Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Savory in Sarasota: Mexican Nouvelle Cuisine

Located in Citrus Square, on the corner of 4th and Orange in the Rosemary District of Sarasota, Savory Street International Café & Bakery opened less than two years ago and quickly established itself as a popular breakfast and lunch destination for locals. Bright and casual by day, Savory changes personality in the late afternoon and by early evening, transforms into Savory at Night, an upscale, yet casual dining experience, with crisp white table linens, elegant flatware, fine china and soft lighting. Co-owner and chef Claudia Johnson calls the menu 'gourmet Mexican nouvelle cuisine,' a unique combination of Latin American cuisine with a modern approach, inspired by dishes from her Mexican childhood and her love of contemporary South American cuisine. 

In the evening, Savory becomes an elegant dining destination in the Rosemary District of Sarasota

Arriving for dinner on a balmy Friday night, Savory's host Jim Lampl greeted us at the door with a big smile and warm welcome. Given the size of our group, he told us that he'd taken the liberty of reserving the restaurant's elegant private Dining Room, to better accommodate our family, a party of seven this particular evening. A quiet room at the back of the restaurant, the private dining area is anchored by a handsome feature wall of deep green faux boxwood highlighted with festive white lights, a lovely backdrop for Chef Johnson's innovative cuisine.

The elegant Private Dining Room at Savory, with its wall of greenery detailed with white pin lights

Our table of seven was seated in the restaurant's elegant Private Dining Room

In addition to Savory's extensive dinner menu, which features a sensational selection of Spanish and Mexcan-inspired soups, salads, starters and entrées, the restaurant also offers a limited list of special dishes which change each evening, with temptations such as Steamed Spanish Clams and Chorizo in a white wine broth, Corn Truffle Crepe with Cuitlacoche Mushrooms, with spinach, roasted tomato and avocado bathed in a rich smoked poblano-cheese béchamel sauce, and Mediterranean Mussels in a tomato-achiote beurre with wild mushrooms, white wine and basil. Wonderfully full flavoured and artfully presented, the cuisine at Savory at Night offers an elegant and thoughtful menu without forgetting its roots as a one of Sarasota's most successful bakeries, gracing each table with warm fresh home baked breads and flavoured butters.

Homemade bread and rolls are freshly baked each evening at Savory

A trio of butters and basil oil arrived with the fresh baked breads

Steamed Spanish Clams in a white wine broth with chorizo

Mediterranean Mussels in a tomato-achiote beurre with wild mushrooms, white wine and basil

Corn Truffle Crepe with cuitlacoche mushrooms

Seven Wonders Salad with roasted beets, goat cheese, citrus segments, jicama toasted peanuts and palmitos on a bed of red oak lettuce with citrus mustard dressing in a parmesan nest

Fish Chowder

Savory's entrées include innovative and delicious dishes such as Chimichurri Grilled Skirt Steak with roasted garlic yuka frites, black beans con queso and chimichurru sauce, Lobster Ravioli with sautéed oyster mushrooms, fresh basil, 
roasted garlic in a cream tomato-achiote sauce and Ancho Seared Salmon with a chayote, radish and poblano pepper salad, mashed potatoes and cilantro crèma,  in addition to a selection of special entrées featured this evening such as a splendid Poblana Seafood Pasta with fish, Argentinean scallops, shrimp, and mussels in a poblano pepper creamy fettuccine with roasted poblano peppers, onion and topped with queso fresco, and 'Mar y Tierra', a duo of perfectly cooked Beef Tenderloin and shrimp in a Talcum sauce.

Chimichurri Grilled Skirt Steak with Roasted Garlic Yuka Frites, 
Black Beans con Queso and Chimichurru Sauce

Crisp and fluffy batons of Roasted Garlic Yuka Frites

Ancho Seared Salmon with a chayote, radish and poblano pepper salad, 
mashed potatoes and cilantro crema

Poblana Seafood Pasta with fish, Argentinean scallops, shrimp, and mussels in a poblano pepper creamy fettuccine with roasted poblano peppers, onion and topped with queso fresco

Savory 'Mar y Tierra': Beef Tenderloin and Shrimp in a Talum sauce

Lobster Ravioli with sautéed oyster mushrooms, fresh basil, 
roasted garlic in a cream tomato-achiote sauce

Chef Johnson's Carrot Cake

"I've always loved to cook and entertain," Chef Johnson says. "Where I come from in Mexico, you always find everyone in the kitchen laughing, cooking and of course, eating. I wanted to do something that allowed me to share my love for that and invite the community to share it with me. I think of the restaurant as an extension of my home". Judging from Jim's warm welcome at the door as we arrived through to the attentive service throughout our dinner, Savory is a indeed a friendly and delicious dining destination well worth making in Sarasota. At the end of the evening, we were surprised with a flotilla of gift bags that were brought to our table as we leaving, filled to brimming with warm croissants and moist chewy chocolate chip cookies — a generous and thoughtful gesture, and indicative of Savory's commitment to detail letting customers know that they are part of Chef Claudia and Jim Lampl's extended culinary family. Wonderful.

Four aromatic gift bags were presented to our table as we were departing, filled with fresh croissants and warm chocolate chip and macadamia cookies for breakfast the next morning

Chorizo Mashed Potatoes
Serves 4
Recipe courtesy Chef Claudia Johnson 

2 lb russet potatoes, peeled and quartered 
1/4 cup heavy cream
3 tbsp unsalted butter 
1 tbsp kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1 cup soft chorizo Spanish sausage

Place the chorizo into a small pan and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly until slightly browned. Remove from the heat and set aside. Simmer the potatoes until soft, place them together with the butter in the mixer at slow speed for about 30 seconds, scraping the sides with a rubber spatula to make sure that no big lumps are left on the bottom. Add the cream and mix for another minute until well combined. Add the cooked chorizo, salt and pepper and mix for few more seconds. Remove from the bowl and keep warm.