My dear friend, Cynthia, had a favorite restaurant in the Southside Village District of Sarasota. It was small, French and not very busy, even though the food was quite delicious. She confessed her concerns that the establishment wouldn’t last since it was never busy . . . which was exactly why she liked it so much. It was intimate and friendly, but the lack of business soon resulted in her worst fears coming true and it was sometime during the summer that I called and told her that 62 Bistrot had closed.
Flash forward to last weekend, when I had the pleasure of inviting Cynthia to dinner at the new restaurant that opened in 62 Bistrot’s previous location — the lovely and delightful A Sprig of Thyme. Happy day! Described as a contemporary boutique restaurant, A Sprig of Thyme is making a LOT of local diners quite happy, as there aren’t many dining establishments where one can escape for an intimate, cozy evening of fine dining. Many of the newer establishments are larger, and often noisy, making it difficult to enjoy conversation over a meal. A Sprig of Thyme, however, almost feels like you’re sitting for dinner in a historic dining car on the Orient Express.
Take that same image and imagine the type of meals you’d be served while enjoying such luxury accommodations, and you’d find yourself at A Sprig of Thyme. This is a lovely restaurant that hits on all cylinders (forgive me this one last train reference!)
Taking a seat at one of the white table clothed tables, I ordered a glass of Pinot Grigio while looking over the French/Northern Italian-inspired menu. All five different seafood dishes sounded absolutely delicious, as did the six options under the Entrees of the Earth and Sky side of the menu.
Knowing Cynthia’s culinary choices were more about quality than quantity, I suggested we split a bowl of the Pumpkin Bisque, and forgo one of the restaurant’s larger grilled salads. I noticed the Grilled Caesar being served at another table and knew even I would not be able to finish that along with an entrée. And the pumpkin bisque sounded pretty irresistible, so . . .
The Pumpkin Bisque arrived in a nicely sized bowl, topped with toasted pumpkin seeds. Our server, Jason, kindly brought us two smaller bowls so we could split the soup between us. How kind! The soup was an excellent choice, and we both agreed that the flavor of the bisque could only be described as “the flavors of fall on a spoon”. Luxuriously creamy and artfully seasoned with every sip, I asked myself “What was that spice? Cinnamon? Nutmeg? Cloves? Maybe all three?” The Pumpkin Bisque was the Potage Du Jour that evening, and since fresh pumpkin is seasonal, it won’t always be available, but hopefully, it will be available when you get an opportunity to visit. (Hint . . . go soon!)
Chef Scott Harrison has poured over 30 year’s experience into creating the menu and atmosphere of A Sprig of Thyme, using his international culinary experience to transform locally sourced ingredients into Northern Italian and classic French dishes that will delight most every palate.
For her choice, my dear friend ordered the Canard Pyrenees – a slow-roasted, semi-boneless Canadian Mallard duck served with oh-so-crispy skin and a wild field berry and burgundy wine gastrique. What a pleasure to pair the flavors of the wild berries with the succulence of the duck! The fruit acids of the berries and the burgundy complimented the duck so very well, and it was a nice respite from the expected flavors of that other French duck preparation – Duck a l’Orange. Each entrée comes with a choice of potato or risotto, along with fresh seasonal vegetables. The veggies were lightly tossed with a hint of herbed olive oil, leaving them both tender and firm . . . just as we like them, and her mashed potatoes had a hint of thyme (but of course!) Delightful!
For my entrée, I ordered the Grouper Paillard, a fresh grouper pulled from the Gulf of Mexico, stuffed with lump crab and herbs and broiled in a Chardonnay compound butter with a tomato-basil bruschetta topping. The grouper had that slight buttery crust on the exterior, with some of that buttery goodness seeping into the large, firm flakes of delicate grouper that reminded me of the texture of seabass. For my side, I ordered the cheesy risotto, which complimented both the grouper itself but also danced on the tongue when shared with the Chardonnay butter that graced the bottom of my plate.
While we enjoyed watching other tables order dessert, we both agreed that the meal we had already consumed had satiated us perfectly. I did take a stroll up toward the kitchen to poke my head in and congratulate Chef Harrison, who I’d never met before. I complimented him not only on our delicious meal but also his ability to capture such a pleasant ambiance in so small of a space. I also discovered the high top table near the back of the dining room where, if my imagination serves me right, guests may be able to watch Chef Harrison in action!
I can’t think of a single thing I’d change about our meal at A Sprig of Thyme, and I was so pleased to see the new restaurant being quite busy on a Sunday evening. I enjoyed that we never felt rushed from our meal, and appreciated the excellent service of our waiter, Jason, who covered the entire dining room on his own and no one, not one diner seemed to notice, and not one dish was returned. I also noticed several guests being welcomed as return guests, with Jason greeting several of them by name. Class act, to be sure! A Sprig of Thyme is so welcoming!
I can’t say why a restaurant as well-rated as 62 Bistrot didn’t survive, but I have a feeling A Sprig of Thyme will flourish at their home on Hillview. Stay tuned for later in the year as Chef has plans for a possible brunch menu. If you think he should give it a try, let him know! The menu is already prepared and I, for one, would love to try his Roasted Duck Hash & Eggs.
In the meantime, I’m already planning a return visit (or two!) to try the Saltimbocca of Scallops and the Braised Beef Short Ribs and next time, I will leave room for dessert, or maybe one of those amazing grilled salads!
(A special side note: A Sprig of Thyme is near the southeastern corner of Hillview and US 41/Tamiam Trail. There is a private parking lot for guests to use – just one store west (right) of the restaurant. The entrance to the parking lot is visible in the featured photo.)