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.
Kid's Hub stimulates restless young minds and exercises rubbery young limbs with an indoor playscape chock full of physical and creative activities. Parents and their progeny can put aside their differences in age and Law and Order preference while spending 10 afternoons clambering through an indoor playground, competing for digital supremacy in educational computer games, or creating arts and crafts masterpieces. Air hockey and foosball entertain sports fans and fans of simulacra, and reading areas beckon to burgeoning scholars. Kids with a dramatic flair can dress up in costumes and prepare for future careers as firefighters, police officers, or police-officer impersonators.
A newly opened addition to the Player's Club restaurant, the Bistro at Player's is a casual, French-inspired destination helmed by chef Charles Campbell. Continental cuisine accented with American flavors graces the menu, starting with an appetizer of country duck pâté served with a celery root and apple salad designed to offset the poultry’s richness ($8). Fete aquatic abundance with the shrimp provençale linguine accompanied by a savory trio of tomatoes, garlic, and olives ($18) or the sea-scallop-truffle risotto ($20) infused with enough Italian essence to make a Tuscan expatriate cry tears of marinara.