Four restaurants discuss their most popular items and what makes them hot spots for Valentines.
It’s no secret that Longboat Key and St. Armands Circle are home to some flavorful restaurants.
So in honor of Valentine’s Day, the Longboat Observer talked with local restaurateurs about their special menus and most popular dishes that pop up over the holidays.
While most of these establishments are running low or are completely out of reservations for Valentine’s Day, some of these dishes are offered all the time or on other special occasions.
Regardless, the menus should offer some inspiration next time date night rolls around and a drive to downtown Sarasota seems daunting.
The Lazy Lobster
This year, on Valentine’s Day, the restaurant will serve three specials — Filet “Oscar,” Baked Stuffed Shrimp and Ginger Teriyaki Pork Chop.
Filet “Oscar” starts with a char-grilled 7-ounce filet that is topped with 4 ounces of lump crab meat poached with butter. On top, a béarnaise sauce, which is a hollandaise sauce mixed with a red wine tarragon reduction, finishes off the dish. On the side are roasted garlic mashed potatoes and oven-roasted asparagus topped with garlic and shallots.
The second special is baked stuffed shrimp, which will include nine Gulf jumbo, butterflied shrimp filled with the house crab cake recipe. The shrimp are baked and come served with Creole rice and the customer’s choice of vegetable, all with a lemon-garlic cream sauce.
Third, is the ginger Teriyaki pork chop. Eight- to 10-ounce cuts sit in the ginger and Teriyaki marinade overnight then are char-grilled and served with a choice of vegetable and roasted-garlic mashed potatoes. Chef Christofer Reed saves some of the marinade to use as a glaze.
“The marinade really caramelizes the pork chop,” he said. “It really puts some color and flavor in it. It’s one of my favorite dishes.”
From the menu, Reed recommends the crab cakes, swordfish Delaney, which is pan-seared with garlic and bleu cheese, and the Creole shrimp and grits.
Restaurant co-proprietor Michael Garey recommends making reservations at least three weeks in advance for holidays.
Tommy Bahama Restaurant
For those daring enough to leave the island, Tommy Bahama Restaurant is also offering a special Valentine’s Day menu that includes Surf & Turf with a 14-ounce New York strip steak, garlic shrimp, potatoes au gratin and asparagus with a béarnaise sauce.
A charcuterie board will be available for an appetizer and for dessert there will be a triple chocolate cake and a peanut butter pie.
Each table will receive an amuse bouche from the chef, which is a lavender sea salt and rose petal-crusted goat cheese appetizer.
Off the special menu, and available any time, Julie Cortez recommends the parmesan-crusted Sanibel chicken with the malted chocolate pie for dessert.
The chicken is stuffed with an herb blend and topped with a red pepper cream sauce. On the side are cauliflower-potato mash and broccolini.
The malted chocolate pie is made of house chocolate ganache, encrusted with Oreo crumbs and then topped with chocolate mousse and Heath bar crunch.
Cortez recommends trying the restaurant’s signature mai tai. Complete with Flor de Caña 4 Year, orgeat, orange curacao, lemon, lime and pineapple and a dark rum float, the drink is offered frozen or on the rocks.
Cortez said the restaurants offers plenty of seating variety so couples can have privacy or be more in the middle of the action.
“I honestly think you can’t beat the location, but I think because we’re a completely scratch kitchen ... I think we take it up a notch,” she said.
Valentine’s Day is one of the two busiest nights at Euphemia Haye along with New Year’s Eve, Chef Ray Arpke said.
“Valentine’s Day is the official kickoff to season here,” he said.
The special for the night is a roasted rack of veal topped with a wild mushroom sauce and roasted root vegetables and a truffle oil potato on the side.
But aside from that, Arpke said popular items that are often ordered on special occasions are filets and the pepper steak dish.
The pepper steak is a la carte, but the filet comes with a potato pancake and roasted shallots and grilled mushrooms. Along with the pepper steak, the roasted duckling is one of the restaurant’s signature dishes that Arpke anticipates to be popular year round.
Arpke recommends those dining pair their dishes with a bottle of wine, especially those dining there on Valentine’s Day as there is a $125 minimum per person.
Right now, the most popular wines are a red blend from The Prisoner Wine Co. in California and a white Burgundy wine. Arpke said Champagne is also a popular pick.
“Champagne is more popular on Valentine’s Day than it is on New Year’s Eve,” he said.
The dessert menu includes the fan-favorite triple berry glaze pie, and in addition, Arpke will stick with a red theme and serve red velvet cake. If time allows, Arpke has his sights on making a cream puff swan cake with a raspberry mousse center.
Arpke recommends making reservations at least a week in advance for holidays and weekends and about four to five days in advance for week days.
Viento Kitchen and Bar
For this Valentine’s Day, Viento is featuring a special menu in addition its regular choices.
On the special menu are three starters, four entrees and two desserts.
The starters include lobster bisque, a crab wedge salad and beet ravioli salad. Executive Chef Jeremy White said for the ravioli, the beets themselves will be turned into the raviolis.
The main dishes are veal piccata, which will come with a pan-seared veal chop, herb-ed angel hair pasta, grilled asparagus and a caper lemon butter sauce. A 12-ounce wagyu strip steak with edamame, roasted carrots and a baked potato is the second option.
Third is a lobster and crab duo for two that comes with two lobster tails, two crab legs that White estimates are about a pound a half each, parsley buttered potatoes and broccolini.
Scallops is the other main dish, and that will come with diver scallops, baby mushrooms, smoked bacon lardons, asparagus and a butter-braised leek cream sauce.
On the regular menu, White expects the espresso-rubbed ribeye, which comes with roasted fingerling potatoes, grilled asparagus and cocoa demi, to be a popular item.
White recommends reservations for any occasion be made a few days in advance. While the restaurant is within Zota Beach Resort, Viento is open to the public.
“We don’t want it to become just a destination restaurant,” he said. “We want to try to gain people from Bradenton and Sarasota because that’s what keeps us going. We want to try to become one of the better restaurants on Longboat Key.”