“To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” – François de La Rochefoucauld
Back when I first visited Blasé Bistro & Martini Bar shortly after opening early last fall, I was totally smitten. Not only was the menu interesting, thoughtful, and expertly crafted by Chef/Consultant Mike Isabella, but the aura or atmosphere just “feels right,” in its location in the Osprey/Hillview district a.k.a Southside Village.
Blasé Bistro & Martini Bar feels like a delightful combination of French-Mediterranean bistro and art gallery, resulting in a colorful vibe that reminds me of the chic, yet laid back restaurants near the bohemian art galleries in any big city, be it Manhattan or Toronto. This lovely, and often lively bistro (live music is being brought back note-by-night slowly,) shares the heart and soul of owner Cynthia Breslin, who provides the artistic and creative vision, along with the business acumen of co-owner Kevin Skeist. Although they took over the lease many months before opening, they took the time to develop their vision completely. The end result is a new restaurant that feels like it’s been a part of the neighborhood forever.
No novice to the Sarasota dining scene, Cynthia Breslin is also the owner of the original “Fun-Key Place,” the Blasé Café & Martini Bar in Siesta Village. Established in 1997, Blasé on Siesta opened to instant and enduring acclaim and remains a favorite hangout for the locals.
Blasé Bistro delivers and indeed advances on the timeless concept of sharing delicious food with dear friends in a welcoming atmosphere while being served by people who want to take care of you. Call it the perfect calm, if you will.
On this night, while our ladies were at their monthly book club meeting, I was joined by my one-of-a-kind inspirational, and “funniest guy I know” friend of three decades (!) Craig McLeod. And, as I often do when writing a blog, I arrived early to get a few photos of the restaurant, and in this case also enjoyed a cocktail at the bar. Nice!
Craft cocktails remain the star at any quality restaurant, and Blasé’s martini du jour was a refreshing choice for a summer evening, but as soon as Craig arrived, I was ready to pivot to the food itself . . . shall we?
Operating at reduced capacity, Blasé’s eclectic menu and seating have been scaled back as we come out of the 2020 pandemic, but trust me . . . it still features plenty of “Oooh,” and “Aaah” dishes to excite any palate.
As I so like to do, Craig and I decided to order a number of small plates, and in true grazing fashion, (my all-time favorite way to eat) taste a little off each dish. So, after a short back and forth with our born-a-people-person server Henry, we asked that our dishes be served in whatever order they were ready. And ready or not, here they came…
The first to hit the table was the Spiced Lamb Hummus appetizer. Henry explains this dish has proven so popular, it will, in all likelihood, never be replaced on the menu, which I’m in 100% agreement with, and thankful for.
At its base, the Spiced Lamb Hummus was a perfectly executed and delightfully seasoned creamy hummus. Like a crown on top sat a healthy sized portion of perfectly roasted minced lamb, offering up a distinct, well-seasoned flavor. Dressing up the lamb is the sweetness of Medjool dates, generous pieces of toasted hazelnuts, and the subtle touch of finely diced carrots, with notes of Sauvignon Blanc…wait, that’s that wine talking now! Each bite was so enticing that the accompanying grilled garlic flatbread found me scraping the plate exploring new depths of flavor in each new bite.
Craig, a self-professed “unadventurous eater” (and not particularly a fan on lamb) proclaimed that “this may be the most perfect app I’ve ever had!” ‘Nuff said.
Our next dish was the Greek Spiced Pork Ribs small plate. “That’s dinner right there!” was Craig’s reaction to the portion that was presented. No argument here.
This fall-off-the-bone tender porcine delight was augmented with a charred, still slightly crispy red cabbage, chunks of fresh orange, and paper-thin sliced radish, all of which danced with the over-the-top coriander yogurt. The magic of a dish like this is how it hits every pleasure zone on the palate with its sweetness, a bit of crunch, and the robust meatiness of the ribs. A word about that coriander yogurt – more please! (OK, that’s two words.) Bottle that stuff up and and let the world find out!
Mussels are another dish that I have a hard time turning away from – so we didn’t. Being a sort of a “blank slate of the sea,” mussels can be enjoyed with any number of ingredients. In this case, Blasé’s Red Curry Mussels was bathed in a broth of ginger, chili, lime, slivers of shallots, cilantro gremolata, and some laffa bread for soaking up all of that flavorful curry sauce. The flavors were at once exotic and kicked up with just the right amount of spice. Even after all the mussels were devoured we were not disappointed – we had the incredible broth to console us.
Moving to the “Handhelds” section of the menu, Craig ordered the Crispy Softshell Crab to share, (as if he had a choice not to!)
From the menu description, the Soft Shell Crab sandwich came with “coleslaw, pickles, and spicy mayo,” you might be justified in thinking “meh.” Not so fast, my friends!
The reality was that this two-fisted affair arrived piled so majestically high with ingredients that it had to be held in place with a long bamboo skewer! I mean, look at the picture! With all that, make no mistake . . . the crab was still the star. The softshell crab was coated with the subtle flavors of seasoned flour, turmeric, vodka, salt, and a bit of corn starch to create something of a slurry batter before frying. The brioche bun being toasted is a must for a loaded sandwich like this, and the chef hit the mark there on this seemingly innocuous touch in building this outstanding sandwich. Crispy fries completed the dish, and trust me . . . Craig and I were pretty much done after this time, and so glad we didn’t miss out on the crunchy goodness of this seafood sammy.
No longer hungry, we of course ordered dessert to share as well.
The lone selection on this evening was the Pineapple cake with a rum caramel sauce. The portion size belies the fact that a single person probably shouldn’t attempt to eat this dessert after eating as many small plates as we had. Either stop in for dessert and coffee by itself or plan on sharing. This Pineapple Cake was Decidedly, Decadently Dense in its Deliciousness, and unlike my grades in school, somehow those four “Ds,” resulted a definite “A!”
To wit, as we move forward in a mask-filled world, Blasé Bistro & Martini Bar is a definite breath of fresh air in Sarasota. It is an artful, peaceful, and taste-full addition for all to experience, today, tomorrow, and often.