Sixteen pounds lighter, with about 10 more to go, now puts me in the position of getting back to work. (Mind you, I am being cautious with my food intake and working out 5-6 days a week, which I recommend to anyone as obsessed with food as I am.)
While I may take an extra week here and there to drop a few, I am ready, willing and able to bring you the latest on the dining scene. This past month feels like a record with new openings, and the early signs are promising that the local food scene continues to grow.
One of these newer places to try is the Coral House, located in the former J. Ryan's space on the South Trail.
And coral is indeed the first thing you see when you pull up to the restaurant, thanks to the exterior paint. Inside, however, you'll find décor that features lots of wood mixed with white and glass. And unlike J. Ryan's, the Coral House is not a neighborhood tavern. Prices are higher at dinner, but boy, does the food and the quality deliver. Take Don Schoenburg, a chef from California and Houston, and put him and his acclaimed pastry chef wife in Sarasota, and you've got a recipe for success.
We began our Coral House journey with Sunday brunch, a more affordable option at the restaurant (stay tuned for more on the dinner menu in a later blog). The a la carte brunch menu features an array of some traditional and non-traditional dishes, all with great flair. Seafood crepes were a standout at $13--fresh, assorted seafood with sautéed leeks and mushrooms were served atop tender French crepes. Pair that with the suggested Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc and your Sunday is off to an amazing start.
Next up: the Dork burger, a half-duck and half-pork blend with caramelized onions, Applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, onion and remoulade on a toasted brioche bun. (Note: all breads and the puff pastry are made by C'est La Vie, so the quality is wonderful.) Did I mention the burger comes with truffles fries? And not your average truffle oil, either, but true shaved summer truffles and Parmesan cheese.
While several friends have raved about the Coral House's chicken and jalapeno cheddar biscuit with country gravy and two eggs, I opted for the chef’s recommendation of the Texas breakfast: twelve-hour, house-smoked pulled pork and two eggs on flavorful corn cakes, clearly made from fresh corn (Houston did him proud), with mole and rum syrup ($13).
Another seafood special, the smoked salmon Benedict ($15) was clearly a standout. While I personally am not a big fan of crab cakes (sorry to the many I may have just offended from Maryland), this dish was spot-on, loaded not only with crab cake but also house cured salmon and the creamiest of Béarnaise sauces.
Sweets lovers will go for the bananas Foster French toast ($11), with flambeed bananas, brown sugar, rum and cinnamon on brioche. The dish worked well because it was not overly sweet.
Some other important things to know about the Coral House:
There is no freezer in the building. Fresh means fresh.
The Coral House offers a Bloody Mary bar, but also a large selection of local craft beers and suggested wine pairings for each dish.
The quality is there, and no matter how full you may be, at least split one dessert. They are simply wonderful--and, yes, of course made in-house, but more on that in the upcoming dinner blog.
The Coral House is located at 8389 S. Tamiami Trail, (941) 552-8825. The restaurant is open Tuesday-Thursday from 4 p.m.-10 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 4 p.m.-12 a.m., and Sunday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m.