L'Etoile takes its name from the French word for star, and under the painstaking direction of husband-and-wife team Marc-Jean and Trish Berruet its kitchens live up to their namesake, releasing dish after dish of French cuisine to dazzle diners with bright combinations of flavors passed down from Marc-Jean's French-chef father. Guests sample succulent steak, fresh seafood, and dulcet pastries in a restaurant space glowing with soft light from overhead chandeliers, which send warm beams of light through crystal glassware onto white tablecloths to create an atmosphere that, like a cashmere cummerbund, simultaneously exudes elegance and comfort. Guests feast eyes and bellies on the restaurant’s offerings, enjoying dishes of tender cuts of rib eye, veal, and duck, along with tasty meals of steamed mussels, crab cakes, and shrimp, every order meticulously sauced and artfully plated in the timeless style of traditional French cooking.
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.
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.
Gerard Jamgotchian, a native of Marseilles, France and L'Eden's chef, plates up a menu of homemade esculent experiences with diverse flavors from exotic locales such as India, Panama, and the Mediterranean. Amid the dark wood and exposed brick of the dining room or outside in the covered garden, morning munchers can rev up the day with a savory breakfast croissant, featuring eggs, ham, and swiss cheese, served with fresh fruit ($5.95). Open for dinner Wednesday through Saturday, L'Eden slings out French classics such as ratatouille stew ($7.50), a duck-and-brie crépe ($14), or quiche lorraine ($9.50). Sample selections from various worldly regions without the use of red teleportation slippers by sinking teeth into the petit couscous inspired by Tunisian cuisine ($12), the vegetables biryani from India ($12), or the shaslik filet-mignon kebabs hailing from mother Russia ($14). L'Eden also carries a wine roster boasting selections from vineyards of France, Italy, California, and the child-laden hills of Neverland.
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.