Sunday, September 25, 2011

Munchies 420 Cafe - Where Fat is Good

Hubby and I are huge Man vs. Food lovers, so when we saw Adam Richman head down to Sarasota to take on the Fire in Your Hole Challenge at Munchies 420, we knew the place would end up on our "must eat" list. But don't get me wrong - I wouldn't touch that "ghost pepper" hot wing challenge for all the money in the world. As you walk into the cafe, the wall of shame photos that greet you are anything but appetizing. They show people who attempted the challenge, but failed, in various states of agony - sweating, puking, crying and looking like death itself. Adam's wall of shame photo actually says, "I hate you so much." Ouch.

I, on the other hand, would actually like to enjoy my food. So, we opted for one of the other things the cafe is well known for - a Fat Sandwich. These sandwiches are enormous and stuffed with every greasy spoon food you can imagine - chicken fingers, mozzarella stix, onion hoops, mac-n-cheese and spuds. You know, basically a heart attack on a plate. We decided to split a Fat Dickie (get your head out of the gutter, it's named after "Uncle Rick"). It's a works chicken philly (with mushrooms, onions and peppers), made with chicken fingers instead of grilled chicken, mozzarella stix, onion hoops and cheddar cheese sauce. But because of my aversion, we held the onions. Here's the gluttonous bounty in all its glory:

I have to say, while I was eating this, I actually had no idea what exactly I was eating and that was almost part of the fun. It was as if everything and the kitchen sink had been thrown in, and you just had to stick your face into the gooey-ness and know that it would come out a hot mess. The crunchiness of the chicken fingers and mozzarella stix were a good compliment to the hot melty cheese and soft cooked veggies. It was drunk food at its finest, but you don't actually need to be drunk to enjoy it.

The drawbacks of this place are that the food does take quite a while to come out, and the indoor seating is very minimal. When we ordered, we were told that we'd have to wait 40 minutes for our food. While I think it was actually more like 30 minutes, that's still quite a long time to wait for one sandwich. But as it was a Saturday night, the place was packed and people were picking up carry-out orders by the dozen. Inside, there are only 3 booths and a few stools at bars on either side of the entryway. While plenty of picnic tables are available outside, they're in direct sunlight as the sun is setting. We waited about 10 minutes there, before the heat drove us around the corner to sit at one of the nearby ice cream shop's tables in the shade. After another 10 minutes, we wandered back inside and found an empty booth (thank goodness!). Next time, I'd place my order over the phone ahead of time, so that I could eat immediately upon arrival. Because it took all my strength to smell the yumminess coming out of the kitchen and not jump behind the counter to stuff my face. Just remember - they're only open from 4:20pm to 4:20am!

saraSOtasty Rating:
Atmosphere - D
Taste - B+
Presentation - C
Service - C
Price - $

Restaurant Info:
6639 Superior Ave
Sarasota FL 34231
Website Link

Munchies 420 Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 15, 2011

Bijou Cafe - A Gem in Grandma's Clothing

You know how when they say "charming" in a real estate listing, they really mean an old fixer-upper? Well, in that respect, the Bijou Cafe is "charming." The food is nothing short of amazing, but the inside? Well, it could use a designer's touch. Their website describes the "enchanting decor" as being like that of a "quaint, but modern European cafe." Hmmm. I don't see it. When hubby and I walked in, I felt like I had entered any other grandma's condo in Sarasota. The artwork in gold frames. The green carpet. The purple walls. The light wood chairs with the curly-cue arms. I'm not sure what about that is modern. But if you can overlook the grannie vibe, the cuisine is definitely worth it!

As soon as we were seated, we were served up a tasty little amuse bouche. The waitress told us what it was so fast, that I didn't really catch it. Some sort of strawberry mousse with dried cranberries on top of a really crispy toast wafer, I think. But I imagine that these little bites change frequently, so you're likely to have something different when you visit.

Next, hubby and I didn't have to think twice. We both ordered up a cup of the Shrimp and Crab Bisque. This soup is PHENOMENAL. Literally magic in liquid form. The menu says it's made with cognac, sherry, baby shrimp, blue crab and cream. But they're definitely leaving something out. In addition to being creamy and savory, this soup is delightfully spicy. I can see little red flakes in the bisque, so I'm thinking cayenne pepper. Every spoonful will light up your mouth with joy. Trust me. Order a cup. Or a bowl. But whatever you do, don't skip the soup!

For the main course, I was hmmmming and hawwwwing, and couldn't really decide what I wanted. After that soup, I was sure anything would be a let down. So I let the waitress recommend something for me. Her personal favorite was the Rare Yellowfin Tuna, because of the unique preparation and combination of flavors. I usually don't order rare tuna as an entree because the sheer quantity of the entree portion usually overwhelms me. But tonight, because of the afterglow of the bisque, I went with it. This dish was a stunner! At the bottom is a layer of chayote and carrot salad in a ginger orange emulsion, topped with a layer of thin slices of rare tuna, sprinkled with toasted cashews, drizzled with red chile oil. It was that elusive yet euphoric combination of crunchy, melty, salty, spicy and sweet. Every bite was a new discovery of flavors. Every bite was fantastic.

Hubby on the other hand, knew exactly what he was going to order - the Filet Mignon. It was char-grilled, served with a Cabernet reduction, bacon "dust", wild mushrooms and a heaping helping of Gorgonzola flan. Again, the saltiness of the bacon and mushrooms blended well with the tangy taste of the Cabernet sauce. The filet was perfectly cooked at his selected temperature of medium rare, and just melted in your mouth.

And in lieu of the herbed mashed potatoes that came with his dish, we got a side of the Bijou's Famous Pommes Gratin Dauphinois. At this point, I died and went to heaven and all the choirs of angels sang beautiful music just for me. I mean, seriously! Gruyere cheese, garlic and cream oven baked with potatoes and then finished under the broiler. PUH-LEASE. This stuff was richer than Donald Trump. The intense flavor of the Gruyere cheese was the perfect compliment to the salty potatoes and I absolutely loved the crunch of the top crusty, bubbly layer. Again, you HAVE to order these potatoes. They're famous for a reason.

After researching Chef Jean-Pierre Knaggs, who has owned and operated the Bijou since it's opening in 1986, it's not hard to see why the food is as fabulous as it is. His recipes are a result of his travels around the world in his 150 ft private luxury yacht and reflect everything from French to Cajun to South African influences. It truly is a treat to experience the creativity and originality of the Bijou Cafe's cusine. But Jean-Pierre, if you're reading this - please bring your decor into the 21st century!!

saraSOtasty Rating:
Atmosphere - C
Taste - A+
Presentation - B+
Service - A
Price - $$$$

Restaurant Info:
Bijou Cafe
1287 1st Street (At Pineapple Ave)
Sarasota FL 34236
Website Link

Bijou Cafe on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thai Wasabi - Thai Done Right

Hubby and I have been on the lookout for our new "favorite" Thai place in town. We've tried Tropical Thai, Bangkok Thai and even Drunken Poet only to utter "meh" or "it's okay." That's not what you want from Thai - a cuisine specifically known for it's powerful pack of flavor in both spicy and sweet varieties. If you take a forkful of Thai food and don't groan in utter joy, spit it out, leave immediately and don't look back!

One Friday night, I wanted Thai so badly that I was as itchy as an addict. To get my fix, I resorted to what George W. Bush likes to call "The Google." As I was poking around, I noticed that Bradenton had an UNREAL proportion of Thai restaurants. I swear Bradenton must have more Thai restaurants than all the rest of the Florida cities combined! What's up with that Bradenton? I figured that a city so devoted to the cuisine must know what they're doing, so we decided to try one out. The name that kept popping up attached to rave reviews was Thai Wasabi, so that's where we headed out to.

For those of you who don't live close to Bradenton, breathe easy, as Thai Wasabi also has a Sarasota location off Clark Rd. But for us, the S.R. 64 location was a short 15 min drive up I-75. If the name isn't revealing enough, they serve both Thai and Japanese cuisine (including sushi). The Bradenton location is a trendy little spot, decorated in red, green and black with light wood tables. The servers are plentiful and perceptively attentive. One server even asked what must have been a regular, "no Thai tea tonight?" He shook his head and said he was hoping to save room for dessert as he threw what (I think) was another fried wonton in his mouth.

I have to admit, we were a bit nervous as the majority of people in the restaurant were ordering sushi. I started to wonder if maybe the sushi was the better bet, as it's awfully hard to master 2 cuisines, even when they're from similar countries. But my heart and my tastebuds were set on Pad Thai, and I wasn't about to turn back now. To start, we ordered up two of Mom & Dad's Egg Rolls - pork and veggies, deep fried until golden brown and served with sweet and sour sauce.

They came out piping hot, but I couldn't keep my grubby fingers off of them. The crispiness was a nice contrast to the moist texture of the pork, and of course the sauce rounded things off with a pleasant tangy sweetness. After I ate one, I immediately wished I had another. But our main entrees were fast coming. It should be no surprise that I ordered the Pad Thai (mild) and hubby ordered Chicken Fried Rice (medium).

After we each took a bite, hubby and I stopped mid-chew, looked at each other and said "Yep, that's what's up." I consider Pad Thai to be a very complex dish and the sauce is what makes or breaks it. If it's too soupy, the flavor doesn't stick to the noodles or the chicken. If it's too glue-y, the flavor is too concentrated in spots and not in others. Sometimes the sauce errs on the sickly sweet or almost acidic side, and then sometimes it's just a bland brown sauce. But this one, my friends, is perfect. The right consistency, the right sweetness, the right spiciness - just right. As I shoveled bite after glorious bite into my mouth, I could feel the itchiness give way to pure bliss. My only complaint? Not enough crushed peanuts! While they put a sprinkling on the side, I generally like more of a heaping pile to mix throughout my noodles. But seeing as how this is the best Thai I've had in Sarasota, I was not about to make a mountain out of a peanut hill (or lack thereof).

Now, to the Chicken Fried Rice. The flavor of fried rice is also a fine art. It can't just be slathered with soy sauce. For me, it has to have that garlic-y, spicy kick that makes your nose run and your forehead bead up with sweat. The rice also has to have a balance of both sticky and crunchy textures. Again, this rice hit all the right notes. Hubby barely let me have two forkfuls before it altogether disappeared. Hey Mikey, he likes it!

As we caressed our pleasantly plump bellies on the way out, we talked about coming back to try the sushi. It's a nice thought, but I imagine the Thai will always be a little too hard to pass up.

saraSOtasty Rating:
Atmosphere - B
Taste - A
Presentation - B
Service - A
Price - $$

Restaurant Info:
Thai Wasabi
5250 East State Road 64 (Bennett Plaza)
Bradenton, FL 34208
Website Link

Thai Wasabi on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 18, 2011

Sam Snead's Tavern - Your Grandfather's Restaurant?

Tucked away in Hillview Village there's a restaurant that's the epitome of the "Old Boy's Club." Not that I've ever been in an old boy's club. Cause I'm a girl. And I'm not that old. But it's what I imagine an old boy's club would look like. It's dark, decorated in green and brown with lots of wood paneling and has more golf memorabilia than you can shake a 9 iron at. Sam Snead's, named after the top American golfer who won seven majors, is the quintessential man cave. It's the furthest thing from a chic hotspot, and it's not even as hip as other sports memorabilia-type restaurants like Shula's, but I figured there had to be a reason people were packed in there like sardines.

We were ushered to a half-booth, half-table in a corner and had to squeeze in, making apologies to our neighboring diners. The service was spot-on and we were quickly asked for our drink order. We also asked for her recommendations and she, of course, suggested the House Specialty Baby Back Ribs. Well, you don't have to tell me twice! I hadn't had ribs since Christmas, so I ordered up a half slab. However, when you're from the home of the world's greatest ribs, there are high expectations to live up to. But first, I ordered up a House Salad with honey mustard dressing to start. At only a $2.95 add on charge, how could I pass it up?

Honestly, the salad was nothing to write home about. The dressing was tangy, as it should be, but I've had better. And the salad itself was the usual combination of lettuce, tomato, cucumber and onions. They sprinkled a few sunflower seeds on top, but it wasn't really enough to make the salad unique. Even just cheese and some croutons would have been nice compliments and would have made the salad a bit more substantial.

Okay, now back to the ribs. I honestly expected to hate them (as I hate most ribs that aren't Montgomery Inn). But they were actually a pleasant surprise. They were tender, devoid of fat and coated in a smokey-sweet, molasses-based BBQ sauce. The meat easily fell off the bone when bitten and the outside had that nice little crunchy texture. My only complaint is that I usually like my ribs to be served dripping with sauce, so that I have enough to dip my meat in (and let's face it, my fries too). I did ask for a side of the sauce after the fact, but my server was so busy that she forgot to bring it out. After about 15 minutes, hubby inquired about the sauce and she apologized profusely and ran off. When she returned, I had only one rib left. My advice - ask for the extra sauce up front. The rest of the plate was acceptable as well. The fries were golden and crispy and the coleslaw was crunchy and zippy. All in all, I stuffed myself.

Hubby went for the Shrimp and Lobster Pasta. I really thought there was no way that a joint known for their ribs would be able to pull off a decent seafood pasta too. But again, I was proved wrong. The combination of shallots, garlic, white wine and tomatoes made for a creamy, savory sauce with a little kick. And the shrimp and lobster were cooked perfectly - tender and juicy. Some places tend to overlook the seafood when it's going to be doused in sauce and covered with pasta. As if putting something wet on top of something dry will cover it up. But there's no sauce on earth that can cover up chewy, rubbery seafood. Luckily, it wasn't a problem for us here.

It was a solid performance - better than average, but not outstanding. Good enough to make you feel as though you had a decent meal. As the waitress placed the dessert menus under our noses, I was ready to shrug it off and just go home. But then I read the description for the Xango (pronounced Chango) - crispy fried pastry shells filled with warm cheesecake, rolled in cinnamon and sugar, garnished with raspberry sauce, caramel and whipped cream. SHUT THE FRONT DOOR! Please promise me you'll eat one of these. PLEASE. It's for your own good, I swear to you. Get up off your couch and go get yourself a Xango! Just one bite and you'll be happier than a pig in apricot glaze (well, I'm not sure if that makes the pigs happy, but it sure makes me happy!). I convinced hubby to get an order of Xango to go, and as the sugary sweet scents wafted through the take-out box, I could barely wait to make it home and eat the crap out of it. I mean, seriously, look at those things!

They're like a cloud from heaven, rolled in angel dust and coated with melted harp strings. More literally, they're like a churro wrapped around a cheesecake and drizzled with the sticky-sweetness of caramel and tart-sweetness of rasbperry sauce and fluffy-goodness of whipped cream. You are completely powerless to it's awesomeness!

I took one bite and instantly turned into a lioness protecting her kill (as if I could kill cheese and pastries, pshaw). I turned my back to hubby and told him the dessert was "horwibble" as I continued to stuff my face. But he had already gotten the scent of raspberry on the air, and I was out of luck. Forced to share. Like always. And then seeing the moment of joy on his face as he took his first bite - eyes rolled back, mouth open with a groan of delight - made it all worth it. That Xango is LEGENDARY. Next time I'd skip the salad and go straight for dessert.

This may be your grandfather's restaurant, but that's not all bad. Grandpas are great at making things. And while they don't always turn out perfect - they're usually pretty darn good.

saraSOtasty Rating:
Atmosphere - C
Taste - B
Presentation - B
Service -B+
Price - $$$

Restaurant Info:
Sam Snead's Tavern
1860 South Osprey, Suite 100
Sarasota FL 34239
Website Link

Sam Snead's Tavern on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mattison's City Grille - Refreshingly Al Fresco

If it's a Friday or Saturday night and you're downtown on Main Street, chances are Mattison's City Grille is packed. Actually, it's generally pretty full any day of the week, but on the weekends it gets particularly crowded. Hubby and I decided to go early at 5:30pm and catch a 7:00pm movie afterward. When we arrived, the joint was only half full, but by the time we left, people were waiting in line to get in. Our early exit also prevented us from the excellent people watching that occurs when all the pretty (and pretty tipsy) people forget that they actually can't dance, but attempt it anyway.

It's not hard to see why Mattison's is so popular. With open air dining (don't worry, a plethora of ceiling fans keep the place rather cool), live music every night and a menu that features everything from good ole American fare to Asian, Italian and Mediterranean inspired dishes, Mattison's has something for everyone. From Classic Meatloaf to Linguini Frutti di Mare to Sashimi and Sushi, your choices are plentiful. Usually, this would worry me - as I've found that restaurants who try to do EVERYTHING usually end up doing NOTHING WELL (see: Cheesecake Factory - uh, with the exception of their cheesecakes). But the genius of Mattison's is that instead of trying to replicate the dishes of other cultures exactly, they give you their own little twist on that culture.

To prove my point, see exhibit A above: Shrimp Rangoon. No, you didn't read that wrong, it's Shrimp Rangoon. Now, the customary dish is Crab Rangoon - deep fried wontons filled with a combination of cream cheese, crab meat, scallions and/or garlic, usually served with soy sauce, plum sauce, sweet and sour sauce or spicy mustard for dipping. But Mattison's didn't try to replicate that. Oh, no! They did something completely unique and original. They take 5 Gulf Shrimp, tempura fry them and serve them atop a pillow of fresh herb cream cheese. A Thai chili sauce is poured between the shrimpies and then they're drizzled with a sweet soy sauce. And VOILA - Crab Rangoon is deconstructed and reincarnated as Shrimp Rangoon! This is absolutely my favorite dish at Mattison's. It's ingenious, unexpected and absolutely delicious.

After wolfing down those bad boys, we ordered our entrees. I opted for another of their tapas - the Grilled Petite Filet Mignon and hubby went for their Main Street Sterling Burger with American cheese. I was really pleased with my selection. Four ounces of juicy filet was piled atop a portobello mushroom and both orange and red tomatoes, then garnished with some bean sprouts. The plate was drizzled with a bit of olive oil, aged balsamic and dotted with sour cream. Usually steak is served with a baked potato or french fries, which makes for a very heavy and filling dish. The use of tomatoes and mushrooms was a light, fresh alternative and the balsamic added a nice tang. My only complaint was that I wish I had more of that balsamic glaze to dip the steak in!

Hubby's burger didn't go over as well. While the ooey-gooey cheese makes it look A-OK from the outside, he ordered his burger medium rare and that sucker came out well done. Now, medium vs. medium rare is a forgivable offense, but medium rare to well done? That's going from soft, juicy and tender to eating shoe leather. But again, here's the Mattison's difference. When our server came over to check on us, I mentioned that hubby's burger was overcooked. She took one look at it and said "Yep, you're absolutely right. Do you want me to get you something else?" Hubby doesn't really like to make waves (and pretty much eats anything), so he said "Naw, that's alright." Next thing I knew, the manager of the restaurant was at our table and asked if she could buy us dessert. Hubby again declined, and explained we were trying to catch a movie. The manager apologized profusely for the mistake, and we assured her that we enjoy dining there and will continue to do so. When the server brought our check for the meal she informed us that the burger had been removed from our check. Now, that's customer service! I've been to restaurants where the same thing has happened and when we point out the overcooked steak or burger to the server they just say, "Oh, sorry about that," and that's as far as it goes. Mattison's tried not once, not twice, but THREE TIMES to make it right. And because of that, they get high marks in my book.

saraSOtasty Rating:
Atmosphere - B+
Taste - B+
Presentation - A
Service - A
Price - $$

Restaurant Info:
Mattison's City Grille
1 North Lemon Ave
Sarasota FL 34236
Website Link

Mattison's City Grille on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 11, 2011

DaRuMa - My "Secret" Sushi Place

I've started referring to DaRuMa as my "secret" sushi place. Not that it's particularly unknown or unfrequented, but just because it's not in or around downtown. Living up in the northern part of Sarasota, I often can't wait the 30 min drive that's required of me to eat at JPan, Pacific Rim or Drunken Poet. So instead we opt for the 10 min drive to DaRuMa - and we're always pleased with our decision.

Named after Bodhidharma, the first patriarch of Zen, DaRuMa occupies a sprawling space in the Publix shopping center off Fruitville Rd near the I-75 interchange. And you certainly do feel a sense of calm when you walk into the place. The dim lighting, rich brown and mahogany tones and piano player all contribute to a comfortable, relaxing vibe. Plus, they actually have a Koi pond with a fountain in their lobby. Koi, people! The seating options are plentiful as well. You can choose from a regular table, a hibachi table or the sushi bar. Hubby and I usually opt for a regular table, as "date night" isn't as special when you're seated next to a bunch of strangers and forced to make awkward small talk. But the boisterous laughter from the hibachi tables often makes for a great background track.

The service is always right on point, and we always quickly order our usual starter of Edamame with plenty of salt. Not much else to say about these little guys except YUM!

We usually split 2 rolls (the rice seriously expands in your stomach!), but on this night we were particularly hungry and ambitiously ordered 3 (look out!). The first was an easy decision as the Spicy Tuna Rolls were on special at just $5.00. And after much hmmming and hwwwwing we also selected the Spicy Crunchy Roll and the Yellow Tail Roll with jalapenos on top. Can you tell we like it hot??

Because this is serious stuff, let's start with the Yellow Tail Roll (above). Sure, it looks all nice and pretty, but these babies are silent assassins! Inside, you get crab, cucumber and avocado and outside you get a piece of yellow tail topped with a jalapeno, scallions and a generous portion of roe. You put it on your tongue and you're thinking - this isn't so bad. And then you start to chew and release the seeds and juices of the jalapeno slice and your tongue is suddenly in the middle of a nuclear war zone! I only ate about 2 before I had to start removing the jalapenos. It was either that or order a bucket of water for the table! I usually don't order rolls with yellow tail as it's a bit too firm and the flavor is a bit too subtle for my taste. The jalapeno certainly gave it a kick, but it's not for the faint at heart.

The other 2 rolls actually turned out to be our favorites. Hubby, of course, loved the Spicy Tuna as he likes to keep things simple and the raw tuna in the spicy sauce with scallions and black sesame seeds is about as simple as sushi gets. And me, being a glutton for texture, loved the combination of shrimp salad, avocado and roe with crunchies on top.

DaRuMa always seems to hit the spot when I need a quick sushi fix. And with a total bill of under $40, you can't really beat the value. Plus, the place is so big, you rarely have to wait for a table (except during peak snowbird season, of course). Although now that my "secret" is out of the bag - maybe that will change!

saraSOtasty Rating:
Atmosphere -B+
Taste - B+
Presentation - B+
Service - A
Price - $$

Restaurant Info:
5459 Fruitville Road
Sarasota FL 34232
Website Link

DaRuMa Japanese Steak House and Sushi Lounge on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Thai Bistro - A Treat Near the Beach

If you read my Pincher's post, you know that hubby and I spent many a vacation in Bonita Beach (Ft. Myers area) during our dating years. And as part of our travels, we always carved out a day to visit Venice Beach and look for shark's teeth. As a little girl, I spent a good 4-5 years wanting to be a Paleontologist, so these trips fulfill my childhood longing to hunt for fossils. Each year, we find less and less teeth at Venice, as the beach has been dredged many times and sand has been brought in from other areas (thanks for killing all the fun, whoever decided to do that!). So this Memorial Day weekend, we decided to check out the tooth action at Caspersen Beach, which is just south of Venice. And on the way home we vowed to stop and have dinner at Thai Bistro.

I'd had my sights set on Thai Bistro ever since reading Ashton Goggans' article in SRQ Magazine entitled Adventures in Dining: Thai Journeys. In the article, Ashton describes his visits to 3 Thai joints in the Sarasota area. While he provided fairly positive accounts of all 3 - Tropical Thai, Bangkok Thai and Thai Bistro - I'd already eaten at the first two and wasn't impressed. His most glowing account was reserved for the Volcano Chicken at Thai Bistro. When a man wants to "lean back in his seat and cry" because a dish was so good, I'm sold, sign me up! I just hoped the dish lived up to his effusive praise.

After a hard day of looking for shark's teeth and filling up about a half of a quart size Ziploc bag, we had worked up a furious appetite. Don't laugh. Looking for shark's teeth is no joke. You've gotta get in the water with your scooper basket, fight the waves to scoop up some sand and shake it out, dump your findings out on shore, bend over them and sift through to MAYBE, JUST MAYBE find one tooth! It's more than likely that both your back and thighs will be sore the next day, but hey - you go home with some prehistoric fossils sure to impress your friends and neighbors (or freak them out).

Anyway...we arrived at Thai Bistro all starving and stuff. It's a tiny little joint in a strip mall on the side of the road that you might never look at twice. But I'd learned from my dining experiences in Tallahassee not to judge a restaurant by it's location. We were greeted with a friendly smile and ushered quickly to a table. Neither of us even had to look at the menu to know what we wanted. I was going for the Volcano Chicken and hubby went for his mainstay favorite, Shrimp Fried Rice.

I have to give Ashton credit, because the Volcano Chicken was everything he said it would be. It doesn't pack the intense heat that you might expect from the name, and instead is only slightly spicy. This is due to the fact that the chicken is tempura fried and coated in a Sweet Thai Chili sauce. It's also cooked with a healthy serving of basil and garlic which makes every forkful pleasantly fragrant. They're simply little bites of crunchy, sweet, spicy delight. I quite enjoyed putting the chicken over white rice along with a slathering of the sauce for good measure. If it's any indication of how much I liked this dish, I ate the entire thing by myself and I NEVER do that. Usually I can only eat about half of a good Asian-sized portion, but this plate was darn near licked clean.

Hubby was also fairly satisfied by his Shrimp Fried Rice. It was definitely better than the fried rice we'd had at the Sarasota Thai restaurants we'd been to. While it probably could have been a bit spicier for his taste, it still had a nice flavor to it. To me, a good fried rice isn't just a matter of putting some soy sauce on rice and veggies. The rice needs to have that nice sticky texture and a good blend of spices for an extra kick. At home, I put a little Sriracha sauce on mine when I cook it and it gives it a nice punch.

Thai Bistro has been our best experience with Thai food since moving to Sarasota. We'd definitely return the next time we're in the Venice area, but until then it would be nice to have somewhere closer to home to satisfy our cravings. Let me know your favorite Thai restaurant in the comment section and I'll be sure to check it out. And while you're at it, let me know if you have any Chinese favorites as well. I do love good Asian food!

saraSOtasty Rating:
Atmosphere - B
Taste - B+
Presentation - B
Service - B+
Price - $$

Restaurant Info:
Thai Bistro
537 E Venice Ave
Venice FL 34285
Website Link

Thai Bistro on Urbanspoon