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.
The Coyne family didn't forget their heritage when they left Ocean City, Maryland, to move to Sarasota, Florida. They took their native region's recipes with them and their love for local, fresh food, and the menu at Coyne's Pier 28 stands as evidence with jumbo lump crab cakes, crab pretzels, and a raw oyster bar. Their entrées feature fish from every sea, including items such as big island ahi tuna and the North Atlantic codfather, found in Francis Ford Coppola's pool. They also hosts events such as trivia night, ladies’ night, and hospitality night.
The locally inspired seafood at Duval's New World Cafe is freshly caught from the ocean. There's scallops rockafella, with crispy fried oysters and asparagus-mushroom risotto, and there's North Atlantic lobster tail that can be paired with chimichurri, stuffed with crab and shrimp, baked with drawn butter, or twinned with another lobster. And they cook up more than merely ocean-sourced fare: they bake lamb chops with cashew pesto and sizzle ribeyes and filet mignon until they are so hot meteorologists study it.
Oftentimes, those who find success in a given venture continually try to replicate their initial victory. But when Sean Murphy and Susan Timmins, owners of the award-winning Beach Bistro, were conceptualizing a new restaurant, they decided to go in a brand new direction. That direction was Eat Here, a more casual eatery with chef-crafted food in a charmingly stripped-down atmosphere. Instead of elegant stemware, there's mismatched cutlery from vintage stores; rather than fresh roses, there are sunflowers in old wine bottles.
The approach is working?Eat Here has emulated its big sibling's spot in Florida Trend's Golden Spoon Hall of Fame by winning Best New Restaurant awards from the same publication. The menu has a definite sense of humor (see the Better Than Any Frenchman's onion soup) and exciting presentations of luxury ingredients, such as lobster tacos and ice cubes shaped like gold bars. Complementing the selection of wild-caught seafood, wood stone pizzas, and revived American favorites are handcrafted cocktails, including lemongrass caipirinhas and watermelon mojitos.
Al Whelan spent his boyhood summers in Boston working at a waterfront restaurant, where he learned to prepare New England?style seafood and chowders. Although he relocated to sunny Florida, he never forgot his hometown pride or childhood phone number, and he honors his Massachusetts roots with The New England Moorings, a seafood restaurant specializing in house-made crab cakes, fresh fish, and New England clam chowder. Al cultivates a fun, laid-back atmosphere in his bubblegum-pink eatery, which boasts a basketball cage, cornhole court, and 6,000-square-foot patio surrounded by trees.