Top 10 2012: New Restaurants

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  • dining

    -- By Jack Winner

    Top 10 New Restaurants

    After a few slow years for restaurant openings, 2012 brought a resurgence in the area with a host of new spots. Some involved seasoned owners returning to the scene or adding to existing operations, while others introduced new faces and menus. The cooking ranged from classic American bistro to a variety of ethnic cuisines, but all brightened the area’s culinary scene. As for trends, this year seems to belong to Peru, with three of the top ten inspired in various degrees by that country's exciting cuisine. Here's the complete list of best new restaurants (in alphabetical order):

  • canta rana 008

    1813 Fruitville Road, Sarasota, 343-2280, cantaranarestaurant.com

    Canta Rana

    One of several new openings that made the trek north of Fruitville in downtown Sarasota, Canta Rana opened in a small restored cottage in the newly gentrified Gillepsie Village area.  The focus here falls on indigenous Peruvian fusion cooking – Peru being a cultural melting pot – like the Chinese-inspired Arroz Chaufa, better known as fried rice; a variation on Puerto Rican mofongo, Mofongo con Camarones al Aijillo and Lasagna de Quinoa, with the Peruvian grain standing in for the traditional noodle. (Read the review.)

  • Darwin'sWings

    1525 4th Street, Sarasota, 343-2165, darwinson4th.com

    Darwin's on 4th

    After firmly establishing Selva Grill on Main Street, Darwin Santa Maria took a sabbatical, did a stint at The Cottage on the Key then headed back to downtown Sarasota to unveil Darwin’s on 4th. Housed in the spacious multi-level building that Rustic Grill originally opened, the eponymous Darwin’s showcases the vibrant, imaginative Peruvian fusion cooking that first put Santa Maria on the culinary map. That means there are plenty of Peruvian street foods re-imagined, signature dishes like Octopus Tiradito, and dazzling performances like Pato, a grilled duck breast served with roasted red peppers and a green risotto. To top it all off, the in-house brewery provides a fine choice of craft beers. (Read the review.)

  • El Pescador 008

    1603 N. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 312-4711, elpescadorsrq.com

    El Pescador

    Don’t let the Spanish name fool you. El Pescador is all Italian, a cousin, in fact, to 15 South Ristorante Enoteco on St. Armands, both under the guidance of Joe Casadio. And while all the offerings merit attention, it’s the seafood especially that will bring diners back. Appetizers like Octopus Salad and Crudita di Mare, rather like an Italian sashimi, will charm seafood lovers, as will main course dishes like Orato Balsamica – a very well prepared snapper. (Read the review.)

  • 3 Ceviches at Inkanto.

    4141 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 924-6410, inkantosarasota.com

    Inkanto Authentic Peruvian Cuisine

    The latest in the steady stream of Peruvian kitchens that gives Sarasota a distinct – and unusual – culinary identity, Inkanto is tucked away in a small shopping center on the South Trail. It features many of the staples of Peruvian cooking – don’t miss the Anticuchos or the Tamale Verde – then adds twists like a hot pepper stuffed with beef called Rocoto Relleno and a ceviche using black clams, Ceviche de Conchas Negras. (Read the review.)

  • isan thai

    5758 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 923-1232, isanthairestaurant.com

    Isan Thai

    Isan brings a new dimension to local Thai cooking, with many of its dishes inspired by the region that gives the restaurant its name. The cooking here is bright and original, the service warm and the setting attractive and serene. Try the Goong Tod Nga, a Thai sausage or the Isan-nam Tok Moo, a pork-based salad that will surely excite your palate. Add these to the familiar curry and noodle dishes, and diners will have choices enough for numerous visits. (Read the review.)

  • La Malinche 010

    40 S. Boulevard of the Presidents, St. Armands Circle, 388-4444, lamalinchemexicanrestaurant.com

    La Malinche

    Finally, a Mexican restaurant that devotes itself to more than the usual Tex-Mex offerings. Don’t worry, you can still satisfy your Tex-Mex cravings with tacos and enchiladas, but you can also walk down less familiar culinary paths with Cacerola Azteca, a casserole that layers tortillas, chicken and cheese and bathes them in a poblano sauce; an assortment of moles; and the wonderfully theatrical Molcajetes, named after the volcanic rock mortars in which they are served. (Read the review.)

  • Latin ceviche at Savory Street's new dinner.

    411 N. Orange Ave., Sarasota, 312- 4027, thesavorystreet.com

    Savory Street International Cafe

    Another spot north of Fruitville, Savory Street, which began by serving breakfast and lunch, expanded its operation to include dinner and came up with an eclectic menu featuring soups like a Mayan Lentil with Plantain and Chorizo, appetizers like a Tapas Savory and such main courses as Winter Risotto and Aztec Chicken. (Read the review.)

  • schnitzel kitchen

    6521 Superior Ave., Sarasota, 922-9299, schnitzelkitchen.com

    Schnitzel Kitchen

    With what passes for winter now arriving in Sarasota, hearty German cooking gains in appeal, and Schnitzel Kitchen in Gulf Gate is the place to find it. The modest operation sticks with the tried and true, dishing out such favorites as Schnitzels – pork, chicken or vegetarian – and Schweinebraten, a braised pork specialty, rib-sticking courses that will warm your insides on cool nights.

  • SHORE_DINER

    465 John Ringling Boulevard, St. Armands Circle, 296-0301, facebook.com/shorediner

    Shore Diner

    Making a bold architectural statement with its blend of inside and outside dining experience – a retractable roof brings the outside in – Shore Diner represents the newest venture for the inventive Mark Cargiulo. But it's not just the good looks that attract diners. The American Bistro approach gives St Armands a casual but imaginative style of cooking it has lacked up to now. The menu revolves, so return visits will bring new surprises. (Read the review.)

  • BrusselsSprouts

    1533 State St., Sarasota, 951-1533, statestreetsrq.com

    State Street Eating House

    State Street generated quite a buzz when it opened, but then showed that it deserved the attention. First, there's the look, an artful glimpse into the past with exposed ceiling beams and spots of old brick. Then there's the menu, leaning heavily toward simple American with a contemporary twist, Lobster Mac & Cheese, Slow Roasted Whole Chicken, Braised Pork Shoulder, all skillfully executed. (Read the review.)

  • Among chef Pedro Flores’ global bites are the Chilean sea bass fritters (pictured), as well as buffalo chicken spring rolls, beef tenderloin skewers, crab cakes with sumac remoulade, bacon jam flatbread, and crab-spinach fondue.

    Maximo, 1296 First St., Sarasota, 366-7744, maximodowntown.com. The Table Restaurant Creekside 5365 S. Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, 921-9465, tablesrq.com.

    Best Renewed Restaurants

    MAXIMO: After a good run on Siesta Key, Maximo’s closed its doors. But it has now re-opened-in the lovely vine-clad building around the corner from the Opera House-to thrill Sarasota with its selection of African-inspired and game-dishes like Ostrich Carpaccio, Kudo (an antelope) Bresaola, Grilled Quail and Durban Lamb Curry. (Read the review.) THE TABLE CREEKSIDE: Pedro Flores and Rafael Manzano won more than their share of kudos with The Table when it was on Hillview before it closed, but now it's back in a new location on Philippi Creek, featuring preparations like Global Bites, appetizers that look at standards through a fusion prism, resulting in dishes like a Calamari Cassoulet that pairs squid with chorizo sausage and edamame and a Prawn Cocktail decked out with passion fruit and an avocado emulsion. (Read the review.)