“Happy wife, happy life,” Mart said, as we drove to Antoine’s Restaurant for our anniversary dinner. He knew I’d been wanting to go back to Antoine’s for some time now . . . it held first place on my “why haven’t we been there lately” list.
The first time I’d been to Antoine’s was some years ago when they were located on Fruitville, but Mart had never been. He had it in his mind to go on Monday Mussel Mania when Antoine’s serves all-you-can-eat mussels, so I appreciate that he was willing to compromise and go on our anniversary, which happened on a Thursday. He’ll get there for unlimited mussels, I’m sure. There are more varieties of mussels at Antoine’s than pretty much anywhere else in Sarasota County, with 5 delectable versions featured each Monday.
Upon walking in, there’s no doubt why Antoine’s is one of the most highly rated restaurants in Sarasota. Greeting you at the front door is the genuinely affable Olivier Georges, who owns the restaurant with his wife Angela, who is also the Chef, and, Olivier points out . . . the boss!
If anyone is born to be in the restaurant business, it’s Olivier. He is a force of nature where nature is all sunshine and smiles. His intent is that you forget the restaurant is in a strip center, and you leave all your concerns outside his front door. He is there to serve you and bring a smile to your face, even before the food hits the table.
With 44 seats in the restaurant, Olivier and Angela are able to provide the intimate service they strive for. Hailing from Belgium, Olivier is quick to point out that cooked mussels are a Belgian specialty. And those potatoes called French fries? They’re originally from Belgium, the French getting credit for the style of cut used to make them.
Antoine’s menu is a blend of Belgian and French cuisine that captives you from the moment the bread is served. Handcrafted flowers made from butter are a feature at Antoine’s, sprinkled with a touch of sea salt and pepper. They’re almost too pretty to eat. Almost! Serving excellent bread is a glimpse of what is to come, and that’s not a small detail. You’ll find there aren’t any details missed when dining at Antoine’s.
Starting off with a glass of champagne, Olivier brings over a Pumpkin Bisque mise en bouche (which literally means Put In the Mouth in French.) The adorable tureen was ideal for this bisque, which was velvety smooth, and deliciously flavored. It is also ideal for the season, as Sarasota has entered into the fall season, and we sometimes need to be reminded!
Perhaps that mise en bouche was the inspiration behind Mart ordering a bowl of Cauliflower Blue Cheese Bisque for his appetizer. If so, we need to thank Antoine’s.
Mart’s bisque was the perfect balance between cauliflower and blue cheese, with the cheese serving as a tangy finishing note instead of overpowering the cauliflower, which it could easily have done. “I need, need, need this recipe,” Mart begged. “Then you need, need, need to order it here, ” Olivier replied, grinning from behind his handlebar mustache.
You’ll find the Cauliflower Blue Cheese Bisque on the regular menu, however, this night I ordered one of the evening’s specials . . . Escargot in garlic butter sauce. You’d think it sounds pretty much like the standard preparation, but you’d be slightly wrong. Antoine’s imports their snails from Burgundy, so they are larger and 100% more tender than any others I’ve enjoyed. Not being as dense and ‘chewy’ they somehow soak up more of the melted garlic butter. Easily the best escargot I’ve had in a long, long time!
We relax with a glass of wine between courses, and I must admit that the flavors remaining on my tongue are delightful. How often do you continue to enjoy something you already consumed?
For dinner Mart ordered the Steak Tartar. Typically an appetizer for him, it was interesting to see how large the Tartar was when ordered as an entrée. Served with a side salad and an order of
French Belgian fried potatoes, the 100% certified Angus Beef Filet Mignon is seasoned with capers, egg yolk, and pickles. “Wow!” Mart said, spearing a slice of the tartar with some greens from his salad. “This is special!”
For my entrée, I took Olivier’s suggestion and order the Scallops, three larger-than-large sea scallops resting on a bed of risotto with a candied tangerine beurre blanc sauce. The scallops had a gorgeous sear on them and easily cut into four bites each. The risotto . . . what can I say about the risotto? Seasoned with saffron for color and bok choy for texture, the risotto was luscious and flavorful, especially with a dip into the beurre blanc What a wonderful, sumptuous dish!
Dessert is a “must” on a celebratory night, so we shared an order of Antoine’s Dessert Trio, which allows you to select three of their decadent desserts. Knowing that Belgian chocolate would be a star on each dessert, we ordered the chocolate mousse, Profiteroles and Sea Salt Caramel Ice Cream with Belgian Chocolate Drizzle. The Profiteroles were also filled with the ice cream, which was my favorite of the three, while Mart was pretty thrilled with the chocolate mousse, which he thought was exceptionally creamy.
“I’m glad you saved room for dessert, ” Olivier explained. “Dinner without dessert is like having lunch. You see, I have two stomachs; one for food, and another just for dessert. I have to feed them both!”
There is a lot of genuine attention from Olivier and Angela Georges. His attention is given freely in the front of the house, (he went out into the parking lot to help a guest using a walker) while hers is meticulously crafted in each artisanal dish. From the carved butter flowers to the mise en bouche, the entrees and the trio of desserts, it was a great day to dine at Antoine’s, as I’m guessing any visit would be!
Merci, nous reviendrons bientôt!