“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.
Ceviche Tapas Bar & Restaurant not only imports ingredients and products, but also recipes. With roots in northern Spain and Catalonia, these dishes come together on a menu of more than 100 hot and cold tapas selections, along with paella and cazuela. Paella, a widely varied rice dish cooked at length in a wide pot over open flame, can contain Serrano ham, scallops, pork, chorizo, and saffron rice the stunning golden hue of an alchemist's magazine advertisements. Though the restaurant spans multiple locations, each one presents guests with some charming element: a poolside patio at the Tampa location, a central tapas bar in Orlando, and a flamenco room in St. Petersburg. Meanwhile, no matter the location, events bring about live music and joviality, all supported by an ample list of Spanish and Portuguese wines.
The forecast at Tsunami Sushi Bar & Grill never changes: there’s always a heavy chance of sushi. More than 30 sushi and sashimi creations take up a good chunk of the menu, with ingredients ranging from smoked salmon to spicy scallop. Diners can set aside their chopsticks and slice into hearty orders of filet mignon teriyaki or Gal Be—Korean barbecued short ribs served with steamed greens. Tsunami serves its artful plates in a dining room that This Week in Sarasota calls “dark, rich, and casually elegant,” making the restaurant an ideal spot for a romantic date or suit fitting.
With its cheery red awnings, cool marble tabletops, and bustling coffee bar, Caf? Americano wouldn't be out of place on the narrow side streets of Europe's great capitals. Instead, it brings that same sense of continental sophistication to the artsy avenues of Sarasota's historic Five Points neighborhood. Here, diners pass the breakfast, lunch, and dinner hours with Mediterranean cuisine ranging from prosciutto and gorgonzola omelets to classic steak frites and grilled whole sea bass. As they dine, servers slip past them to a cellar brimming with 300 wines, sourced from renowned growing regions around the globe.
MoZaic's head chef Dylan Elhajoui learned how to cook in his native Fes, Morocco surrounded by a family of chefs and restaurant owners, flavorful foods and fragrances, and bustling markets brimming with fresh produce. He infuses the recipes of his youth with abundant herbs and spices, organic meats, and fresh fish, depending on what can be found in that week's farmers' markets and fishermen's nets. Chef Elhajoui and his team craft delicacies such as the crispy duck leg confit, which they serve with a sour cherry bread pudding and crystalized ginger orange glaze.
Some restaurant owners prefer to stay behind the scenes. Achille and Massimo Nigri are not those people. At Cafe Amici, each guest is greeted “like a long-lost friend,” according to one happy customer. The homey eatery not only makes diners feel welcome, but also sates appetites with authentic Italian eats such as homemade lasagna, gnocchi with crabmeat, and wild mushroom ravioli. One whole wall inside the sun-soaked dining room is covered with framed accolades from local media outlets and taste buds with the ability to type.