Monthly Archives: May 2012

Pacific Rim: 1859 Hillview St. Sarasota, FL

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Gabriel and I celebrated our one year anniversary on Thursday so we decided to go have sushi for dinner, in honor of our first date which was also for sushi. There are only a few sushi places in the area that get great reviews, so we decided to try Pacific Rim since it was often talked about as having the best atmosphere of all of them. It is said that you eat with your eyes first, which I absolutely agree with, but beautiful presentation and a nice atmosphere does not make for a great meal in my book, and the food here was definitely lacking. I should also mention, even though I don’t like to judge people if I can help it, that the clientele here were on the tacky/Miami side. Many of them dressed in midriff-baring tops, way-too-tight pants and sky-high heels. Definitely not the type that Gabriel and I really like to hang with. Sorry. Maybe not very nice, but I’m just being honest.

We were seated, as requested, outside on the pretty side porch. It was really cool later when it started storming and little trickles of water came down the walls like a mini waterfall. Inside was very air conditioned and loud, so we were happy to be outside. The chairs were unusually low but the friendly waitress happily brought out a couple of pillows for us and that made a big difference.

We looked over the menus and ordered some edamame, shrimp lettuce wraps and a bottle of unfiltered Nigori sake to start. I must comment that this was the FIRST sake I’ve ever liked. It was much sweeter than those I have tasted in the past and I was surprised to find that It was very enjoyable for me. The lettuce wraps and edamame came out soon and we noticed the big clump of salt centered on our edamame. The waitress explained that we were to use the extra bowl to cover them and shake them up, but even after doing that it was hard to get the salt to evenly coat the other pods. The lettuce wraps were plated beautifully, but totally over-sauced and the flavor and texture of the shrimp, pear and mushrooms kind of just mushed up together.

For our sushi we chose an assortment including; tempura spicy tuna in shitake caps, scallop and avocado handrolls, tamago, shrimp, eel/ cucumber/avocado rolls, salmon sashimi and salmon roe. The tamago, roe and salmon sashimi were  excellent but aside from that, I thought the quality was very mediocre and quite pricey. This restaurant clearly goes for appearances first and taste second and as far as I’m concerned, that’s not enough to impress me. For 1/4 of the total price we could have gone back to Ichiban for all-you-can-eat sushi and next time, that’s most definitely what we will do.

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Lee Roy Selmon’s: 8253 Cooper Creek Blvd Sarasota, FL

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Gabriel and I enjoyed a fun dinner with another couple here last night. Although I’m not really a sports bar kind of person, this restaurant feels much classier and less sporty than I expected based on the reviews I’d read ahead of time. Yes, there are tons of TVs playing various games, but the feel is more upscale and less rowdy that I would have guessed.

Luckily, our friends had a couple of great tips for us. The first was that if you check-in on four square, you get a free fried-green tomatoes appetizer. Cool! We jumped on that. The other VERY important tip is that the amazing bbq-butter-topped rolls, which do NOT come automatically, ARE free and available and absolutely worth asking for. YUM.

I ordered a frozen strawberry margarita to sip and it was delicious; refreshing, sweet- but not overly so, and the perfect amount of alcohol that didn’t totally overpower the drink. The fried green tomatos were a bit slow to come out, but when they finally did we gobbled them right up. They came with a tangy ranch dressing to dip in, and the slices were thick cut and super crunchy.

For my entree, I ordered the shrimp and grits- something I would not normally choose but it sounded interesting. I also ordered a side of green beans and thought it was odd that it did not automatically come with a vegetable when just about all of the other entrees did. The grits were unreal. Super cheesy and with generous bits of bacon, it was NOT at all a light dish. I still can’t believe I ate the whole thing- it was so rich and filling, but tasted so amazing that I couldn’t stop myself. The shrimp were a bit too sauce-covered, and I think they could have used half the amount instead of drowning them in sugary flavoring that they really didn’t need. I thought my meal was excellent, but really felt that the menu was lacking. I would have ordered a healthier shrimp option if there had been one- but the choices were basically salads or super indulgent entrees and sandwiches.

The meal ended with the waiter bringing over hot washcloths to wash our hands with…Nice touch! I thought the prices were totally reasonable and I would definitely consider going back…next time, I will plan to be more mentally prepared to indulge than I was this time.

 

Square 1 Burgers and Bar: 5239 University Parkway, Sarasota, FL

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Gabriel and I had a coupon for a free appetizer with the purchase of 2 burgers so we decided to go to Square One for dinner a few nights ago. We arrived to find adorable cow/western-themed decor inside, but the a/c was blasting so high that we decided to sit outside instead. A friendly waitress came over right away with menus, water and suggestions for us and we took a few minutes to look over the menu.

We chose the bbq chicken wings for our free app- something I’d never order, but Gabriel loves them. To me they were so-so, but he raved about them. They were meatier than average wings, but I thought they were way too unhealthy to be worth the indulgence, especially since I had a giant burger in my immediate future. I did enjoy the celery that came alongside of them with a decent blue cheese dressing.

For my burger, I decided on the Buffalo Bob: Ground buffalo topped with applewood-smoked bacon, onion rings and spicy beer cheese sauce on a sesame seed bun. I actually opted to switch out the beer cheese (which sounded pretty vile to me) for cheddar. It came with a side, so I chose the fried jalapenos, and as it turned out, I was very glad that Gabriel chose sweet potato fries for his because they were fantastic. My peppers were eh. Kind of boring, not that spicy, and overly breaded. My burger was quite good. The buffalo meat was indeed lean- but not all that juicy and a little greasier than I expected. I thought the bacon, onion rings and cheese on top were all just glorious though.

Overall, this meal was pretty good- but not amazing, and for the price, even WITH the free appetizer, it was a bit too much for what we got. I think our bill totaled around $40. Huh? That’s just crazy.

Thailand Restaurant: 2238 Gulf Gate Dr. Sarasota, FL

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All of my worries about being able to find excellent ethnic food now that I’ve moved away from NYC have faded into a distant memory. I met my mom and step father for dinner here a few nights ago since it’s only about 5 minutes from my place of work. It looks horrible from the outside and I think they’d  be very smart of them to remedy that, but once inside, a pleasant atmosphere awaits. Dark wood carvings, rich fabrics and cozy booths make for a warm and inviting interior.

Menus and ice water were brought over right away along with a fresh pot of green tea. We looked over the menus and decided to share a few things. I started with a basic thai salad with a delicious peanut dressing and we ordered a chicken satay for the table which was wonderful. Fresh, tender and generous pieces of chicken served with the classic peanut sauce and vinegar/cucumber sauce were a great start to the meal. We shared a cashew/shrimp dish and a chicken with veggies dish that were both outstanding. The preparation of both dishes was light and healthy, allowing the true flavor of each ingredient to shine through.

The service was perfect; efficient, knowledgable and fast. The price was extremely reasonable, although the entree portions were slightly on the small side compared to most asian restaurants. We were totally satisfied with our dinners, we just didn’t have leftovers to bring home like we often do.

I would strongly recommend Thailand Restaurant- just ignore the appearance from the outside and trust me 🙂

 

 

 

Main Street Trattoria: 8131 Main St. Lakewood Ranch, FL

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I met my friend Rachel here for dinner the other night and was impressed for a few reasons. Our waitress was friendly and attentive and went over the specials right away for us. We were give ice water, menus and time to make our choices.

We decided to share a flatbread with fresh mozzarella, tomato, fresh basil and pesto and a ‘Chef Douglas’ favorite’ pizza with truffled arugula, domestic and portabella mushrooms and shaved parm. Both pies were delicious, made with super fresh ingredients and a crust that was a good balance of chewy and crisp. Now as a New Yorker, I am supposed to be very hard on out-of-NY pizza, but I can’t really compare this…it isn’t the fold-over style we NYers are bred to evaluate. This is more like artisan, thin-crust, brick over pizza- which is really a breed of it’s own, and for what it is, it is quite good.

The price was super reasonable and the service was excellent, casual but professional and attentive. There was live music outside that was WAY better than average and I really enjoyed listening to familiar songs, great voices and talented musicians.

The Main street location is very convenient and conducive to a pleasant evening stroll after dinner. I will definitely be going back!

Ichiban: 2724: Stickney Point Rd. Sarasota, FL

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My new job is about 3 minutes from Ichiban and when I saw that they offer all-you-can-eat sushi for under $20 (if you pay cash. It’s $23 with credit cards) I couldn’t wait to check it out.

Gabriel picked me up from work yesterday and we headed straight over. We were seated right away and given paper check lists on which to make our choices. One menu included teriyaki and tempura options and the other was all sushi, maki rolls and hand rolls. There were 5 specials also included on the list and the waiter also informed us that we could also add salad and or soup. Wow. I was already impressed. The lists were very extensive. We are used to AYCE sushi in NYC that has only the most simple and basic choices and were really excited to see how far our $20 was going to go here.

We both started with a salad. The dressing was awesome, but the iceberg (blah, boring) lettuce was not fresh– brown pieces everywhere. We were both happy enough with the dressing that we ate it anyway, and I would quickly come to see that this first course was the ONLY negative thing about the whole meal.

Next, the waiter brought out our tempura and teriyaki choices. The tempura was pretty good- though not super light and flaky like it should be…but it was hot and fresh and the flavor of the sauce was perfect. The teriyaki beef was surprisingly good- tender meat with tons of sweet and tangy flavor. It’s cool that when you order from that hot cooked food list, you order by the bite sized piece, so it’s perfect for just having little taste samples of whatever sounds good without committing to huge portions.

Next we got our first plate of sushi. (I actually completely and totally forgot to photograph round 2 of our teriyaki, tempura and sushi choices..OOPS!) We had about 10 total rolls and 5 pieces each of very tasty fish. Some of the standouts were the scallop roll, the Sarasota roll (tempura shrimp topped with lobster and eel sauce, YUM. This was my favorite) and the alaska roll. The sushi here is very good. It is not the ultimate, top quality fish you find at some restaurants, but it IS definitely fresh and very very good. If you want to spend triple the amount for fresher fish, than by all means go for it. I’d personally MUCH rather spend $20 for ridiculous quantities of very good quality fish here.

When we were full-as-can be, we got our check and realized that we didn’t bring enough cash. My bad. So, we got one of the $19.95 deals but had to pay $22.95 for the one we used a credit card. Including tax & tip, we spent around $50 for this awesome meal, and calculated that we’d most likely eaten WELL over $100 worth.

We will definitely, positively, absolutely and certainly be going back. Frequently. Soon. Yay! BRAVO.

 

Burns Court Cafe: 401 S Pineapple, Sarasota, FL

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Gabriel and I stopped in for lunch today when we did a quick search on yelp.com and found a $5 for $10 deal. We arrived and saw a lovely case full of fresh sandwiches on baguette, quiches, pastries and other yummy looking treats. The friendly woman working there gave us some advice and time to look at the menus.

There were lots of appealing sounding salads but I decided on a Caprese baguette ( mozzarella, tomato, basil, olive tamponade, pesto, ciabatta) that came with a side salad. Gabriel ordered the Quiche Lorraine (delicious) with a side salad. He also got a chocolate/banana/prune shake that tasted a million times better than it sounded to me. We actually decided to buy some prunes to use in our at-home smoothies because they added so much healthy sweetness.

We chatted a bit with the owner who is extremely friendly and knowledgeable about the area. She clearly takes a lot of pride in her business and it shows. We went to sit at a table and she brought our food and ice water over to us quickly.

Our lunches were awesome. I gobbled up my sandwich SO fast. The fresh bread it was on was SO wonderful. It had a nice bite to it- crisp outside with a doughy interior. I also really enjoyed the fresh dressing on the side salad. It’s amazing what a difference a good quality olive oil and vinegar make to some mesclun leaves and tomatoes.

Overall, this is a great cafe to stop into for lunch or some great coffee. I know that I will definitely be back- and if it’s not quite so hot outside next time, you’ll probably find me sitting at one of the cute sidewalk tables.

Thanks Burns Court Cafe! Well done! Next time, croissants! (They looked SOOOOO good)