Do we have an agenda? No . . . Yeah . . . Kinda . . . We seek out places to eat delicious food and share our experiences here on our blog and our FaceBook page.
One thing that IS always on our agenda is visiting whatever restaurant where Chef Solomon Shenker is at the helm in the kitchen. The reason? Chef Sol has always delivered on delicious . . . and then some! So secretly we were relieved that Chef Sol backed off his focus on deli food and is back “home,” at Hotel Indigo, where we were first delighted by his talents about 3 years ago. Thank goodness he’s back to a wider array of ultra-irresistibly food!
We dropped in for dinner at H2O Bistro, Hotel Indigo’s in-house restaurant, and as I’ve commented in previous blogs, we’re reminded that hotel dining is often overlooked here in Sarasota. #thishastostop, #seriously!
The airy, always chic dining room in the lobby still conveys an inviting vibe. This feels sort of like a community dining spot with a coastal theme and bright colors.
After hugs and handshakes, we asked Chef Sol to take the lead in suggesting what we’d most enjoy, and we were happily along for the ride. We’re flexible (read: omnivorous) that way.
Our first (shared) course was a colorful panoply of flavor in the form of an appetizer consisting of roasted shrimp and red peppers, yummy roasted garlic, basil oil, with a rich splash of heavy cream, all flanked by a wonderfully complementary cheese toast. The red pepper and finely minced basil lent itself to a visual “confetti garnish” in this stunning, savory mop-it-all-up-to-the-last-bite dish. Did I mention that gustatory indulgence is one of Chef Sol’s please the guests to the max traits? Believe it.
Knowing full well that there was an unbelievable cheesecake at the end of our meal, we forged onward with the main entrées. (Maybe a smaller fork will give me the restraint? Fuggedaboutit!)
Sharing, of course, we were presented with a plating of a Seafood Eggplant Caprese dish that featured Chinese eggplant, perfectly breaded and fried to a delicate crunch, (yes. . . eggplant with a crunch!) layered with shrimp, lobster, crab cake, all sitting majestically atop a creamy mushroom risotto. The risotto was expertly prepared al dente, with heavy cream, some water (no stock here,) and a nice punch of parmesan cheese all designed to put a bow on this gift of a dish. Don’t let the photo fool you! If Chef Sol retains anything from his deli sandwich days it’s delivering too-big-for-a-mouthful serving sizes. This dish could easily be shared, as it was with us, with a healthy portion wrapped up to go! (Remember, save room for cheesecake still applies!)
Our other entree was a Black Angus Sirloin with a veal demi-glace and a beautiful tomato “mirepoix.” Medium rare, of course, the sirloin was as tender and flavorful as you could ever want. It amazes me that all these great dishes come from a tiny kitchen that relies on a minimalist eco-friendly equipment array of an Alto-Shaam oven and some induction cooktops. Brilliant!
And I would be remiss to not mention the crispy, roasted, herbed potatoes. The humble potato, in all its myriad preparations, are in my DNA, and these were delish!
H2O Bistro’s menu offers a number of the traditional light bites and comfort food that hotel guests request while on the road . . . while leaving complete culinary freedom to Chef Sol so he can celebrate his mastery of flavor through his daily specials. Our entrées this visit were both specials that he rotates onto the chalkboard at the entrance to the dining room, but don’t be afraid to ask for one of your favorites, even if you don’t see it offered.
“If I have the ingredients in the kitchen, I will make it!” Chef Sol explains. He is excited about food, which is the essential ingredient (in my opinion) for any great dining experience.
Have I mentioned the best-ever cheesecake?
Chef Sol’s cheesecake is the stuff of local, (should be national,) legend. While he provided a spectacular New York style cheesecake for a photo), he urged us – like we needed urging, – to try his newest creation . . . the Rocky Road Cheesecake made fresh that afternoon.
I can’t even – just go there and trust me on this. Best. Cheesecakes. Ever! There are bits of crunchy chocolate, almonds, and marshmallow fluff mixed into Chef’s indulgent, rich cheesecake, with housemade caramel flooding the plate. And that graham cracker crust? Every bit as buttery and delightful as you could ask! You actually have to cut the bottom edge with a fork and knife to slice through all that buttery goodness. I’m in heaven, yet again! Thanks, Chef Sol!
Overall, H2O Bistro is back in the game! The Service: Expect warm, friendly staff focused on the guests as their strong suit. The Menu: Expect a talented chef back in his element and allowed to express his unbridled enthusiasm for food and creativity. The Atmosphere: A chill boutique hotel that will soon be featuring a Jazz brunch on Sundays at 11 a.m. (coming soon to a February near you!)
All in all, you have every reason to check out H2O Bistro even if you aren’t checking in to Hotel Indigo!
Congratulations to Christian Hans Garcia of Palmetto FL for correctly identifying our latest “Guess Where We Ate?” challenge and winning a $25 gift certificate to H2O Bistro! Save room for cheesecake, my friend!
(By all means, subscribe to www.SarasotaFoodies.com, and we’ll be offering an array of foodie freebies in the form of gift certificates by choosing email subscribers at random. So subscribe, good luck, and enjoy!)