The Background: Chef and owner Diana Durand opened Canta Rana in December 2011 after more than seven months of renovations. To make the historic Fruitville Road house into a vibrant restaurant, Durand moved the kitchen, creating a private room for receptions, events and business lunches. Using vivid colors, a beautiful mural by local artist Yulner Diaz Amaro and modern chandeliers, Durand created a series of intimate seating areas as well as a lush backyard that is perfect for meals with friends or date nights as well as parties and Sunday morning brunches.
The Menu: Durand creates the seasonally-changing menu from a book of more than 2,000 recipes that have been handed down through her family for many generations. Durand came to Sarasota from the town of Piura in Northern Peru, where her family has been in the gastronomy business for generations with family operations including a restaurant and catering company. In Peru, Durand explained, different cultures have been fusing their recipes with the seasonings and flavors traditional to Peru since colonial times. The recipes that Durand shares from her cultural and family history are full of flavor and character and are always amazingly fresh. The entrée section of the menu is split into cultural combinations including fusions from Italy, Puerto Rico, Spain and China. Between the cultural blends and the clearly-marked vegan and gluten-free options, there is a fresh and flavorful meal for everyone.
What’s New: In the past month Canta Rana has updated their menu to reflect the freshest ingredients available this season. Customer favorites are still on the menu and are now joined by some of Durand's seasonal favorites. Canta Rana has also successfully completed the liquor licensing process. You can now enjoy classic liquor drinks such as the Cuba Libre, Pisco Sour and the heavenly Coquito. Canta Rana also offers a selection of wine and beer including Cusqueña, Peru’s most popular beer.
What to Get: The Canta Rana experience starts with Peruvian corn dipped in aji huacatay and aji rocoto sauces. The huacatay has enough of a spice to surprise yet delight, while the red rocoto is a dream for lovers of picante sauces. Each meal at Canta Rana is made fresh to order and completely from scratch from the freshest ingredients. I loved the arroz chaufa, the traditional Peruvian fried rice with perfectly-cooked chicken, as well as the aji de gallina, shredded chicken breast in a creamy homemade aji amarillo sauce served over potatoes and white rice. While the entrée in itself is plenty of food, you will surely be pleased if you make room for plantains or yucca fries with homemade, finger-licking good huancaina dipping sauce. For dessert, Durand's flan de coco is rumored to be just like a bit of heaven.
When to Go: Canta Rana serves both lunch and dinner with live music on Friday and Saturday nights. The ambiance is classy and warm. The inside seating lends itself to easy conversation and the outdoor dance floor is quickly becoming locally famous for epic nights of dancing.
Keep in Touch: Canta Rana has an extensive website that includes their lunch and dinner menus, coupons, information on special events and an option to make reservations online.