(2008) Polo Grill and Bar, chef Tommy Klauber’s latest venture, has moved into the space briefly occupied by the ill-fated Fred’s at Lakewood Ranch. Despite a wait staff that’s stretched a bit thin, Polo Grill is up and running and full of promise.
The main dining room looks much as it did in the space’s previous incarnation: the open kitchen at the back, the glass-walled wine room, well-spaced tables and those quirky, colorful light fixtures. The noise level can rise when the big, high-ceilinged room is full, but the hubbub is convivial, lending the place a pleasant buzz. The bar on the other side of the wine room seems a pretty cheerful place, too. And there are plenty of outdoor tables for fine weather.
The menu can best be described as American bistro in style. Starters run from down-home mini blue crab cakes to Gaucho beef empanadas. The dinner menu spans cultures as well, with Brick House chicken marinated in lemongrass and soy sharing the list with a honking big grilled rib eye accompanied by white truffle Parmesan frites. And I’m pleased to report that the menu offers several tempting sandwiches, too, in case that’s the mood you’re in. It’s always good to have choices.
Colette and I began our evening at table with two winners from the starters list. She chose spicy shrimp rolls ($10), asserted by the rice vinegar-based Vietnamese dipping sauce called nuoc cham and cooled by fresh cucumber and shredded carrot. I went for tuna tartar wonton tacos ($13), crisp little cradles for diced, marinated sashimi-grade fish topped with sakimole, a wonderful twist on guacamole featuring avocado, lemon and lime juice, cilantro and…sake! This recommended first course is an import from Pattigeorge’s on Longboat Key, another Klauber restaurant.
We decided to go the wine-by-the-glass route with both appetizers and main course, Colette choosing first a French sparkler from the varied and well-priced list and then switching to a California zinfandel for the main course. I chose a light, dry German Riesling and stuck with it.
Colette is a fan of osso buco, so she opted for Klauber’s variation on a theme, which stars smoky, fall-off-the-bone, ancho-coffee braised short ribs in place of the traditional veal shanks ($26). Creamy mascarpone polenta was the perfect side dish.
I’m a sucker for scallops ($24) and was delighted to find the pan-roasted beauties with a brown sugar cure at Polo Grill as sweet, tender and firm as anyone could want. The wild mushroom risotto that came along for the ride was just right, too.
Polo Grill and Bar
10670 Boardwalk Loop (just off Main Street), Lakewood Ranch
Lunch 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Saturday; dinner 5-10 p.m. seven days; brunch 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Sunday
V, MC, AMEX, Discover, Diners Club
Full bar and wine list, many by the glass
Ample lot parking