On Monday nights, Goichi Sushi Cafe--a tiny space in a strip mall off Bee Ridge Road--serves up steaming bowls of fresh ramen noodles that are worth battling all that construction for. The noodles are made in-house, on a pre-World War II noodle machine, and the bowls are filled with everything from shrimp to beef to chicken. Our pick: the house ramen, which comes with melt-in-your-mouth sliced pork, tofu, fish cakes and scallions in a traditional tonkotsu (chicken and beef) broth spiked with chili oil and topped with seaweed. $10; they'll knock a dollar off your bill if you pay cash.
The fish tacos at Phillippi Creek Oyster Bar are made with blue corn crispy taco shells, come three to a plate and are arranged over a mound of flavorful rice. In each taco is a tempura-batter-fried piece of moist and tender white fish that’s mingled with slaw, guacamole and a swirl of house sauce. Then there’s a tumble of feta cheese crumbles all over the top. The plate looks as colorful as the tacos are satisfying, and you’ll make a mess of the presentation with the first bite. Flavorful and full of yummy textures. $13.95 on the lunch menu.
The veal Cardinale ($22.99) at Valentino's is enormous but delicious--tender veal sauteed with shiitake mushrooms and served with imported prosciutto, fresh spinach and mozzarella cheese that all hang out together in a rich Marsala wine sauce. You get a choice of pasta or salad as a side; we recommend spaghetti so you can scoop up even more of the sauce in each spoonful of pasta.
Downtown Sarasota's Kahwa Coffee is serving up a lavender-vanilla latte ($4.50) that's the perfect mix of sweet, creamy and caffeinated. It's easy to go overboard with lavender; Kahwa's baristas have a light hand, and the result is a subtly floral drink that's perfect for that much-needed 3 p.m. pick-me-up.
We can't stop thinking about the on-the-spot masterpiece that Bradenton's Traveling Kitchen whipped up to win top honors at Saturday's Pickin' Picnic food truck melee. Challenged to incorporate a host of surprise ingredients plucked from the downtown Bradenton farmers' market, Traveling Kitchen cobbled together a combo of crispy fried vegetables and oh-so-tender sautéed Swiss chard and topped it with a hunk of brisket dunked in a blueberry-Sriracha sauce. It may not be part of the truck's regular rotation, but it should be.