When it comes to deciding where to celebrate one’s birthday or anniversary, it’s usually more than “let’s go eat somewhere.” The cuisine, style of service, and an expectation level go hand-in-hand with such weighty matters.
On the flip side of that, I can assure everyone that restaurateurs are keenly aware that such milestone occasions are an opportunity to shine, transforming your meal at their establishment into memories that can last a lifetime.
Jill and I recently celebrated our “cotton” anniversary, and were excited to visit Miguel’s Restaurant on Siesta Key. Easily one of the longest privately run French restaurants in Sarasota, we knew their 33 years in business, which is now being run by the second generation of the same family, pretty much guarantees a special dining experience. Can you say “no brainer?”
Upon arriving I am reminded, once again, how deceptively roomy Miguel’s dining room is, given its modest appearance from the street. Daniel Garcia, one of the sons now stewarding this Sarasota treasure, greets us at the door and ushers us to our table in a room that is at least 3/4 full on this “yet-to-be season” Monday evening.
The vibe is comfortably elegant, and relaxed, with a European décor that reflects the French culinary style that will never fall victim to whatever flavor-of-the-month cuisine that seem to come and go these days.
We could already feel the seemingly effortless “flow” of the service, as a plate of crudités, including some lovely pâté and cream cheese was presented by supporting staff. A few moments later we were greeted by our server, Dana, who tempted us with Miguel’s mouth watering specials. We ordered a couple glasses of bubbly to toast our anniversary, and I admitted to Dana, and Jill, that I’d perused the menu online before coming this evening, knowing that with so many tempting choices, I could kill a half an hour wrestling my taste buds on which one to choose.
Even though all meals at Miguel’s include a salad, vegetables and potatoes du jour, the “Les Crevettes de Portobello” appetizer sounded too delicious to resist. While I would have very happy with any of the classic French appetizers on the menu, the Sautéed Tiger Shrimp served in a creamy, dreamy White Truffle Cream Sauce with Portobello Mushrooms lived up to everything an anniversary celebration should taste like. It was truly special.
Miguel’s Caesar Salad, prepared tableside, is unmatched in Sarasota, and indeed I came this close (thumb and forefinger 1/4″ apart) to ordering it, but we decided to save that “showmanship” for dessert instead. After all, who doesn’t enjoy seeing the skill and pageantry of a tableside food preparation, especially one that involves the word flambé?
While my high school French helped me navigate the names of each dish, Miguel’s menu offers descriptions in English, making it easy for anyone to make the perfect choice here.
For Jill, that choice was “Le Canard Roti Maison,” or roasted young duckling with a classic L’Orange sauce. From the moment her dish arrived, Jill proclaimed the duck to be perfectly roasted, moist and meaty inside, with a crispy skin and generous portion. What’s not to love!
And speaking of “amour” on a plate, my “Escalope de Veau “Oscar,” delivered on flavor in a serious way. This was a lovely Scaloppini of veal, sautéed and covered with crabmeat, asparagus, and a rich béarnaise sauce. It’s been some time since I’ve order Veal Oscar, so enjoying this dish was an anniversary for the senses as well.
But, we both would say the real show-stopper was Chef Gabe’s (the other half of the dynamic duo brother team) vegetable soufflé. If there’s ever a “Best Supporting Vegetable” vote, this one gets ours. Ever-changing, yet brilliantly simple, this was essentially like a “crustless” soufflé, reminiscent of the combination of fillings you’d find in a quiche. Eggs, cream, spices and seasonings (do I taste a slight hint of curry or pumpkin spice?) and fresh seasonal vegetables (zucchini, butternut squash or maybe sweet potatoes?) were baked until all of the flavors danced with each other. Scooped onto the plate in a small dome shape, and adorned with a rosemary sprig, we would have liked to order a family-sized dish of the vegetable soufflé to present to family during the holiday. It was simply that spectacular!
Of course, no celebration is complete without dessert, so we opted for Miguel’s specialty – the flambéed “Strawberries Acapulco.” A little butter of course, (which in itself may be the finest gustatory achievement in human history,) sugar, fresh berries, and a double “ooh…ahh” flash of flames, first with Bacardi White Rum, and then finished with Pernod and a squeeze of orange juice. Paired with vanilla ice cream, it all comes together something like this – just click on the picture below:
It appeared that we were the first ones to order the Strawberries Acapulco this evening, which drew a lot of attention from our fellow patrons. Filling the room with the sweet smell of freshly cooked strawberries, Miguel’s flambé cart was in constant use after that!
All in all, it was a perfectly delicious anniversary meal. Merci Miguel’s! I’m still craving the tableside Caesar Salad, so get the salad cart ready for our next visit!