Friday, June 13, 2008

restaurant reviews + happy friday!

i thought i’d kick off the weekend with two local food-related posts (one pricy, one a great value) in case you’re in the sarasota area and looking for a great meal this weekend – or you want to take your dad someplace special.

restaurant no. 1: derek’s culinary casual. located in sarasota’s rosemary district, this chic spot boasts calming décor, an open kitchen and a corner location in one of the city’s most up-and-coming areas (check out the sarasota olive oil company just down the street for great paninis and the best chai in town). my friends k., t., s. and i headed over last friday to take advantage of derek’s prix fixe savor sarasota choices, but – with the exception of s. – we all ended up ordering off the regular menu.

now, as many of you know, i’m a vegetarian, and sarasota is filled to the brim with small, independently owned eateries that often offer limited, meat-filled menus. derek’s is no exception – but when i asked if there was a vegetarian option, our waiter immediately informed me that the shrimp and prosciutto broth could be removed from one of the dishes with no problem at all. yay! the result? a very well-seasoned, hearty dish of carmelized onion agnolotti, sweet peas, asparagus, young green beans, wild mushrooms, shaved pecorino romano cheese and what i think was arugula. and i have to give derek’s points for knocking down the price of the dish by $10 – with the shrimp and prosciutto broth, it was listed at $27; my veg version was $17. a classy touch and a nice surprise for me and my wallet. t. and k. split the non-vegetarian version of the dish and loved it, and s. ordered off the savor sarasota menu – her dinner included a shrimp appetizer, a main course featuring ribs and a giant onion ring, and yummy chocolate mousse for dessert. oh, and we all drooled over the cheesy buns that were served at the beginning of the meal – perfection. throw in some well-edited wines and you’ve got a recipe for a great dinner. for my working-girl budget, derek’s is a little bit pricy – all of the entrees are $15 and up – but the skill and care used to prepare the food is evident. derek’s culinary casual, 514 central ave., sarasota (941) 366-6565.

restaurant no. 2: bangkok. this is the cheaper of our two restaurants, but what you save in dollars at bangkok, you make up for in the quality of the food. i’m not going to lie: i’m a thai-food snob and i’m incredibly picky about it. yellow curry with tofu is my favorite dish of all time; if a thai restaurant makes it well, they’ll win me over.

bangkok’s grip on my thai-food-loving heart is unrelenting. my friend t. (not the same t. who i dined with at derek’s, by the way) and i make almost weekly pilgrimages to the place, and the waiters know us by name and by order. while t. alternates between pineapple-fried rice and red curry with shrimp or tofu, my order never changes – like i said, yellow curry with tofu all the way. (call me boring if you want, but i just can’t switch.)

my favorite non-sarasota thai places feature yellow curries that are much more peanut-based than bangkok’s, which is a lighter color and more lemongrass-y than others i’ve had. without a doubt, though, bangkok's yellow curry is the best ever. it’s dotted with chunks of potato, mild yellow onions and cubes of perfectly cooked tofu, and served with fluffy white rice. i order mine medium-hot and i always eat the entire thing; i’ll often pair it with a cup of hot green or jasmine tea. my meal never adds up to more than $12, and t. and i are always full and happy when we leave. if you’re looking for yummy thai, then i highly recommend bangkok. it’s worth the drive from wherever you are. bangkok restaurant, 4791 swift road, sarasota (941) 922-0703.

that’s it for me – and this l-o-o-o-ng post – today. happy weekend and father’s day, everyone! see you on monday. xx.

(image above via anthropologie.)

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