An old world union of shiny red tablecloths, wall murals, and rustic wooden accents forms the backdrop for La Cote Basque's chefs, who harness traditional European recipes to imbue their menu with classic French, Italian, and German flavors. Complex flavor combinations tastily define La Cote Basque’s menu. The restaurant’s palate-popular chefs enlist sherry to sauté shrimp, fresh mushrooms, and peppers before recruiting brandy to flambé the entire concoction while a sunny-side-up egg adorns schnitzel holstein, a breaded veal cutlet served with anchovies and capers. Like friendship bracelets traded by butchers, the medallions senater assorties encompasses six different meats, including beef marsala, veal piccata, and chicken parmesan. House wines, such as chianti and sangria, complement the international-dining experience.
A complimentary glass of champagne greets each guest as they find their seats and prepare to embark on a three-hour journey. The two dozen adventurous souls converse, but grow quiet as a figure walks through a red curtain. Chef Richard Bottini introduces himself and describes the special menu of gourmet, seasonal dishes he has planned for the evening. True to its name, the restaurant features just six tables, and every meal at Six Tables is an intimate experience with twinkling lights illuminating antique crystal in a setting Gayot named as one of the top 10 romantic restaurants in the area.
Bottini, an award-winning chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, creates a new six-course prix fixe menu every day using seasonal ingredients and his expansive knowledge of French cooking. In the kitchen, he personally prepares each course, incorporating such delectables as Cornish hen and poached duck breast. Bottini breaks down each menu item in English or Klingon to diners and offers wine pairings with dishes, which can be tailored according to taste and diet.
By the time he was 20, Christian Zebier was serving as maître d'hôtel for a prestigious restaurant in Belgium. After a five-year stint teaching primary school, he realized that his heart lay in hospitality, and that children have terrible table manners. The first business Zebier began, Air du Temps, deployed an elite staff to serve such distinguished parties as the Belgian royal family.
Zebier stuffed his fine-tuned sense of hospitality into a suitcase and brought it to the United States, where he opened Brasserie Belge. He felt that Sarasota's open-minded, well-traveled residents could appreciate the traditional ambiance of a brasserie. The restaurant's attentive staff serves a menu of Belgian cuisine, such as Prince Edward Island mussels delivered fresh every morning and served with one of 12 styles of belgian fries. On the leather couches of the piano lounge, patrons enjoy Belgian beers, specialty martinis, and small plates.
As a café, bakery, and art gallery, Burns Court Café provides pleasant sensory overload for its guests, whether they’re enjoying live jazz music or staring in a daze at the Italian gelato and sorbet selections. Here, French café fare—such as daily quiches and melt-in-your-mouth croque-monsieur (the Frenchy take on grilled ham and cheese)—merges with real Italian coffee and Boar’s Head meats and cheeses. Once monthly, the café features a new exhibition with work from local artists.
Il Ponte Cafe’s chefs bake a bridge between Italian classics and the flavors of the greater Mediterranean. Herb-crusted salmon basks in rich lobster sauce, seared atop a grill until patterned with perfect lines or a cross-hatched portrait of the chef. The spears of kebabs thrust through both land and sea meats, accompanied to the table by freshly made hummus, and a lively fattoush salad casts off parsley, tomatoes, onions, pickles, olives, pita crisps, and feta cheese into a leafy lagoon of romaine and iceberg lettuce.
Green Organix Restaurant, an extension of Peter Gillham’s Nutrition Center, culls from organic ingredients to make up dishes that reflect many cultures and styles, including vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. The restaurant stocks house-baked breads along with 100% organic, free-range, and grass-fed burgers. A recent addition to the menu, the organic salad bar shows off 20 different fixings and local ingredients, along with made-from-scratch salad dressings and freshly plucked salad bowls.