Monday, December 26, 2011

Pomona Bistro & Wine Bar in Sarasota

One of the hottest new restaurants in Sarasota this year is Pomona Bistro & Wine Bar run by two of Sarasota's most sought after chef-restaurateurs, executive chef Ryan Boeve and pastry chef Arthur Lopes, both formerly of Zoria. After a brief hiatus, both Boeve and Lopes have returned to create Pomona's inspired menu that's a wonderful blend of French and Italian influences. Their new location on Citrus Square has an inviting old world character, with an attractive exterior, large windows, and handsome wood doors. Inside, a tranquil elegance reigns. The room itself, lit by tall windows on two sides, is a charming and welcoming mix of modern and traditional influences. Its well-spaced tables are dressed in fine white table linens set very simply with classic modern wine stems and sleek contemporary flatware. At the back, a wine bar with black stools overlooks a picture window through which Chef Boeve and his sous-chefs can be observed creating culinary magic each evening in their small but meticulous kitchen. At Pomona, detail is king.

Pomona's maestro — the superby talented Chef-owner Ryan Boeve

An intimate private dining room with a perfectly-set round table for up to eight guests, christened The Kitchen Table, is another one of Pomona's culinary treats, offering an exclusive view into the kitchen and the opportunity to interact with Chef Boeve. Fare at The Kitchen Table changes daily and consists of chef-created four or seven-course meals, in addition to a full-time sommelier which is on hand to suggest wine pairings that complement the food selections and patron's tastes. "The Kitchen Table is a highly personalized dining experience that lets us be ultra creative and showcase our talents as chefs, " says pastry chef Arthur Lopes. "It's really an intimate experience. It brings us closer to our guests," he adds, "They get to watch everything we're doing in the kitchen while partaking in fine food and wine." 

Pomona's menu

And make no mistake, it's the cooking that continues to make Pomona the belle of Sarasota's culinary scene. Chef Boeve is a luminary, shining his culinary light on only the freshest seasonal produce and top quality ingredients — all prepared to his exacting standards and inspired by his creative vision. Chefs Boeve and Lopes have purposely kept their restaurant and menu small in size, to ensure that guests enjoy an optimum dining experience: perfectly prepared food and service in a relaxed, tranquil and beautifully appointed environment. 

The menu includes a series of small plates, salads or charcuterie to start followed by about eight main plates or entrées to follow. Our table of seven started with an assortment of small plates to start including a lovely Roasted Red and Yellow Beet Salad that was served with fresh bib lettuce dressed in a balsamic walnut vinaigrette and a small quenelle of tangy goat cheese; an outstanding duo of Smoked Salmon and Double Salmon Rillettes served with whipped cream cheese and delicate homemade melba toasts that seemed to melt in the mouth; and Mussels St. Germaine which came in an aromatic garlic, saffron, mustard and white wine broth.

Roasted Beet Salad

Smoked Salmon and Double Salmon Rillettes with whipped cream cheese and delicate toasts

Mussels St. Germain

For our main plates we decided on Sea Scallops served with squash ravioli, garnished with roasted squash and toasted squash seeds; a Roasted Whole Branzini stuffed with leeks, swiss chard, delicious buttery chanterelle mushrooms and baby roast potatoes; Squash Ravioli served with sautéed mixed wild mushrooms; and a new dish that evening, a Braised Pork Shank served with soft polenta and Epoise cheese which our server Natasha cautioned was a 'Barney Rubble' portion!  For those with smaller appetites, Pomona offers half portions for many of their main courses, which allows diners to save room for one of Pastry Chef Arthur Lopes decadent desserts.

Sea Scallops served atop squash ravioli and garnished with toasted squash seeds

Whole Roasted Branzini stuffed with leeks, swiss chard and chanterelle mushrooms

Squash Ravioli topped with sauteed mixed wild mushrooms

Braised Pork Shanks with soft polenta and Epoise cheese - 'Barney Rubble' size!

One of Pomona's most popular entrées is South Texas Antelope, which no one at our table had the moxie to order. We asked Natasha what the flavour was like and she said antelope was quite full flavoured and very low in fat — she felt it was even more delicious than beef. It might take some more convincing to get us to order the antelope, but there was no arm-twisting when it came to ordering dessert. Arthur's desserts are renowned, so some of us gave in and tried his lighter than air Maple Mascarpone Cheesecake and a new dessert on the menu, the Warm Apple Napoleon with creme Anglaise and caramel sauce.

Maple MascarponeCheesecake with maple syrup drizzle

The Warm Apple Napoleon with creme anglaise and caramel sauce

Pastry Chef Arthur Lopes and his Napoleon of fresh berries - the summer version of my Warm Apple Napoleon that I enjoyed - photo: courtesy of Herald-Tribune

For diners wanting to enjoy a more al fresco experience or a pre-dinner cocktail and cigar, Pomona has recently opened their warm and inviting outdoor courtyard complete with a handsome outdoor fireplace, twinkle lights, festive garlands and little Christmas trees for over the holiday season. It's just another small detail that makes Pomona one of the more exceptional dining destinations in the Sarasota area. Quietly refined with an understated elegance, inspired menu, exceptional kitchen and wonderfully friendly professional staff, Pomona was definitely the culinary highlight of our Christmas season.

The beautiful and inviting outdoor courtyard with gas-fired outdoor fireplace at Pomona