Somebody has to say it. Sarasota isn’t a restaurant town! No matter what the reviewers write. Oh, there are a few places that deserve praise. And some that merit a positive nod now and then. But for the most part, not!
So it’s always surprising to me when a restaurant here manages to hit all of the right notes – bringing together delicious, satisfying food; provocative, nuanced wine; and subtle, seamless service. That’s what happened the other night. Yes, it did! The place was Pomona Bistro & Wine Bar.
How can I give you a feel for the evening? Well, it was utterly engaging. I’m thinking it was similar to a gypsy jazz tune by Django Reinhardt. There was an underlying sensibility that evoked Paris. There was a precise, but casual, expression of professionalism reflected in both the food and the service. And there was that difficult to explain feeling of delight.
OK, OK, specifics. Let’s start with the service.
When was the last time your wine glass wasn’t over-filled? That happens too often in Sarasota restaurants — and it really drives me crazy. Doesn’t anyone train these people? Well, at Pomona Bistro & Wine Bar it’s obvious that some knowledgeble soul did. Here the wine is poured exactly as it should be — a scant 1/3 of a glass for white and 1/2 of a glass for red.
And the rest of the service was equally spot on. Friendly. Unobtrusive. Prompt. And professional. It was some of the best I’ve had in town.
There were four of us at the table on this night. My wife and I and two good friends who just happen to be Napa Valley wine professionals. Besides being enjoyable dinner companions, they always make sure the wine selections are intersting and appropriate. Their picks for the meal: a flinty Sancerre to start and then a light, delightful, Oregon Pinot Noir.
Now for the food. When you look over the menu, there’s no question Pomona is a Bistro. But a very refined one. Not unlike a lot of those little places popping up around Paris these days. The ones that are wowing diners with what could be called “Ethnic-Accented New French Cuisine.”
The dishes that ended up on our table should give you an idea of what I mean. If they don’t, it doesn’t much matter. All you need to know is that each and every one of them was delicious. And that’s no exaggeration.
Seared sea scallops over Asian greens, with blood oranges and avocado. Duck leg and thigh confit with Brussels sprouts, bacon, mustard and a sunnyside up egg. A salad of beets, goat cheese, walnuts, arugula, with walnut vinaigrette. Branzino stuffed with mushrooms, garlic, and arugula. Red snapper in parchment with ginger, turmeric, coconut water sauce, and sauteed greens. Thank you Chef. Not one dish was off key.
But enough. I don’t want to rave any more than I have. It’s what happens next time, and the time after that’ll make me shout — that is, if Pomona keeps hitting those same “le jazz hot” notes. And with pros like Arthur Lopes and Chef Ryan Boeve in charge, chances are good, it’ll do just that.
Pomona Bistro & Wine Bar / 481 North Orange Avenue, Sarasota, FL / 941-706-1677 / www.pomonabistroandwine.com