Featured on WTSP’s Flavors of Tampa Bay, El Lago Ranchero serves Mexican fare amidst warm yellow walls and mission-style tiled archways. Waiters shuffle tamales, shrimp tacos, and fajitas—each paired with rice and beans—to tables inside the eatery or on a patio shaded with umbrellas. Guests can quell sweet cravings with fried ice cream and flan or sangria and margaritas as they try to find the courage to tell their date their second, secret middle name.
Lakewood Ranch Plastic Surgery's experienced team of aestheticians rejuvenates visages by softening skin spots and diminishing the effects of aging. The HydraFacial procedure uses a specialized spiral tool to cleanse, exfoliate, and moisturize tired faces, leaving human emoticons beaming brighter than a warehouse rave attended by lightning bugs. The technicians carefully consider each patient's skin type and epidermal flaws before concocting a custom serum, which is then deposited into the deep layers of skin, providing nutrients and hydration. Each gentle treatment reduces acne-spawning oil, smooths fine lines, and provides antioxidant protection against ravening hordes of roving free radicals, while providing less discomfort than being plunked by a softly thrown marshmallow.
Behind their teppanyaki grilling stations, chefs at Kumo Japanese Steakhouse & Sushi flip lobster tails, filet mignon, and shrimp through the air as diners look on. A short distance away from the hibachi flames, chefs at the sushi bar craft fresh hand rolls based on local catches, such as the cape coral maki with salmon, tuna, and avocado, and the Top of the World roll with yellowtail, scallion, and cucumber. Staffers pour hot and cold sake and imported beer for patrons to quaff when not digging into a noodle bowl. The dining area’s decor teems with Asian accents such as bamboo shoots, a zen-garden-inspired rock wall, and a zen-garden-inspired ball pit.
“I believe that if you’re not cooking with all five senses, you’re not cooking,” declares Derek Barnes in his feature for Sarasota’s Hot Chefs. It’s this maxim that earned him a lifetime of culinary achievement, starting with a four-year stint under the expertise of Emeril Lagasse and leading to a Zagat rating for his own restaurant and the title of semifinalist in the 2009 James Beard Awards. Derek channels these achievements into the innovative dishes he creates at his eponymous restaurant, which specializes in what he calls progressive American cuisine. That “progressive” moniker can mean a lot of things, whether it’s anointing a dish of foie gras with hazelnut honey and walnut streusel or braising a savory lamb shank in the tart flavors of lime and cilantro. Unlike a time-traveling Byzantine explorer, the chef doesn’t obsess over his plentiful spice cabinet, as the menu’s simple-grill selection serves up fresh cuts of steak, fish, and poultry in a simple, unadulterated form. Each flavor note finds its ideal complement in a wine list that features 100 bottles, many of which are available by the glass.
A flash of silver glimmers in Little Sarasota Bay, mere feet from the lush, tropical patio of Ophelia's on the Bay. It could be the belly of a leaping dolphin, the petals of a water lily, or the shiny lures of fishermen as they reel in the evening's catch. No matter its source, this sparkle reminds guests that simple pastimes such as nature gazing and family dinners are among life's greatest riches. Owner Stanley Ferro has honored this sentiment by naming Ophelia's after his grandmother, an epicure who has lived in Sarasota for more than 40 years.
In the kitchen, chefs use black grouper and tuna to showcase recipes from Florida's coasts and seaside countries such as France, Nicaragua, and Japan. Maine lobster tails morph into Mexican-inspired rellenos, and New England sea scallops bask in an emulsion of caramelized shallots and dill. Within the dining room, floor-to-ceiling windows frame views of the bay, where sea captains dock their boats or play Marco Polo with the nearby nesting herons. As the evening sky dims, moonlight casts a romantic glow over the patio's white tablecloths, and guests raise glasses of French champagne to a lovely evening under the stars.
At Selva, Latin America meets the United States atop plates splashed with "Peruvian cooking reinterpreted with polish and sophistication," according to the Herald-Tribune. Dubbed Nuevo Latino cuisine, the menu's signature ceviches and seafood entrees hint at eastern origins due to Peru's influx of Asian immigrants. The Ceviche de Ostras, for example, is tinged with ginger and rocoto, a Peruvian pepper, divided into "three white espresso cups…each containing oysters floating in leche de tigre, or tiger's milk." Joined by more familiar dishes such as chili-glazed Chilean salmon and bone-in veal chops, the ceviches claim a large chunk of the menu. The wine list contains exotic offerings from Argentina and Italy.
The dining room vibrates around an aesthetic centerpiece, a glass wall glazed with chunks of color that conjure imagines of a swirling mosaic. With auburn walls and plush couches, the lounge area facilitates chatter and nickel-filled pillow fights as live DJs spin tracks until 1 a.m. on weekends. Outside, water spills over a wall beside the patio seating.