Second in our series of Restaurants with a View, is Drift Kitchen & Bar located on the 8th floor Lido Beach Resort. Formerly the Lido Beach Grill, Drift Kitchen & Bar is currently the only Sarasota restaurant to offer 180-degree views of the Gulf of Mexico. Elevate that view to the 8th floor and, well you can only imagine my first impression . . . Mind Blown! Nothing compares to the azure blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and looking out and over Lido Beach where folks were frolicking in the sand and sun, well . . . I felt like I was on vacation!
I had been at my BBC (Betty Book Club) prior to meeting Mart for dinner, and I was thrilled he’d made sure my seat faced the Gulf, while he enjoyed the city and bay views to the east. As I slid into my seat I couldn’t take my eyes off the beauty surrounding me. Not only was the view spectacular, but the designers of Drift Kitchen & Bar took design inspiration from that view when choosing colors, textures, and fixtures . . . and, I’m glad to say, so it appears Drift’s menu is equally inspired.
While Mart sipped on a crisp, Cilantro Ginger Cooler, I gazed over the menu, suddenly unsure of what I wanted. Everything sounded so good, and we were in no rush to leave this view. Our server, Trisha, said she’d tasted almost everything on the menu and would be happy to offer suggestions. In order to taste more menu items, we choose to share three appetizers because we just couldn’t make up our minds!
So, starting with the Tuna Crudo, let me take you on a cruise of our dinner at Drift Restaurant & Bar.
I’ve had numerous tuna sashimi appetizers over the years, and while I’ve never been disappointed, so often they have a similar flavor profile that speaks of soy or ponzu sauce. The Tuna Crudo at Drifts was quite different. Toasted hazelnuts, Chianti reduction, sweet pickled chili and a light lemon vinaigrette frame this tuna dish. Rather than soy sauce, the true seasoning in the Tuna Crudo is the various red, yellow and orange peppers on the plate — all very fresh and unexpected. It took a moment for the peppers and hazelnut flavor to hit . . . they aren’t hot peppers, but clearly delivered small fireworks of flavor that didn’t take center stage in the first bite but did every bite after that! I especially like the infant red tomatoes.
Mart’s Crispy Crab Cake was another delight. Served with a charred corn poblano relish with roasted pepper vinaigrette, the crab cake itself was large with a sweet, delicate center. But it was the crust that got my attention! As Mart raved over the interior, I was flaking off small chunks of the roasted crust, trying to steal as much as I could get away with. We both enjoyed the crunchiness that the fresh corn added to the dish, crunchiness being something you rarely get with a crab cake.
I don’t know about you, but whenever we visit a beachfront restaurant, we’ll typically drawn to the seafood. It makes sense! But for every seafood lover, there are guests who want a bit of beef, pork or lamb.
For those guests looking for a beefy alternative, Mama’s Meatball appetizer fits the bill. Seasoned with Butcher’s Blend these large meatballs are topped with a marinara scratch-made from San Marzano tomatoes and basil, with a healthy scoop of whipped ricotta, making this appetizer ideal for sharing. The ciabatta bread served on the side is ideal for soaking up any remaining marinara sauce once you’ve scarfed down the meatball.
Keeping with the land and sea theme, I was trying to choose between two seafood dishes, while Mart was totally dialed in on the Grilled Duroc Pork Chop. Who could blame him? This is a mouth-watering presentation featuring a 12 oz Duroc chop, a cut that is sometimes compared to a bone-in rib steak. Duroc Pork chops hail from the domestic Duroc pig with the chop cut from the center of the pork rack, the most flavorful rib area of the loin. While not a fat-laden cut, this isn’t an overly lean pork chop either, which makes for one-tasty-bite-after-another. Served with charred corn polenta and balsamic-glazed Cipollini onions, it was the rum raisin pineapple agrodolce that had Mart grinning ear to ear. Agrodolce, a traditional Italian sweet and sour sauce, is made by reducing both sour and sweet elements (in this case sugar, rum, raisins, and pineapples) into a sticky, tart-sweet condiment that’s all about the tangy contrast. What an ideal topping for pork!
Since I couldn’t decide between the Grilled Cobia (introduced as the Chef’s favorite) and the Pan-Seared Snapper, Mart offered a suggestion . . . order both, he’ll help “taste” both and whatever “we” don’t eat, he can enjoy for dinner tomorrow! What a guy! Of course, I took him up on that!
My initial choice was the Pan-Seared Snapper. I hadn’t had Snapper for a while and the menu description just spoke to me. The fact that it came with a lump crab salad, roasted asparagus (one of my favorites), and a cauliflower risotto also drew me to the dish. But like Mart with his agrodolce, the wild mushroom pesto served with the snapper was not to be ignored. When I think of pesto, I tend to think of green herbs, more often basil, with pine nuts and Parmigiano-Reggiano and Pecorino added. Not today! The wild mushroom pesto at Drifts is clearly an earthy brown and highlighted with a lemon burro (butter sauce). The earthiness of the mushroom pesto with the flavors of the snapper reminded me of a land and sea combination, and made this girl very happy!
The Grilled Cobia, a favorite of Drift Restaurant & Bar’s Executive Chef Michael Desorcie is certainly deserving of his praise. The citrus spiced cobia is lightly grilled with soft brown char marks and served atop a charred corn polenta with braised greens and . . . get this . . . lobster succotash! What is it about the sides on Drift’s entrées that send each dish over the top? I’m guessing every guest expects certain flavors from the protein they order, but then Chef Desorcie introduces some delightful accompaniments that wake up the flavors “just that little bit more” to make your meal at Drift Restaurant and Bar about much more than the view.
Mart was so enthralled with the creativity of the menu that he asked our server if Chef was available to stop by the table. Fortunately, because we probably take more time to eat than most guests, what with the photo takin’ and the constant questions we asked, Drift’s dinner rush was winding down and Chef Desorcie was able to drop by our table. A recent transplant from Sagamore, NY, Chef couldn’t be more excited about his new gig. Being open for only two months (at the time of this blog) Drifts’ offers an open canvas for culinary creativity. No wonder Chef Desorcie is practically beaming when talking about the menu.
Though we weren’t considering a dessert at this point in the evening, Chef offered us a sample of two — Pineapple Upside-Down Cake and the Seasonal Crème Brûlée. I gave Mart that “I just can’t eat another bite” look, (meaning maybe we should skip dessert) and then I overheard a conversation taking place at the table behind me. They had just finished their Crème Brûlée and the wife described their meal in the most perfect way possible. Their exact words were “This is a Rinse And Repeat night. . . I want to come back and order the exact same things and enjoy them all over again.” What better compliment can a restaurant get? Ok . . . I’ll take the Crème Brûlée.
Wow! Have you EVER seen a Crème Brûlée like this? Served in a slotted dish, the Seasonal Crème Brûlée featured one stripe of pistachio crème brûlée, one stripe of vanilla and one stripe of dark cherry crème brûlée. All three started with a rich custard base and a burnt sugar crust, with a distinct difference in flavors befitting the toppings. This dessert was both unique and fun to eat.
The Pineapple Upside-Down Cake was reminiscent of the dessert that was so popular in the 50’s and 60’s, but with a twist. The pastry crew at Drifts added a clever rum caramel and almond streusel to their upside-down cake, and a cool sea salt caramel gelato (the only ingredient on the dessert menu that isn’t made in-house.) The dessert arrives warm and aromatic at the table, encouraging you to dive in and take a few bites before the gelato melts. But even as it melts, the flavors of the sea salt caramel in the gelato meld with the pineapple in the cake, delivering flavors that pop. Toasted pineapple against caramel! Write me a prescription!
Ending our evening at Drifts Restaurant and Bar wasn’t easy . . . I didn’t want to leave! We felt like we’d found a new favorite hot spot, and will certainly be back. There are numerous private dining rooms in the restaurant, most east and providing a view of St Armands Circle, Sarasota Bay and the skyline behind it, making an ideal spot for private functions and business lunches or dinners. This will be one of those restaurants that I’ll encourage my real estate clients to visit when they’re in town. Between the delicious food, friendly service, and the delightful views, Drifts Restaurant and Bar will sell anyone on the lifestyle we enjoy in Sarasota!