Most of the most lauded restaurants in Sarasota are nearer to downtown than the southern enclaves of SRQ. So we’ve often pondered “Where do all the folks living in the tony estates of the Oaks Club and Casey Key go out to eat without making a twenty minute commute?” There are a number of great destinations in Gulf Gate, but what’s the best place closest to them?
The obvious answer is Roessler’s, located on a park like setting on the east side of US 41, off Vamo Way, right on the border of Osprey and Sarasota. I’ve been a raving fan of Roessler’s since moving here in 1991, but Jill and I hadn’t dined here for probably two years. Which leads me to another good thing about the annual Savor Sarasota event . . . when looking over the list of
restaurants collaborating in the event, we were reminded we’ve been missing “Restaurant Royalty” in terms of stature in Sarasota. After all, Roessler’s has been family owned and regally operated by the Roessler family since 1978. From the moment you turn down the driveway, and take in the beautiful grounds, it always feels like a “find” when we dine here.
We have always dined in the main dining room, but there are several smaller “character” dining rooms in Roessler’s. The first is The Bistro, across from the bar, and overlooking the outdoor dining area. Then there’s a smaller Wine Room, an intimate seating for parties under 16 overlooking a wall of wine as well as the beautiful outdoors. The Fireplace Room is a semi-private dining room inspired by the Roessler’s German Heritage and decorated around a brick fireplace with stain glassed windows and antique plates lining one of the walls. You’ll see all three smaller rooms, and views of the gardens, as you walk back to the main dining room.
The beautiful view aside, it’s the food that keeps Roessler’s guests coming back time after time. We stopped in on a Thursday night, and saw the dining room fill up shortly after we arrived. Most of the guests, our server Tyler said, are regulars. Not a surprise.
I started out with a tasting size portion of the Fresh Main Lobster Tail appetizer — which was 1/2 the size of the regular portion during Savor Sarasota. Featuring half of a lobster tail flash fried on a skewer, over a jicama slaw with an amazing chipotle dipping sauce, I was thrilled with the taste, and the portion size seemed about right for an app. I really loved the dipping sauce, having never thought to pair lobster with chipotle myself. Yum!
Prior to our visit, Jill had read numerous positive reviews of Roessler’s Caesar Salad , so she had to try it. Because, really . . . what can make one salad so much better than the rest? Easy! Roessler’s Caesar dressing clearly earns all the acclaim it’s been given. Within a few bites Jill was calling over our server to see if Roessler’s sold the salad dressing by the bottle. “Now that’s a question I’m asked all the time,” Tyler explained, “but no — they keep their recipe a secret and make the dressing in-house.” Guess we know where we have to go to enjoy this great Caesar salad anytime soon!
By now our appetites had been well primed with delicious starters and we were poised for the main events. In Jill’s case, she ordered the Soy Ginger Glazed Salmon with a side of luscious Coconut Risotto and a tangy Mango Salsa. The salmon was seared to perfection, and the combination of coconut risotto with the juicy mango was sublime. Every bite tasted as beautiful as it looked, or so she said. (She wasn’t about to share!)
It didn’t take a lot of arm twisting for me to try Roessler’s Prime Beef, Veal and Pork Meatloaf. Served with truffle mashed potatoes, vegetable ragout, crispy onion rings and sauce Bordelaise (that’s a classic French sauce made with dry red wine, bone marrow, butter, shallots and sauce demi-glace.) This is meatloaf?? Are you kidding me! This is a top 0’the mountain in the meatloaf category . . . but you knew that when the first ingredient was prime beef! And the accompaniments! One look at the crispy onions rings and I knew they were cooked in the freshest of oils. No other way they could be so crispy without being dark brown. Just stellar!
We thought we couldn’t eat another bite after polishing off our appetizers and main courses, but we ordered off the Savor Sarasota menu, which included dessert. We thought we could do without, but once Jill’s Parfait Roessler and my Trio of House Made Sorbets hit the table, we somehow found our appetites again and dug right in. (No quitters on this team!)
The Parfait Roessler, we’re told, is the most popular dessert at the restaurant — even chocolate lovers are happy to make the switch now and then. Imagine this; vanilla ice cream rolled in Roessler’s famous almond brittle, then doused with a nice pour of orange liquor and topped with a dollop of fluffy, whipped cream. Each bite is a combination of crunch and savory goodness. Really, this is something special.
That being said, the Trio of House Made Sorbets is no slouch! Featuring three scoops of sorbet, tonight it was a prickly pear, a robust coconut and my personal favorite, raspberry. Each sorbet was packed with flavor and about as good a flavor as I’ve had in a long time. Both Jill and I were over the moon happy with our selections.
Roessler’s also offers three table side desserts, made right at your table. They offer Bananas Foster, Crepes Suzette and Crepes Swiss. We’re thinking it would be nice to stop by some evening just for dessert, and hope to enjoy it seating outside.
Post Script: Even though Savor Sarasota officially ended after 6/14, everyone should know that over half of the participating restaurants have extended their prix fixe offerings, some through June, and some through August! Check the website again, and Bon Appétit!