Date: December 5, 2012
by: June LeBell | Contributing columnist



+ LWR celebrates the holidays
Do I hear little hooves and jingling bells coming from Lakewood Ranch? Yes. The Polo Bar and Grill, at 10670 Boardwalk Loop, on LWR’s Main Street is getting ready for the holidays with a trio of culinary events that will please everyone from grandma to grand-princess: From 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 22, its offering a “Breakfast with Santa” at prices so reasonable (adults: $15, children 12 and under: $10, children under 4: free), Santa, himself, may show up. From noon to 5 p.m. Christmas Day there’s an extraordinary buffet ($35). And the restaurant even planned a “Rockin’ New Year’s Eve Party” that includes a four-course dinner, glass of champagne, live entertainment, dancing and all the NYE fixings from noisemakers to hats for the special countdown for just $70 per person.

Suggestion: One of our favorite ways to spend New Year’s Eve when we were still living in New York City was to go to a movie and then either have a quiet dinner at home or go to a local restaurant for a late supper. Remember, Lakewood Ranch has that great multi-plex movie house, Lakewood Ranch Cinemas, and it’s just walking distance from The Polo Grill and a bevy of other fine and diverse restaurants.

+ In Venice, Kumo Japanese Steakhouse opens
Down to the south in Venice, a brand-new eatery has just opened its doors: The Kumo Japanese Steakhouse and Sushi Restaurant at 1657 U.S. Highway 41 Bypass. You’ve probably encountered this group of restaurants in other locations. They’re owned by Sam Chen and Lily Ren, but this new Venice site is enormous. It seats 250 people in an ample 6,000 square feet that includes a full-service bar, hibachi chefs, table-side cooking, noodle bowls, tempura creations, bento-boxes and my favorite, sparkling fresh sushi and sashimi. Oh, there’s a branch up in Lakewood Ranch, too, in case that one’s more convenient.

+ Libby’s continues its tradition of excellence
Between Venice and Lakewood Ranch is Libby’s Cafe + Bar, the excellent all-around restaurant that’s great for everything from lunch and brunch, to romantic evenings and parties. And Libby’s Café + Bar has a great winter menu that’s combining its innovative small plates (Kobe meatloaf sliders, incredible “sandwich filled eggrolls” and “double dragon seafood flash fry”) with what it calls “large plates,” but are really humongous portions of everything from prime pork chateaubriand with bacon and cheddar grits, to the new blackened jumbo shrimp with blue crab-red bean gumbo. Libby’s, at 1917 S. Osprey Ave., is in the always-hopping Southside Village, right across from Morton’s Market, whose parking lot is available to Libby’s diners.
Speaking of parking lots, we’re waiting, expectantly, for the new restaurant to open on the ground floor of the downtown parking garage on Palm Avenue. Owned by the same people as Libby’s, we know of several major parties already booked for the space, but every time we walk past, all we see is scaffolding, windows covered with paper and a large empty space with nothing but electric stuff hanging from unfinished ceilings.

+ Another new place to eat
Sean Murphy, of the illustrious and luscious Beach Bistro on Anna Maria and the variously located Eat Here restaurants, has concluded his work out at The Concession Bistro which he says, “ … is in great shape and I’m leaving it in capable hands.” Murphy is off to his newest project, another Eat Here, this one on Siesta Key, just inside The Village.

+ The Bijou Cafe receives prestigious distinction
In case you hadn’t heard, The Bijou Café, one of Sarasota’s classic downtown restaurants, has been given a Fodor’s Choice 2012 Distinction Award. This designates Bijou as “a leader in its field for service, quality and value in 2012.” That means the iconic restaurant will receive special recognition in the upcoming Fodor’s guidebook to the Sarasota area and will also have a special listing and place of distinction at fodors.com.


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