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Fish sandwich review: Café L'Europe

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grouper.featured

At Cafe L'Europe, you can get the grouper sandwich blackened or fried. (STAFF PHOTO / GERRY GALIPAULT)

Blackened Grouper Sandwich ($17)
Café L'Europe
431 St. Armands Circle, Sarasota
388-4415
cafeleurope.net

A $17 fish sandwich for lunch? I must be out of my mind, I thought to myself as I walked into the beautiful Café L'Europe on Sarasota's St. Armands Circle.

This charming restaurant, which originally housed John Ringling's real estate office, is seemingly out of my league - for my wallet and my fashion sense. Would my jeans and Rays T-shirt fit in with the high-end crowd? Would the $17 fish sandwich turn out to be overpriced and just average?

First off: I blended in just fine. I didn't see any suits and ties, and one guy was wearing a headband to keep the long hair out of his eyes.

Secondly: That $17 fish sandwich? Worth every penny.

The grouper, which you can get fried or blackened, is cooked to perfection by Executive Chef Rolando Casillas. The fish is as fresh as they come, delivered every morning from an outfit out of Anna Maria (I asked!). He applies a tasty spice rub on one side, and with a little oil, he cooks it on the flat-top grill. He then transfers it to an aluminum pan, squeezes in a fresh lemon, pours on a little white wine and puts it in the oven to complete the process.

While he waits on the fish, Casillas goes to work creating his edible art. He garnishes the plate with melon wedges and a big strawberry he carves into a rose.

The fish is placed on a toasted Kaiser bun, with homemade tartar sauce and homemade potato chips on the side.

It's not just a pretty plate. It's the total package. The grouper is tender and flaky, and thanks to the lemon juice and white wine, it stays moist. The tartar sauce has just the right amount of kick to it, and the chips - sprinkled with the same blackened rub - are flavorful and far from greasy.

So, $17 for a fish sandwich? Yes, I would do it again, in a heartbeat ... only next time, I will bring my lovely wife. The combination of Café L'Europe and the ambiance of St. Armands will make for a nice romantic lunch.

Last modified: November 15, 2013
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