So, this is a lengthy review -- the short version is: located really far from either Sarasota or Bradenton proper. Lovely location and decor, fabulous food, OK service, bring your platinum card.
Bistro at the Concession
This is, I understand, the Sarasota outpost of the Beach Bistro, the acclaimed restaurant on Anna Maria—so of course, we went!
Well, it’s in a lovely country club setting that doesn’t yet have a lot of houses. But the ones that are there are big. Fabulous landscaping, large magnolias—nice setting, located beyond the end of University Parkway.
The Clubhouse was restrained and elegant, with great finishes and fussy chandeliers. There was a Bar/Grill room adjacent to the Bistro Dining Room, which was clubby, tasteful, and surprisingly small. There was also a patio through double doors, complete with a fireplace for those chilly nights. A charming pianist contributed perfect background standards to round out the experience.
We were there on a Friday evening just as the season was winding down. All said, we were there for a long time—over 2 hours. There were a total of 5 tables occupied that night with groups from 2 to 8 in size.
The entrance was at one end of the main building—not an intuitive location, but a “local” led us and gave directions on the way. We were greeted by a waiter, who gestured us to a table; menus followed. Our initial server made wine recommendations and let us sample 2 wines by the glass to select one as we perused the menu. The wine list was quite varied, with some rarely seen options. It offered good selections in all price ranges.
On the menu, they had a list of “smaller plates” which also worked as large appetizers, as well as the regular first course and entrée menu.
Must say, the food was really excellent. Amuse was a tomato soup with a sprinkle of Maytag blue cheese -- it was one of the apps that had tempted us on the menu, and when we spotted it going to another table in an aperitif glass we opted to try it as amuse bouche and try another appetizer. It was cream based, a light coral orange, rich but good—an entire bowl might have been too heavy for a first course.
The shrimp cocktail was excellent, 5 large herb-marinated shrimp served hooked on the rim of a thick martini style glass. The spicy mango dipping sauce was inspired, tangy but not too hot; a regular cocktail sauce was also served.
The strawberry salad was a generous pile of quartered strawberries with greens, sliced almonds and a balsamic reduction, artfully drizzled on the plate. The presentation was OK but not exceptional—great taste, just no panache.
The pork tenderloin was outstanding – brined, grilled with an amazingly tender and near-totally rare center, served as medallions—a very generous portion. The “Floribbean Grouper” was also very good—thick, crusted with coconut and cashew, tender and moist. There were, in fact, 2 grouper preparations, and you could get a “small plate” for $27, or regular size for $39. The small portion, with the mashed Yukon gold potatoes and over-grilled pencil asparagus, was quite ample.
The big gap was in the service. This qualifies as one of the more expensive restaurants in the Sarasota area (think entrees, $25 chicken to $49 rack of lamb) and the service was pleasant but not outstanding. It was nice, and we were addressed pleasantly, but there were several people involved and service wasn’t always coordinated.
Most disconcertingly, we watched as tables were cleared by stacking and balancing empty plates and cutlery three-and four-high in a server’s arms; wine glasses carried by the fistful. It felt more diner than divine. We waited more than 10 minutes to have finished plates removed, and repeatedly had staff move by our table with no eye contact and no move to clear. The service did not have the unobtrusively attentive, civilized, genteel feel of a top-rated restaurant. The staff was gracious and personable overall, and that was very nice—attitude counts.
All in all it was a good evening. I might visit again, but it would need to be a really special occasion to drive that far into the hinterlands for an investment dinner.
Bistro at the Concession 7700 Lindrick Lane Bradenton, FL 34202 (941) 907-0511