft music, staff speaking in low voices, are we there for a massage or a meal?

Open since May, nearly a year after the hotel itself began welcoming guests, Illume’s rooftop location is jaw-dropping. We were shown to a spot on the airy balcony with a spectacular panoramic view of the Bonnet Creek area of ​​Lake Buena Vista, a stone’s throw from Epcot’s glowing golf ball. At one point, two separate fireworks lit up the sky: one at the nearby Waldorf Astoria and Epcot’s new “Harmonious” fireworks display.

This is not a restaurant, and the seating situation confirms that. Relaxation and libation are the two goals here, with traditional dining in third place. We moved around and arranged ourselves awkwardly around a round coffee table bordered by an oversized lounge chair – too big for one person but not big enough for two – and a sofa. There are bistro tables with chairs, so if you’re looking for a less casual dining experience, request one when you make a reservation.

Illume’s interior is gorgeous, with warm lighting and natural wood, plush cream-colored sofas and soft-colored armchairs. The 360-degree bar is in the foreground, where bartenders shake and stir some of Orlando’s most creative (and expensive) cocktails, ranging from $18 to $29. I ordered the Fire Bird ($20), a mix of Suntory vodka, sake, cantaloupe, green tea syrup and ginger jam, served in a stunning bird-shaped glass with a straw sticking out of the tail.

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My companions opted for the Illumination ($19), with tequila and passion fruit, served in a long-stemmed black coupe glass, and the Japanese Manhattan ($21), made with Askashi White Oak whiskey. and plum, Japanese vermouth and yuzu garnished with a gold origami crane in a vintage cut glass container. Wonderful. We also sampled the Tozai Blossom of Peace sake ($16), a sweet selection with notes of almond, plum, and cherry. The rest of the drinks menu features a generous selection of Japanese whisky, beer, wine and sake by the bottle and glass.

Next time I visit we will stop here and go to another of Orlando’s great Japanese restaurants nearby for dinner. Unfortunately, Illume’s menu writes checks it can’t cash.

All items on Illume’s menu are meant to be common, from the signature eight-piece maki rolls to sharing plates with three to four individual servings. The descriptions, which sound tasty and innovative, just don’t translate to the plate. I wondered many times if the listed ingredients had simply been overlooked or if my palate was fooling me.

We started with a bowl of edamame ($10) with tangy togarashi sea salt, and the watermelon and crab ($17) – four one-bite lollipops of compressed watermelon with a mound of chunk crab, grapefruit and marinated daikon radish with a honey-lime vinaigrette. It was the favorite dish of the night, but other than watermelon and sweet salted crabmeat, no other flavors could be found. If the advertised red pepper and capers were Included in sakana’s tiny donuts ($16), each the size of chewing gum, we couldn’t taste or see them.

Click to enlarge Gyu No Kani - ROB BARTLETT

The house’s star maki roll, the Gyu No Kani ($32), wrapped in slices of seared beef tenderloin over snow crab, avocado and cucumber with black garlic aioli, green onions, kabayaki sauce and truffle oil. Sounds exciting, right? The result was nice, especially the combination of the seared tenderloin and smoked sauce, but far from the kind of umami the ingredient list promises. We also tried two yakitori skewers, both served with rice and over sautéed snow peas and julienned carrots. One featured well-cooked, glazed jumbo shrimp with citrus ponzu ($24), and the other was mushrooms, onion yellow squash and zucchini, slathered in miso and grilled. Both were tasty but forgettable.

The desserts, again, looked amazing but fell short. The matcha tiramisu ($14) might as well have been vanilla cake with vanilla frosting sprinkled with cocoa powder. We only detected a whisper of that characteristic matcha bitterness on the finish. The Chocolate Ginger Cake ($14) was nicely chocolatey and that’s about it. We haven’t finished either of them.

With a final check well into the triple digits, we hoped to feel more satisfied.

The service is sober and elegant without being distant, in keeping with the Japanese atmosphere. We asked our server to walk us through the menu and familiarize us with new terms like “otsumami”, the Japanese word for appetizers. She was more than happy to pay a visit and offer suggestions for favorite items.

Visit Illume for the drinks and stay for the fireworks erupting all around. It’s a nice place for a date or a special start to a party (then head to Sear & Sea for dinner if you want to stay put), but don’t expect fireworks from the kitchen.

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About James K. Bonnette

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