Tag Archives: Wine tasting descriptors

Tandoori Indian Restaurant: 3440 Clark rd. Sarasota, FL HAS MOVED TO 8453 Cooper Creek Blvd

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mango lassipappadum and 3 sauces, tamarind etcchickpea potatoes patties appnaanrotieggplant entreesaag paneerbasmati rice

I feel like I’ve said this a lot more times than I ever expected to, but WOW, great ethnic food in Sarasota?!?! Amazing! Who knew?

Gabriel and I bought a coupon deal to go to Tandoori Indian Restaurant based on a recommendation from my boss. We decided to go a few nights ago when I had a serious craving for Sag Paneer. (Fresh homemade cottage cheese cubes cooked in fresh creamy spinach gravy, very delicately spiced.) This is one of those dishes that I get intense cravings for every so often, and since I’ve recently cut meat out of my diet and am finding less options on most menus, I am so happy to say that this favorite of mine is still a-okay.

When we arrived, it was a fairly empty restaurant but we noticed quickly that a lot of their business seems to be in take-out. Quite a few people came to pick up their ‘to go’ orders while we ate. The waitress came over and brought menus and water and made some suggestions at our request. She also brought out the delicious, creamy, sweet, mango lassis we ordered, as well as some crisp popadom with the 3 classic sauces: tamarind, mint chutney and onion. My favorite is always tamarind and I always ask for extra to use on the rice and entrees as well.

We decided to try the Ragda Patties (crispy fried potato patties topped with chick peas cooked in onion & tomato paste spiced with ground spices and finished off with our house yogurt and tamarind & mint chutney) as our appetizer. It wasn’t exactly what I expected, but it WAS really delicious. It was mainly chick peas, spiced with really interesting flavors, and the patties it sat atop were decadent, creamy, potatoes. They didn’t really seem crispy to me- as described in the menu, but they were very flavorful and the texture contrast with the chickpeas was interesting.

For our entrees, we shared the Sag Paneer, which was perfect, and the Baingan Bharta (roasted, de-skinned and pureed eggplant, cooked with turmeric, onions and tomatoes, seasoned with herbs & lightly flavored with a hint of freshly ground fried spices) which was also really wonderful. The basmati rice that came with it and the Tandoori Naan and Roti we ordered were the perfect platforms for the complex flavors of our entrees.

Overall, I am really happy to have had a chance to try Tandoori and will definitely be back. The owner came out to chat with us to tell us that they will soon be moving to a new location in Coopers Creek off of University Drive- and we are glad to know they will be in an area that we frequent. As a New Yorker who used to think that Jackson Heights, Queens is really the best place outside of India (not that I’ve actually been there) to eat Indian food, I am VERY pleasantly surprised to find awesome, authentic, Indian cuisine right here in Sarasota, Florida. Bravo Tandoori!

 

UPDATE: Tandoori Grill has moved to 8453 Cooper Creek Blvd and is STILL awesome. Gabriel and I had dinner there last week and the food was FANTASTIC. YAY!! It’s so close to where I live now and the $9.99 buffet still has tons of vegetarian options.

Jose’s Real Cuban Food: 8799 Cortez Rd. West. Bradenton, FL

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My father invited a bunch of us to meet at Jose’s for dinner a couple of weeks ago. Bradenton is a trek and a half from where I work, but since a few family members were in town visiting, it was definitely an invitation I didn’t want to pass up.

When we pulled into the parking lot, it really looked like a dive. Knowing that my father doesn’t mess around about awesome food, I trusted that looks would be deceiving and it would be a great meal. Apparently, Jose’s was featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives not too long ago. Ever since then, the local devotees are probably a little pissed off that the secret is out.

My dad had pre-ordered the paella, sangria and plantains for all of us so as soon as we sat down, everything was on it’s way out. The sangria was poured and I immediately noticed how different it looked from the sangria that’s served in most (way less authentic) places around here. It was a rich, dark purple-brown and had a wonderful cinnamon flavor to it. It tasted much more complex, with spices and different layers of flavor, than the fruit-juicy mixes I’m usually served.

The HUGE tray of paella was incredible looking. The menu says it will feed 8. There were 8 of us and we ended up taking almost half a tray home with us, and we are all pretty good eaters. Piled on top of a mountain of rice were mussels, lobster, shrimp, chicken, and sausage. The amount of food was really pretty insane. It seriously was enough for at least a dozen people- then again, we DID each have a side of plantains, so maybe without that we could have made a bigger dent. The plantains were delicious. Crisp edges, perfectly cooked, slightly caramelized. This side dish really could have been dessert.

There really wasn’t enough room left for dessert, but we were all dying to try the flan. We were only slightly disappointed when we were told that there wasn’t any left. We were really ready to go anyway, all feeling pretty sleepy from carb overload. I guess they felt bad that they were all out because the next thing we knew, they’d brought over a bread pudding for us to share. We all silently groaned looking at a dense, bread-y dessert that none of us really wanted or had space in our stomachs for. We each had a bite, and frankly, it kind of tasted like a heavy muffin wet with caramel sauce. Not really my thing, and not worth trying to stuff it in my already too-full belly.

Overall, the whole meal was really quite good. I’d love to go back to try some of the other dishes on the menu- especially the black bean soup, which the menu claims is ‘the best in the world’. I actually believe that might be true and will have to make a point to go find out!

 

 

Inkanto: 4141 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34231

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When I heard there was a new Peruvian restaurant in Sarasota, I was very excited about it. Longing for my NYC days of frequent meals at Pio Pio, (https://bigforkinmouth.com/2010/04/22/pio-pio-1746-1st-ave-new-york-ny/) I was hoping to find inexpensive prices, plentiful food, amazing roasted chicken, crispy/chewy tostones, solchipapas and delicious, spicy, green sauce. Aside from the solchipapas and spicy green sauce, Inkanto proved to be totally different than my beloved Pio Pio. That said, it’s unfair to go into a restaurant with such high expectations, especially in my hopes to find something to replace what I’d left behind in NY. In all fairness, this experience was still enjoyable, interesting, and seemed to be authentic. The service was excellent, the atmosphere cozy and welcoming, the food creative and tasty, and the prices reasonable for a fancy-ish meal.

When we sat down with our friends, we were given a wine list and menu, and ‘cancha’ (or basically browned, puffed corn). It was kind of like inside-out popcorn- and not too disimilar from what we know as corn nuts. It’s crunchy, salty and you are supposed to mix it up with the spicy Aji sauce (a mix of black mint, jalapenos and debatable other top secret ingredients which I think probably includes mayo, cilantro, olive oil and who knows what else). Yum! What a fun start to the meal, and potentially one that I could eat far too much of.

We decided to share 2 appetizers between the 4 of us. One was (I totally forgot what it was officially called and the website does not have it listed. Sorry!) made of sliced prawns, mashed yellow potatoes, avocados, red peppers, lettuce, topped with a creamy sauce. The combinations of flavors, temperatures, and textures was unusual and interesting and all of the ingredients were fresh and bright. The presentation of the dish was eye-catching and vibrant and we all really enjoyed it. It was just enough for about 2 bites each- perfect for a little taste. We also shared the salchipapas, because whether young or old, who can really resist a place of french fries and chicken hot dog slices? Not me- or apparently anyone else at our young-at-heart table.

For our entrees, Gabriel and I shared their specialty, Lomo Saltado (filet mignon with onions, tomatoes, and peppers) and the Pescado A Lo Macho (mixed seafood in a creamy saffron sauce). We both substituted fried yucca for french fries (since we’d already had plenty of those), and also asked for the other sauces to dip them in that were offered with the yucca appetizer. Our waitress was more than happy to oblige, and although all of them were excellent and each quite different than the one before, I ended up back where I started with the spicy green sauce that I love so much. The seafood dish was my favorite with such a flavorful sauce and a great assortment of fresh calamari, scallops, fish, mussels, and shrimp. The plain, white rice that came with it was the perfect way to mop up all of the extra sauce once we had eaten everything else on it. If they bottled that sauce, I may very well have come home with some.

Overall, the service and presentation here were standouts, and the food was definitely better than average. We spent about $35 each- which included wine, which I felt was slightly more than it should have been. The restaurant has only been open for 2 months so far, and was fairly empty on a Saturday night. Hopefully once the snowbirds return to the area ready to try something new, their business will pick up a bit. For us, it was definitely an enjoyable evening with friends, but we aren’t totally sold on going back. We’ve been to far too many area restaurants with excellent food for closer to $25-$30 per person, and the reality is that we will be more likely to return to those. I am fine with a splurge for a way-above-average experience, but this one was only a ‘very good’ in my book, not a ‘great’. We shall see…

Jim’s Small Batch Bakery. 2336 Gulf Gate Dr, Sarasota, FL

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Stop #2 on my father and I’s little culinary adventure in Gulf Gate led us to Jim’s Small Batch Bakery and WOW this was the highlight of the day for me. This tiny little shop tucked away in the corner of Gulf Gate is just awesome, with a staff who clearly has a ton of integrity about what they do. Jim was on hand to chat and give us some samples of his sorbets and ice creams and I simply couldn’t resist. I ended up with a scoop of coconut sorbet and a scoop of strawberry sorbet and they were both so incredibly delicious. Smooth, creamy and very natural with nothing but the fruit, a little sugar and a binding ingredient. Some of the best sorbet I’ve ever had actually. I couldn’t help topping my cup with a lemon sand dollar cookie that was super thin, crisp and delicate. I also tasted my father’s vanilla ice cream which was equally outstanding.

The case full of treats was extremely tempting, and I’m lucky that I work pretty close by. I will absolutely be back for lunch soon- as they had a wonderful little menu of sandwiches, soups and quiches in addition to their baked goods. The almond croissant was LOUDLY calling my name and I promised it that I’d come back for it soon. The lemon bar, breads and cakes also looked amazing and I’m sure I’ll eventually try them all.

YUM. I will be back within a week, I’m sure of it. Thanks Jim!

G’s Pizzaria: 7119 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL

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This is another one of those “I am a NY pizza snob” type posts where I go to a restaurant to try a slice from a place that claims to be owned by a NYer. I’m always pretty skeptical when I go on these little adventures but am willing to give it a fair shot. When I first walked in and found out the the owner is actually from WAY upstate NY and not the city, I got pretty worried.

I sat down and ordered a plain slice and a side salad with blue cheese dressing on the side. The salad came out and (good first impression) was NOT iceberg lettuce! It was a mesclun mix with beautiful, thick, red tomato slices, black olives, onions and fresh mushrooms on top. The dressing was pretty darn good too. So far, so good.

A few minutes later, the owner brought my slice over, piping hot from the oven and looking an awful lot like a NY slice. BIG, flat, bubbly top, and the right ratio of cheese to sauce to crust. Hmmmm. Could it be? I took a bite. WOW. Ok. I am impressed. This IS a NY slice after all. Is it the best slice ever? Well, no, but let’s be realistic. The truth is that the classic NY slice has a lot to do with the water there, and no one outside of NYC will really ever be able to duplicate that. But this was definitely the closest to NY I’ve had since I moved here a few months ago. Ah. Good enough to evoke nostalgia. The crust was the right mix of crunchy and chewy, the flavor of the sauce was spot-on; not too sweet, the right amount, and the cheese was exactly right. I added my sprinkling of oregano and parmesan- which was on the table like it should be, and it made for a VERY satisfying lunch. BRAVO to you G’s! Bonus that it’s about 1/4 mile from where I work. I will absolutely be back. YAY!

 

Ping’s Chinese Cuisine: 5445 Fruitville Rd Sarasota, FL

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I met my dad and my honey here for dinner a few nights ago at my father’s suggestion and was pleasantly surprised. When I first walked in, I found a totally unexciting atmosphere in a strip mall. It looked like a run-of-the-mill coffee shop inside, but did have a very friendly hostess/waitress to show me to my seat.

We sat in a booth and were immediately served ice water and a bowl of VERY crunchy noodles with duck sauce. I find these very hard to resist and must admit that I ate more than I should have. We looked over the menu and decided to share a seafood with mixed vegetables dish and a shrimp with lobster sauce dish. I also tasted a bit of my dad’s wonton soup– and must say that it was better than average. Not too salty, fresh and definitely homemade. The entrees were also very fresh and full of large pieces of lobster, shrimp, scallops and a great assortment of vegetables.

The service was super friendly and fast and had the feel of eating in someone’s home- where they really put attention and love into what they cook. This, along with a few other experiences I have had so far in the area, has already changed my preconceived thoughts about eating ethnic foods in Sarasota. It DOES exist, it does NOT make me miss living in NYC, and it IS a great value and worth a visit.

 

Jpan: 8126 Main street, Lakewood Ranch, FL

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AH! Finally, A great place for sushi that isn’t ridiculously overpriced AND has excellent quality fish, creative rolls and great service. The bonus here is that it’s less than 5 minutes from my condo AND they are open for lunch with great deals for around $10.

Gabriel and I went for dinner with another couple here a few nights ago and were really happy to have tried it. We shared a bowl of perfectly cooked edamame, some awesome cold sake (they do not have a full bar which was the one downfall) and 6 different maki rolls. We also ordered some tamago sushi and some scallop sushi. Everything was spot on. This is the first sushi place in the area that I will definitely go back to aside from my current favorite, Ichiban. (https://bigforkinmouth.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/ichiban-2724-stickney-point-rd-sarasota-fl/) This was only slightly more expensive- but we did have drinks here, so I felt that $30 per person for dinner was totally reasonable. I left feeling full and happy 🙂

The service was fantastic and we all really appreciated that no one seemed to mind that we lingered to chat long before we ordered and long after we finished eating.

Hooray Jpan! Just another reason to love living in Lakewood Ranch. Give it a try!

 

Mi Pueblo: University Walk Plaza, 8405 Tuttle Ave. Sarasota, FL

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Everyone we have met here has told us to try Mi Pueblo. Apparently, it’s known as the very best Mexican food in the area. A waitress at a different restaurant also told us that they make fantastic margaritas- which my boyfriend loves, so last night we decided to give it a try.

We arrived to find a really adorable building, a friendly hostess, cool lighting and shadows, and a comfortable booth ready for us. Menus and ice water were brought for us right away. Soon after that, our drink orders were taken and a basket of delicious tortilla chips and spicy fresh salsa was served. The margaritas came out super fast and really were outstanding.

I knew what I wanted before I even looked at the menu because I’d heard their chicken Mole was awesome. It’s one of my favorite Mexican dishes, so that was an easy choice. We noticed there weren’t really any sides on the menu, but when we asked if we could have a side of veggies, our waiter told us that they did have tasty grilled vegetables as a side to offer. Great, we’ll take one of those.

Gabriel ordered the ‘2 choice’ combo plate with 1 verde enchildada, and 1 chimichanga. We decided we’d share everything so that we could really get a good feel of the food here.

Our meals came out very quickly, and WOW! Everything was awesome. Super fresh, cooked perfectly, served with sides of Mexican rice and refried beans topped with cheese.

When our bill came, we did a double take. Two entrees, a side and 2 drinks for less than $40!?!?!? WOW again, that is really awesome.

I was so full but somehow managed to keep noshing on the 2nd basket of chips that was refreshed during our meal. Ohhhhh. I think I overdid it. Next time we come, when they ask if we want more chips, I will definitely remember to say ‘No thank you.’ In spite of my eyes-bigger-than-stomach rookie mistake, this was an excellent dinner and we’ll definitely return soon!

Brasserie Belge: 1990 Main St. Sarasota, FL

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When we lived in NYC, Gabriel and I used to use Groupon-type deals ALL the time. It was a way that we could go out to try new restaurants without spending a fortune- and the opportunities were endless as we got new offers at least daily from Groupon, living social, yelp deals, buy with me, KGB deals etc. When we moved to Florida, it was one of the things I knew I’d miss- in fact, we even included it on our ‘will miss’ list on our blog: byebyeny.wordpress.com . The offers here are few and far between, and usually for activities and spa services as opposed to dining.

Imagine my excitement when, after our first month of living here, we finally received a Groupon offer for a restaurant we’d been wanting to try called Brasserie Belge in downtown Sarasota. Most of the offers I see are up near Tampa or St. Petersburg, so I was really happy to get a local one, for a great deal, just 20 minutes from where we live. I jumped on it and called for a reservation. My father, who had strongly recommended the mussels here, also gave us a great tip that if you sign up for emails on their website, you can print out a coupon for a free crepe dessert. Score!

We went for date night last Saturday and were seated right away outside, as requested. Our waiter came out right away to offer sparkling or flat water, tell us the specials and take our drink orders. I decided on a ‘Hot and Dirty Martini‘ which was absolut peppar vodka, dry vermouth, olive juice and blue cheese stuffed olives and hot peppers (which were AMAZING) I loved my cocktail and could probably have really spoiled my dinner with a few more of those delicious olives. Fresh, soft bread and butter was brought to us soon after. It was fine- but nothing special and fairly unremarkable. This was actually a good thing since we had lots of food coming and I’ve definitely been known to fill up on bread before the meal arrives.

For our apps, we shared the Salade Brussels; Iceberg lettuce, shredded parmesan cheese, hard-boiled egg, croutons, Caesar dressing. I was fairly disappointed with it, but it was really my own fault for not noticed the ‘iceberg lettuce’ part. I was expecting a classic Caesar, but it was really boring. The dressing had almost no flavor, and the personality-less lettuce didn’t help things at all. The thinly shaved parmesan was plentiful, but couldn’t really support the rest of the salad. Even the croutons were sadly bland and I really would have really liked some anchovies or lemon to make it come alive. Oh well. Our other app totally made up for the first one. We ordered the special which was sauteed calamari and shrimp with olives in a creamy tomato sauce. It was outstanding. The shrimp were huge and cooked perfectly and the calamari was fresh and not at all chewy as it often is. The kalamata olives still had a nice bite to them and the sauce was creamy and warm and served as mature comfort food. Total winner.

For our entrees, we shared the Mussels Tomate and the Meatballs “simmered in a sweet liège sauce of reduced fresh apples and pears”. It, like the mussels, were served with Belgian fries. The fries were served with a mayo-y sauce that was delicious and the twice-fried fries were awesome- super crunchy and just the right amount of salt. The meatballs were amazing- the sweet sauce they were served in reminded me a bit of Swedish meatballs– but were uniquely seasoned in way that was both sweet and savory. The mussels were fresh and cooked perfectly- and the portion was very generous. It’s understandable why most of the menu consists of different flavors of mussels and meatballs- they know what they do well and have made a great niche for themselves doing it.

For our complimentary crepe dessert, we were brought a thin, hot crepe topped with chocolate sauce and powdered sugar. It was tasty, but kind of boring. The chocolate that topped it was fantastic though- a dark, semisweet chocolate that was obviously of very high quality

Overall, I really enjoyed my meal. Our waiter was friendly, knowledgeable and very attentive. The prices were reasonable, made even more so by our Groupon and our free dessert. The atmosphere, including a talented pianist/vocalist, was lovely  and sophisticated. We’ll definitely plan to go back!

 

Michelangelo Pizza & Italian: 11517 Palmbrush Trail, Bradenton, FL

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As a native NYer, I have been avoiding pizza since I moved to Florida for fear that a food so near and dear to my heart would be so poorly represented that it bordered on criminal. A few people I know have strongly recommended a couple of places so I have begun my sampling process- one slice of plain cheese pizza. Today was my first stop, Michelangelo’s in the Summerfield Plaza at Lakewood Ranch. When I pulled up, it was packed with people eating and picking up their orders, and the very busy employees behind the counter had the crowd control totally under control. So far, pretty New Yorky indeed.

The first bummer was that I couldn’t just order a slice at the counter and then go sit down to eat it. No, this is to-go or table service only. Womp womp. Well, ok. I decided to sit and order my one plain slice and a glass of water. It took much longer than I would have guessed- but I wrote it off to the crowded tables and the fact that I was only going to be paying a comparatively measly amount of money. I noticed that a lot of patrons had brought their own wine and glasses, and overheard the waitress explaining that the proximity of the restaurant to the daycare center behind it was the reason that they were not allowed to serve their own. The food on the tables around me all looked and smelled great, and it seemed that lots of people go there for meals other than pizza. I saw a few bowls of pasta, some different parmesans, some salads etc, that all looked good.

When my pizza finally arrived, It looked pretty darn good. Melty cheese, not too greasy, and piping hot. I had my first bite. Hmmm. Everything seemed to be on point…The crust was good- crisp and a little chewy, the cheese was good, melty and stringy, the sauce was good- fresh and tomatoey. But something was missing. Hmm. What is it? Oh! It’s FLAVOR. Ya. Not so much. I really couldn’t figure out why, but I ended up sprinkling on tons of oregano, garlic, and even salt- something I NEVER do, just to get it to taste like something. Sigh. This ain’t NY.

I was also really not thrilled that I had to leave a tip for one slice. I ended up spending about $3 instead of $2 and change. I would STRONGLY prefer being able to order at the counter like at most places.

Despite my less-than-awesome review of the pizza, I think I probably WILL go back. Next time, I plan to add a bunch of toppings on to the fairly decent platform in hopes of making it taste more like something. Anything. Until then, my quest for a good, straight-up, cheese slice continues.