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Crispy fried onion strings accompany a perfectly cooked steak; the full bar has an extensive wine list.

At Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse, the décor—rich woods, plush red fabrics, low lighting, furniture that recalls gentlemen’s clubs in 19th-century London or New York—conjures up movie scenes of lavish meals in an exclusive restaurant in the Gilded Age. And that’s certainly intentional, given the prices, depth of the wine list and the presence of 25 pricey Scotches. Hyde Park, which is part of a small chain with headquarters in Cleveland, appeals to a very specific demographic—executives with hefty expense accounts, well-heeled tourists and diners wanting a celebratory out-of-the-ordinary experience. Fortunately for the restaurant, Sarasota can supply all that.

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But the restaurant isn’t fusty; the menu blends traditional and contemporary steakhouse specialties and the vibe is relaxed and convivial.  No jacket requirement for gentlemen here, although the servers wear them. The bar is downright gorgeous, and most nights, gorgeous people are perched there ordering craft cocktails. And the building itself (discreet black from the outside) occupies a part of town liberally flecked with million-dollar condos in skyscrapers that define Sarasota’s evolving skyline.

My foodie brother claims that a key indicator of a satisfying restaurant experience is an exemplary bread basket. The Hyde Park bread basket excels, with seasoned cracker bread, soft and satisfying warm pretzel bread and ciabatta, all snugly nestled in a white napkin. And the butter is special. It’s a large square slab on a dish. One end is topped with a ribbon of Himalayan pink sea salt. At the other end, an olive oil mixture floats on the butter, and the middle section of the slab is just plain butter. Nibbling away, I felt confident that I was in for something good.

Appetizers range from about $8 to $18 and include standards such as French onion soup, wedge salad, Caesar, lobster bisque, crab cake and shrimp cocktail. Modern selections include goat cheese salad with candied pecans or an ahi tuna tower. Chilled shellfish platters are market price and caviar is available (Osetra variety) for $120.

Our party of two started our long, leisurely evening with the traditional baked onion soup and lobster bisque. The former was artistically presented in a crock and looked so picture-perfect it could have been in a food magazine. But the crouton had gone so soggy I couldn’t quite locate it. The lobster bisque, while on the bland side, was well assembled and tasty.

The menu is a la carte; you order the meat or seafood and then supplement with sides of your choice, each priced separately. The sides are steakhouse ample so if there are two diners, plan to share. My perfectly cooked medium-rare 14-ounce New York strip steak ($41) arrived sizzling with a tangle of crispy fried onion strings mounded on the monogrammed white plate and a cabernet sauce I ordered on the side for a $3 up-charge. The creamed spinach I chose as a side was surprisingly nutmeg-forward. 

My dinner partner had the steak (filet mignon) and lobster combination ($51) and added the au gratin potato dish ($8.50), which was creamy and Gruyere cheese-intense in all the right ways. I’d get this dish again. We took some of the steak home, since my portion was daunting unless I’d been a professional athlete in training. Ribeye, porterhouse, heavy-cut lamb chops (14 ounces), garlic steak, it’s all there, including the mini-meal on the menu: a 7-ounce steak Dijon for $27. Hyde Park cooks its dry-aged steaks at 1800-degrees, so there’s no quarreling with the sear on the outside; it’s ideal.

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Cordials, cognac, Scotches and dessert wines are meant to pair with finishing flourishes such as Key lime pie, apple pie, New York-style cheesecake, creme brûlée, chocolate torte or the ever popular lava cake stuffed with ganache liquid fudge. The desserts are pretty routine for steakhouses, except for the Hyde Park specialty, the colossal red velvet cake ($12.95). Seven-layers lovely, this chocolate-powered dessert is served with chocolate shavings and a house sauce. It easily satisfies a sweet tooth for four adults, but if there are just two, you can carry most of it home and celebrate again another day.

The Verdict: Classy and comfortably luxurious, this downtown beef palace has a welcoming vibe and contemporary menu elements while honoring the steakhouse classics. A first-rate bar makes it popular with the young-fun crowd as well as well-heeled older customers.

Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse

25 S. Lemon Ave., Sarasota. (941) 366-7788

Hours: Dinner: Sunday, 5-9 p.m.; Monday-Thursday, 5-10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 5-10:30 p.m.

Happy Hour with cocktails and bar plates starting at $5

Credit cards: all major cards accepted

Reservations suggested

Valet parking; Handicapped accessible

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