By jaynemeth March 14, 2011

(2005) It once was called Scalini’s and before that Pompano Cay. Now the restaurant at the Hyatt Regency Sarasota is called Currents, but much more than the name has changed. Both the decor and the menu have been thoughtfully updated and streamlined.

The dining room’s design is now ultra-clean, relying for its punch on the contrast between white, white walls and dark wood accents, as well as on the floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the boat basin and hotel pool. The effect is breezy and tropical with an Asian accent, and the freshness carries through to the lobby bar.

The menu, intended to change with the seasons, now fits on one uncrowded page, plus a smaller sheet with Currents’ pre-theater dining package, designed for those attending events at Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall across the street. The wine list is similarly compact, but desserts get their own photo-illustrated brochure.

The dinner menu begins with half a dozen or so small plates, a couple of soups and a handful of salads. Entrées usually number six to eight, with a heavy emphasis on Florida seafood, which the kitchen does very well. My first impression was that I wasn’t being offered much choice, but a closer reading revealed an admirable economy at work and plenty of variety. The proof of the success of this approach, which lets the kitchen concentrate its talents on preparation of just a few stellar dishes, was in the eating.

I began with a trio of gorgeous sea scallops blackened with a very light hand and served over a bed of refreshing cucumber and mango on a plate painted with swooshes of roasted red pepper sauce ($13). Our server had pointed me in this direction while I was trying to decide between the scallops and a Florida spring roll featuring crab, avocado, grapefruit and a habañero-spiked dipping sauce, advice for which I thanked her profusely.

Colette began with a tortilla soup chunky with chicken ($8) that wasn’t quite as outstanding as the scallops but was still very good. It came to table in two parts: a bowl heaped with breast meat and crisp tortilla strips and an ewer holding the tomato-y, peppery liquid portion of the concoction, which our server poured with aplomb. Showmanship, perhaps, but the result was savory and built a nice slow heat, very welcome on a cool evening.

Entrée options include filet mignon, pasta and Florida spiny lobster, but we decided to stick with the theme we’d established with our starters. Colette chose the grilled mojo chicken ($22), while I opted for salmon caponata ($17).

The boned, marinated, perfectly grilled airplane chicken breast (one wing attached) was as zingy as its name implies. It came on a plate prettily painted with a sheen of black bean coulis swirled with cilantro créme fraiche and co-starred a stack of scrumptious, thin-sliced, fried sweet potato sticks unadulterated with either cinnamon or sugar. Yum!

The salmon prep was one I hadn’t seen before. A done-to-a-turn filet was served atop a caponata of halved green olives and chunks of eggplant with sweetened vinegar and capers. It worked very well, as did a side of warm, unwilted spinach leaves in a light sweet and sour dressing. All that tang was just right with the mild, slightly sweet fish.

Dessert at Currents is an ice-cream lover’s dream. Colette chose a very generous scoop of chocolate served “tiramisu style” ($9), underlaid with a ladyfinger soaked in an espresso flavored syrup. She couldn’t quite finish it, but she made a valiant effort. I chose something called a Mediterranean coupe ($8), which proved to be the evening’s Big Wally. More pistachio ice cream than I ever could eat at one sitting came with a toothsome olive oil cake and some forgettable dried apricots. But wait! There’s more! On the side came a short parfait glass filled with Greek yogurt sprinkled with whole pistachios. The ice cream was good, but the plain yogurt was heaven.


Currents in the Hyatt Regency Sarasota

1000 Boulevard of the Arts, Sarasota

Reservations: (941) 363-2615

Hours: breakfast 6:30-11 a.m.; lunch 11 a.m.-4 p.m.; dinner 5 p.m.-midnight, all daily

Cards: AmEx, V, MC, DISC

Handicapped accessible: yes

Parking: valet or on street

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