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Avlí Mess Hall opened on Main Street last December and quickly wowed us with its inventive blend of flavors from Greece, Turkey, Syria, Portugal and Italy. The restaurant's charred octopus, smoky fish rillettes and addictive muhammara won me over right away, and our relationship was cemented by Avlí's outstanding multi-course lunch deals. No surprise: We recently named the restaurant one of Sarasota's best new spots.

As part of our Make the Best of It! series, which celebrates our favorite restaurants, shops, bars and more, Avlí chef de cuisine Johnny Zaki recently shared with us the recipe for Avlí's delicious (and enormous) tiger prawns. Dig in:

Tiger Prawns With Cream Sauce


Prawn Marinade

Olive oil
Fresh garlic


1/2 cup medium-grain rice
1/2 cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 small lemon, diced
1/2 Tbsp. hot sauce
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Salt to taste

To Cook the Prawns

2 prawns
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 oz. Brandy
1/4 cup heavy cream
Pinch of saffron


Fresh mint
Lemon or lime juice
Dash of olive oil


1. Open and devein prawns. Mix marinade ingredients and pour over prawns. Set aside for 15 minutes.

2. Make the rice: In a pot, add olive oil, onions and garlic and cook until onions are golden. Add hot sauce and rice. Mix all ingredients for about 5 minutes. Add water and salt and mix. Let water boil. Once water is boiling, lower temperature to low heat. Cover and let cook for approximately 10-15 minutes.

3. Make the garnish: Mix all ingredients.

4. Brush prawns with marinade and grill over charcoal fire for 1 minute on each side.

5. Remove prawn shells, but leave on head and tail.

6. In a hot pan, sear prawns for 15 seconds on each side, then add brandy. Deglaze with white wine. Add heavy cream. Reduce for 30 seconds. Squeeze prawn heads to release juices. Add saffron.

7. Serve prawns on top of rice and garnish with edamame mixture.

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