Tag Archives: sashimi

Darwin’s on 4th: 1525 4th St Sarasota, FL

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Yesterday was my honey’s birthday. We searched a few menus online of restaurants that we’ve heard great things about and ultimately decided on dining at Darwin‘s to celebrate. We arrived to find a very cool looking building.  Inside was dim, with romantic lighting and beautiful attention to detail in everything from the ceiling, draped in rich colored fabrics hanging from wrought iron fencing, rustic lamps, woven placemats, all the way to the awesome open kitchen where we could watch the chefs make their magic happen.

We were warmly welcomed, first by the hostess and then by our waiter. He told us that hand-crafting beer was one of their specialties- but neither of us are really beer drinkers. That said, the descriptive menu was so appealing that I felt like I had to at least have a taste or two- and our waiter was more than happy to oblige. I tasted the pumpkin spice and their signature beer, and while I’m still not really a fan of beer in general, I can understand that there are different notes and flavors to be appreciated just like with wine.

We looked over the menu, full of very appealing choices, and had a chat with our  waiter about his favorites. Apparently, he pretty much loves everything there- and had a lot of excitement in describing a few of them. We decided to share a bunch of appetizers rather than limiting ourselves to just 2 entrees. We are always happy to share plates (just another reason why I love him) and agree on just about everything food-wise- which really isn’t difficult since we both love eating.

The bus-boy brought out a few little popover-type rolls- they were almost identical to the ones they serve at Derek’s Culinary Casuals, just down the street, so I (wrongly) assumed that perhaps the chefs were buddies from culinary school. Very soon after, our first 3 choices arrived and were presented beautifully- full of color, texture and creativity.

The first was the Yuzu butter poached lobster taco: Miso-truffle black bean puree, avocado, pico de gallo, soft flour tortilla. It had generous pieces of lobster claw meat and that bean puree was incredible- smooth and just the right amount of truffle oil. The tortillas were fluffy and fresh. It was the perfect amount for 2 people- one taco each, and just delicious.

The 2nd was the Limi chopped salad: Spring mix, romaine lettuce, tomato, onions, avocado, choclo, black beans, queso fresco, orange chipotle vinaigrette. It had been recommended to us by a co-worker of Gabriel’s so we felt we better try it. It was colorful and filled with fresh produce, beans and queso fresco to make a refreshing combination. That said, it didn’t blow us away as something all that special- but it was still a nice, light compliment to our other, heavier dishes. I could see ordering it for lunch with another app and feeling like it was the perfect light meal.

Our 3rd plate was the Octopus Tiradito: Sashimi-style tender octopus, black olive puree, onions, avocado, toasted bread. Octopus is Gabriel’s favorite so we had to try it. It was tender, but not as melt-in-your-mouth as we have had it on a few occasions. The olive tampenade was an interesting contrast that I didn’t think would work, but in reality was quite tasty in and a cool texture along with with the chewier meat and soft, creamy avocado.

After those first 3 dishes, we wanted something salty and crunchy and were excited to see tostones on the ‘sides’ menu. (So sorry that we dove into these and polished them off before I remembered I hadn’t taken a photo!) They are one of my favorite snacks when done right and these absolutely were. Wow. Hot, crispy, just the right amount of batter and with a wonderful, herby, chimichurri-type dipping sauce alongside. These were really awesome, and as a classic, authentic Peruvian dish, I’m sure that Darwin has had these under his belt for a while. Finding genuine, ethnic food in Sarasota never ceases to amaze and surprise me. I should really stop doubting how many fantastic restaurants hosted by talented chefs this area offers.

We wanted one more small dish to end this awesome meal and so we asked our waiter one more time for a recommendation. He told us that the Tuna Tiradito was not to be missed. It is Darwin’s signature Sashimi-style tuna, ginger soy sauce, cubes of fresh watermelon, leche de tigre. I’m SO glad that we listened to his advice because this ended up being my favorite of the night. The sweet, cool, juicy watermelon was a fantastic contrast to the tender, fresh, raw, tuna and the lemony sauce that came alongside was a tart compliment to the whole dish. It was beautifully presented and tasted even better than it looked.

We were about to ask to see a dessert menu when our attentive waiter, Enrique, showed up with a surprise ‘Happy Birdday’ dessert for Gabriel. Yes, birdday. Ummm. Cute mistake. The dessert was the Lavender Poached Pear with Goat cheese ice cream, black pepper caramel sauce. Not something I’d really ever order, but definitely enjoyable and very different. The black pepper, caramel sauce was especially unique and neither one of us hesitated in coming as close to licking the plate as is socially acceptable.

Overall, this was a very different dining experience than I have had in a while. Very NY. Very sexy. Very delicious. We will most certainly be back again soon. Thank you Darwin!

Ichi Umi: 6 East 32nd st. New York, NY

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If you’re ‘friends’ with me on yelp.com, you’ll know that my username is “Miss. I can eat my weight in sushi”. Ichi Umi is the perfect place for me to prove that fact, and reaffirm that I truly deserve the nickname. Gabriel and I had overheard some people talking about all-you-can-eat crab legs last weekend at brunch, and we craned over to ask them the where/when and how. When they told us about the $31.95 AYCE spread at Ichi Umi, we were totally sold and VERY psyched to check it out. We invited 3 other couples to join us and made reservations for the following weekend.

When we arrived to a crowded little waiting area, we were told that we’d have to wait until our whole party arrived to be seated. We weren’t thrilled about that, but it turned out that once 5 of us were there they ended up leading us to our table. It’s pretty darn noisy in there, and we quickly learned that a table of 8 was not going to have the easiest time conversing. Just a few moments later, when we began our feast, we realized that having perpetually full mouths also didn’t lend themselves to much chatting, so it was all okay.

My first step was to simply survey the block-long buffet to see what I definitely wanted to try, and what I should probably skip. Three different rice choices? Nah. Not worth the stomach space. Beer or sake? Also not worth the precious space as far as I was concerned. Plates and plates of oysters, sushi, sashimi, and crab legs? BINGO. I headed down into sushi/sashimi land to start…as you will see from the one plate pictured. That was my first plate of 5 or so, and the only one that I actually remembered to photograph.

I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of fish. It was really quite good, beautifully prepared and very fresh. Especially the salmon and the scallops which were the big standouts to me. Some of the best scallops I’ve had actually- which is saying a lot since they are one of my  favorites.

The restaurant is VERY crowded and so the chefs are constantly turning platters out with newly sliced delicacies on them. The chefs are a real treat to watch, there must be about 30 of them behind the buffet, efficient and precise, and ready to tsk tsk at you if you (shudder) don’t put the tongs back where they belong. (Yes, that happened to me. For shame!) The display of the whole buffet  is impressively clean and organized, with neat labels telling you exactly what everything is.

Knowing that I had an 8 mile run ahead of me the following day (I’m currently in training for the NYC half marathon) I was treating this dinner as a total free-for-all. I indulged every culinary curiosity on that buffet, having small tastes of just about everything, and going back for 2nds of my favorites. Aside from the raw salmon and scallops, those 2nds included the crab legs, the blue point oysters, the various seaweed salads, the Japanese fried chicken, the bok choy and mushrooms dish, and the green tea ice cream. The various gyoza choices were also really tasty and fresh, but since I missed their presence my first time around, I only ended up with enough belly room to have one of each type.

The desserts are only so-so, aside from the mango, green tea and red bean ice creams, so I would recommend skipping them and filling up on seafood instead. Not a hard thing to do. And hey, there’s always room for one more oyster.

Enjoy!