When he was a young man growing up Germany, Viktor Standor was entranced by a restaurant named Zwiwwel in an old house just outside of Heidelberg, “Zwiwwel” being the German diminutive for “onion.” It was the beginning of his dream to someday own such a place, a dream that is coming true here and now; chef Standor and his wife, Natalie, recently opened their own Zwiwwel, also in an old house. The space recently was occupied by Zaks, and the Z’s on the wrought-iron fence suggest that the Standors have found just the spot that they were meant to be.
Standor’s journey to Sarasota began with his three-year apprenticeship in Germany, which he did at the restaurant at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, then the best in Heidelberg. His path led him to be a sous chef at a Michelin star restaurant in Switzerland, then back to school to earn a master’s degree in hotel and business administration, and then back to the stove in San Antonio, Texas.
After returning to Germany to plan, save and organize, the Standors came to Florida to look for a site. They knew they wanted to be in Florida without ever having seen the state. According to Valeria Standor, they lost their hearts in Sarasota on their first visit. Their feasibility study indicated this was a growing market with the right clientele for the high-quality, fine-dining establishment they dreamed of, and when they found the old house, they knew instantly that they were at home.
The food at Zwiwwel is unique in Sarasota (and, one suspects, anywhere). It is the chef/proprietor’s personal and contemporary interpretation of German classics that both honors the intent and integrity of the traditional dishes and makes the experience of eating them completely new and different.
For example, Berliner Kartoffelsuppe or Berlin’s potato soup is here served with the hot soup poured over a scoop of salmon “ice cream,” reportedly much to the delight of diners. Another example is Matjes herring filet, presented with a mayonnaise-beet mousse, cumin bread chips and celery-apple salad — the classic ingredients in an entirely new presentation. There is a traditional sauerbraten and a lighter one, made with beef tenderloin. For vegetarians: Gemusestrudel with seasonal vegetables, feta cheese, pea and carrot puree and cucumber-lime ice cream. Even the side dishes receive special attention: the red cabbage that accompanies the beef rouladen is in three textures — the classic shreds, mouse and foam.
Zwiwwel’s Schwarzwalder Kirsch dessert epitomizes the transformation of classic to contemporary. What was traditionally a chocolate-cherry cake is now the same tastes in entirely different form: a disk of “almond glass,” which is crisp, almost transparent caramelized almonds, plus layers of dark chocolate mousse infused with marinated cherries and white chocolate mousse, all topped with a white chocolate covered cherry dusted with … real gold flakes. Also on the plate: red wine truffles and a colorful smear of raspberry powder.
The Standors spent four months fixing up the house before opening the restaurant, replacing virtually everything except the floors. They are presently shifting from their “soft opening” menu to a full dinner menu, and they expect to be offering lunch within a few weeks. First-course prices are from $10 to $12.50; entrées from $23 to $32; and desserts from $12.50 to $16. The multi-national wine list is mostly in the $30 to $50 range, including some German specialties in spectacularly beautiful bottles. There are four German beers on draft.
The little onion seems to be attracting a loyal following; in only a little more than a month, there are customers who have been there four times.
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- Zwiwwel closed without warning. we had reserved through OpenTable for 6 people for a birthday and arrived to find the gate padlocked! We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Mozaic instead.
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