Date: February 5, 2014
by: June LeBell | Contributing Columnist


+ Pomona serves the Sarasota Orchestra
Pomona Bistro and Wine Bar has always been a foodie favorite but, now that they’ve added a full-service bar to their establishment, it’s become a beacon in Citrus Square. Located at 481 Orange Ave., this charming bistro, which feels more like an elegant home than a restaurant, is also a second home to musicians, especially those in the Sarasota Orchestra.

In fact, Arthur Lopes, one of the two proprietors with Ryan Boeve, has catered, both privately and in Pomona, many a great, relaxed but delicious dinner for several of the Sarasota Orchestra players. It’s a well-known fact that musicians are often associated with locusts, ravenous and rapacious when it comes to food. When great food is put in their path, watch out. A famished fiddler, clarinetist, flutist or percussionist seems to have a homing instinct for great eating establishments and, when they befriend a restaurateur like Lopes, they tend to move in, slide, bow and rosin.

Our experience a couple of weeks ago before a concert was like finding a new home. Small, cozy rooms filled with candlelight and crystal almost kept us from the music, but we managed to have a leisurely dinner and still get to the concert on time.

One of the things Lopes told us while we were having exceedingly dry martinis and snacking on a salad of tender romaine lettuce with quail egg, brioche and parmesan cheese, was that the restaurant’s new bar service is now offering specialty aperitifs called “$6 before 6.” Chris Braun, who has more than a dozen years’ experience as a bartender and cocktail composer, is now creating all sorts of specialty drinks. He loves “educating our guests, increasing their knowledge” and loves creating new concoctions that complement Pomona’s great food.

You don’t have to run to Zagat’s to find out about a restaurant. Just ask your local professional musician. You’ll get a mouthful.

+ JPan offers specialties in their houses and yours
Although it’s been there a while, we recently discovered JPan, one of the best restaurants around for fresh, inventive sushi. With two branches, one at 3800 S. Tamiami Trail, and the other at 8126 Lakewood Main St., you have a choice of venues. But in either place, you’ll find sparkling, fresh, delicious raw fish, sizzling teriyaki and crunchy tempura.

We tend to go to the Lakewood Ranch restaurant for convenience, and we’ve found some spectacularly tender white tuna sushi that simply melted in our mouths. The Dynamite Roll, with tuna, yellowtail, scallions and wasabi is spicy and hot, while the smoked salmon, avocado and cream cheese roll made a terrific, and different, dish for brunch.

I think what I like most about JPan, next to the food, of course, is the setting. The modern design of the restaurant gives it a sleek but comfortable atmosphere with extra cushions for your back and nicely spaced tables for quiet conversations.

However, if you prefer having an evening at home with all the comforts of great Japanese food, JPan offers delivery by phone (941-365-EATS) and online at DoorStepDelivery.com.

+ The Elixir of Tea
A new tea house has opened on Hillview, one of several restaurant rows in Sarasota, but Elixir is different.
Like some recently established coffee houses in the same neighborhood, Elixir is a place to hang out and enjoy local music while you’re sampling loose teas that are brewed to your specification. There are “orthodox” black and green teas. But, if you like tangy, unusual flavors, there are also leaves like apricot, chocolate truffles and orange cookie black teas, along with Cranberry rose, Japanese cherry and something called “Red Riding Hood” white teas, not to mention white, decaffeinated and flavored fruit blends.

If that’s not enough to whet your appetite for a Cup-a, there are “Wellness Herb Teas” such as Feng Shui, and even tea cocktails: ice tea punch and piña colada.

Of course, most of us think sweet when we think it’s tea time, and Elixir offers a bevy of pastries from cocoa croissants to raisin rolls. For those who prefer their brews in different categories, there are also numerous choices from espresso and cappuccino to hot chocolates and even a slurpy, molten chocolate fondue.

Elixir is the brainchild of Gyula, a Hungarian who knows what a tea (or coffee house) should be. He, his wife and a few of the other employees are new to the U.S. and they seem to love what they’re doing on Hillview. It’s that love that makes their tea house extra special.

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