Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Michael's on East: Sophisticated Sarasota Dining

Michael's on East is a Sarasota institution. Founded in 1987, Michael's takes fine dining to another level. Partners Michael Klauber and Phil Mancini have built their unmatched reputation for exceptional service and inspired cuisine on the principle that "each guest should be treated the way they expect to be treated, every moment of each and every visit". The Sarasota culinary duo have done just about everything right, so much so that Michael’s on East has been a treasured fixture on Sarasota’s culinary landscape for years, which is especially impressive given that this outpost of gastronomic splendour is tucked away in the back of the Midtown Plaza in downtown Sarasota. 

Michael's colourful logo on the outside of the restaurant

The main doors to Michaels's at the back of the Midtown Plaza 

The sophisticated décor by Anne Folsom Smith Interior Design from Sarasota, really sets the tone and ambiance for the restaurant. The interior space is conceived as an Art Deco luxury liner, and you’re a guest cruising to some exotic port while being royally entertained en route. The curving shape of the room places guests right on board, and a huge poster of the Normandie at the entrance, leaves no doubt about where you’re headed. Seating at tables and banquettes bends around a bar that’s slightly separated from the dining room with a transparent black curtain. A circular platform dining area at the back of the restaurant can be closed off with crimson velvet drapes to make a small private dining area for parties up to about 15. The décor scheme is rich in comfortable, opulent fabrics, deep colors and art works that favour the heavy use of gold and copper metal work. It all enhances the concept that you’re being pampered on a glamorous cruise ship. And pampered we are.

The interior of Michael's is like walking into a luxury cruise liner

Looking through to the Piano Bar which features mini-martini flights, 
handcrafted libations and vintage cocktails

Then there’s the hospitality aspect — few people in this town can work a room like Michael Klauber. Guests love to be recognized by him, chatted up, made to feel special and singled out, and Klauber cheerfully complies. The best part is that you can sense he’s sincere and is genuinely glad to have you at his restaurant, experiencing his food. And doesn’t it always raise your comfort level when you see the owner on site personally maintaining standards? Klauber’s pride and his personal enjoyment of fine food and wine are infectious. That’s why sooner or later, we all go to Michael’s On East, as our family has since they opened their doors over 25 years ago.

Michael's on East partners Michael Klauber and Phil Mancini 

The menu at Michael's on East changes frequently to stay current with global food trends, but some classics have been there from the start and will probably never go away. Starters such as Roasted Golden & Chioggia Beet Salad with Gorgonzola, Dolce Spuma and Pistachio Vinaigrette; House-Cured Salmon Crostini with Olive Oil Crostinis with Roasted Yellow Beets and Montchevré Goat Cheese Drizzled with Caper Oil; and Hoisin Duck and Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls with Sweet-Sour Chile Dipping Sauce and Pickled Ginger. The steak and seafood menu at Michael's in legendary with dishes such as the uber rich Pan-Seared Scallops with Maine Lobster and Housemade Ricotta Gnocchi with Roasted Butternut Squash in a Sage Brown Butter Sauce with Crushed Amaretti; Roasted Bone-In Snake River Farms Heirloom Kurobuta Pork Chop with Caramelized Sweet Potatoes, Cumin-Spiced Chestnuts, Quince-Cranberry Chutney, and Ancho-Glazed Carambola with Poblano-Tomatillo Reduction; and a selection of steaks from the New York Strip Sirloin, a 24-ounce Bone-in Ribeye, Filet Mignons from 7 to 14-ounce, and to top it all off, Phil’s Carved Prime 14oz. New York Strip complete with Porcini-Rubbed, Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms, Arugula and Lemon-Oregano Fingerling Potatoes for $52.00

The good looking menu with embossed cover balances smartly with the i-pad that is placed at each table featuring Michaels' ever changing wine list 

The extensive dinner menu features a spectacular selection of starters, 
steaks, seafood and side dishes 

Warm crunchy bread, fresh crisp pappadams and fresh butter

Elegant decanters and crystal wine glasses line the table to do justice to the exceptional wines served at Michael's

We enjoyed a 2011 South African Pinotage and 2011 Alexander Valley 
Cabernet Sauvignon from Sonoma County

A single perfect white rose graces the centre of each table

Roasted Golden & Chioggia Beet Salad with Gorgonzola, Dolce Spuma and Pistachio Vinaigrette

House-Cured Salmon Crostini with Olive Oil Crostinis with Roasted Yellow Beets 
and Montchevré Goat Cheese Drizzled with Caper Oil

Hoisin Duck and Crispy Vegetable Spring Rolls with Sweet-Sour Chile Dipping Sauce 
and Pickled Ginger

Black Pepper-Crusted Beef Carpaccio Rolls with Parmesan Shavings, Baby Arugula, 
Black Pepper Oil and Chives

The East Avenue Caesar Salad

Pan-Seared Scallops with Maine Lobster, Housemade Ricotta, Gnocchi, Roasted Butternut Squash in a Sage Brown Butter Sauce with Crushed Amaretti

7 oz Filet Mignon with Roasted Pepper and Bernaise Sauce

Side dishes are equally delicious, with temptations such as Potato Croquettes with Apple Bacon and Gruyere, Fresh Creamed Spinach folded with Aged Cheese Finished with Pernod, Royal Trumpet Wild Mushrooms Sautéed with Garlic, Caramelized Sweet Potatoes with Candied Pecans & Scallions, Molly’s Truffled Macaroni and Cheese with Manchego, Gruyere, Parmesan, Truffled Béchamel, and the Angel Hair Onion Rings, which although considered a starter, make an excellent side to any of Michael's steaks.

Potato Croquettes enriched with Apple Bacon and Gruyere Cheese

Classic Fresh Creamed Spinach folded with Aged Cheese and finished with Pernod

Angel Hair Onion Rings served with Housemade Ketchup is listed as a starter, 
but makes more sense as a side with steak, which is what we did

Roasted Bone-In Snake River Farms Heirloom Kurobuta Pork Chop with Caramelized Sweet Potatoes, Cumin-Spiced Chestnuts, Quince-Cranberry Chutney, and Ancho-Glazed 
Carambola with Poblano-Tomatillo Reduction

Pan-Roasted Atlantic Salmon served with Forbidden Rice, Curried Apple-Beet Vinaigrette and Crispy Yucca Fries drizzled with a Ginger-Scallion Emulsion

Lemongrass Grilled Ahi Tuna served with Sesame Forbidden Rice, Teardrop Tomatoes, 
Watercress Salad, Roasted Asparagus and Baby Carrots in a Ginger Scallion Vinaigrette 
drizzled with Kabayaki Sauce

Pan-Roasted Bluefin Crab Cakes accompanied with Truffle Roasted Potatoes 
with Herbed Tartar Sauce

Biquine de Rucula: Olive Oil Pan-Seared Serrano Ham Sandwich 
with Fresh Tomatos, Baby Arugula, Manchego Cheese and Onion Jam, 
served with Paprika-Spiced Potato Chips

Phil’s Rhode Island Lobster Roll, lusciously loaded with fresh, succulent lobster lightly dressed with a tangy, olive oil-based mayonnaise, lemon zest and celery

One of the newer additions to the Michael’s family is the fabulous Michael’s Wine Cellar with thousands of international estate-bottled wines. The Wine Cellar also offers premium and boutique spirits, imported craft beers and more than 200 boutique wines for under $20 — a great deal, and one I plan on taking advantage of on my next trip to Longboat Key.

Michael's Wine Cellar with wines to purchase and enjoy at home

Molly’s Truffle Mac and Cheese
Serves 2
Recipe courtesy of Executive Chef Al Massa, Michael's on East

"Once you’ve tried this version of the classic comfort food, you’ll never go back.”  

4 oz pasta, elbow, penne, ziti
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp chopped parsley
3 tbsp truffle oil
1 cup grated cheese, equal parts Gruyere, Swiss and parmesan
1 tbsp butter
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook pasta until al dente then chill in a bowl of cold water. Meanwhile, heat the cream in medium saucepan. Add the garlic, parsley and Truffle oil then season with salt and pepper to taste. Continue heating until the cream comes to a simmer. 
Drop the pasta into a pot of boiling water and remove after 10 seconds. Add to the cream mixture, add the cheeses and continue to cook until they melt and sauce thickens. Adjust the seasoning then pour into a warmed serving dish and enjoy!