Food & Wine: Hyde Park Steakhouse & JPAN Restaurant

By: John Bancroft

Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse in downtown Sarasota is a practitioner of the art of team service. Our team of waiters on a recent visit constituted a comedy duo, but that detracted not one iota from their thorough knowledge of the menu and wine list, nor did the entertainment undermine alert and attentive service. We were […]


Tangy Blue Point oysters.Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse in downtown Sarasota is a practitioner of the art of team service. Our team of waiters on a recent visit constituted a comedy duo, but that detracted not one iota from their thorough knowledge of the menu and wine list, nor did the entertainment undermine alert and attentive service.

We were seated, at our request, in the comfortably clubby main dining room in a slightly elevated booth that maximized people-watching opportunities. There are smaller side dining rooms and they’re cozy, but the big room, lorded over by a pair of monumentally voluptuous overhead light fixtures, is our first choice. The bar is quite inviting, too, and serves an excellent menu of light bites and admirable martinis. Two happy hours on weekdays, early and late, constitute a double-barreled bargain.

We started with a couple of beautifully dry Grey Goose martinis ($11 each), hers with blue cheese stuffed olives and mine with the old-fashioned pimiento stuffed variety. For appetizers, Colette chose a quartet of the day’s oysters on the half shell ($10.50), while I opted for a bountiful steakhouse chopped salad ($8). The oysters were fresh and tangy fat Blue Points accompanied by a cocktail sauce enlivened with freshly shaved horseradish. The tasty salad tossed fresh greens, cheddar, hearts of palm, bacon tidbits, cuke, tomato and red onion in a creamy vinaigrette and was more than I could possibly manage.

This is a good place to note that servings of everything here are more than generous, so be sure to accurately gauge your appetite or be prepared to take home the fixings for a delicious day-
after lunch.

At left, the perfect martini; below, the main event.The steaks come a la carte, but there’s a fine selection of sides on offer, most hovering in the $8 range and all enough to share. We were tempted by the potatoes gratin with Gruyère and the creamed spinach, which we had enjoyed on an earlier visit, but went instead for our all-time fave hash brown potatoes ($7.90) and a special that day, a yummy creamed corn with bacon and scallions ($8). The hash browns have changed a bit since opening day and now come in two crispy pancakes instead of one huge one, but thankfully they are still topped with sour cream and caramelized onions. What a treat!

For the main event Colette plumped for the 18-ounce Kansas City bone-in strip steak ($37), a delicious monster grilled to a perfect medium rare. It was gorgeous on its own, but Colette gilded the lily with a side of creamy Bèarnaise ($3) and was glad she did. I’m a fan of ribeye and so chose the 16-ounce wet-aged steak from the standing menu ($42), although on that day a dry-aged version also was available for a premium of about $10. At our waiter’s suggestion, I ordered my medium-rare steak in a prep featuring roasted garlic cloves, garlic butter and sautèed mushrooms, which was powerfully good. In both cases the meat itself was exceptional and the embellishments well-thought-out complements.

We had to laugh when asked if we would like dessert, groaning as we were in carnivorous satiety.

And then there’s the wine list, which must be a stunner at a prime steakhouse at this price point. Hyde Park’s measures up, offering an excellent range of wines both modest and killer by the bottle and 40 selections by the glass. We chose a great steak wine, a Joel Gott Zinfandel from California ($45), and loved it.

Steakhouse chic at Hyde Park.The Verdict
Aged steaks and chops star on an unabashedly traditional menu in this clubby downtown showplace. Cocktails and wines keep pace nicely, yielding satisfying evenings for the carnivores among us.

 

Hyde Park Prime Steakhouse
35 S. Lemon Ave., Sarasota
Reservations: (941) 366-7788
Hours: Dinner 5-9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday, until 9 p.m. Sunday; bar opens at 4 p.m. daily
Cards: All Major
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Parking: Complimentary valet or on street

 

 

Sushi Stars at JPAN

For some sushi hounds, sushi means “give me the composed rolls and you can have the nigiri sushi [a lozenge of sticky rice draped with a piece of raw or cooked fish] and the sashimi [skip the rice].” At JPAN on Sarasota’s South Trail, both tastes are amply rewarded.

The design of this little jewel of a restaurant is spare and clean. The prices are remarkably modest for such high-quality fare and service, which begins with a smile and a hot towel and is super friendly and attentive. You’ll feel like a regular even on your first visit.

Although we started with a sampler of hot appetizers ($7) and enjoyed the shrimp and veggie tempura, the pork pot stickers and the fried spring rolls, our mouths were set and watering for sushi.

That portion of a varied menu of Japanese favorites is wonderfully abundant, with 22 tasty fish bites available as nigiri or sashimi and an amazing 34 JPAN specialty rolls, plus 14 rolls described as traditional and a handful of vegetarian rolls for good measure. Counting is not usually part of our critical approach, but you need to know that at JPAN there truly are many choices for every taste. It’s a big part of the restaurant’s considerable charm.

We chose four favorites from the sushi list (two pieces per order), although we could have opted for three pieces of sashimi at the same price. Most of these delectables are priced in the $4 to $5 range, with the top end being uni (sea urchin) at $7. Fortunately for our pocketbook, sea urchin has always been too exotic for our taste. On the other hand, we adored the unagi (smoked eel), the little seaweed boats of massago (smelt roe), the escolar (also known as white tuna) and the hamachi (yellow tail) that we ordered. Every bite was perfection and as pretty as can be.

From the specialty rolls list we chose a red diamond roll ($9), which wrapped sticky sushi rice around a superb filling of spicy tuna, kani (crab), cucumber and scallops and garnished the whole with a dusting of red tobiko (flying fish roe). This roll is a stunner and not to be missed. We also sampled and very much liked the playfully named Godzilla roll ($11), this one also featuring spicy tuna but combining it with cooked asparagus, smoked eel and avocado. Appropriately, where the red diamond roll is delicate and a bit shy, the Godzilla roll is robust and in your face. Two different approaches, same happy result.

We accompanied our sushi with a clean and citrusy Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand’s fabulous Marlborough region, bargain-priced at $24.

For fun, we treated ourselves to bowls of palate-cleansing green tea ice cream ($3) before strolling to our car eminently satisfied but not even remotely overstuffed.

 

JPAN Restaurant
3800 S. Tamiami Trail (in Paradise Plaza), Sarasota
Phone: (941) 954-5726
Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday-Friday, dinner 5- 9:30 p.m. Monday-Thursday, until 10 p.m. Friday-Saturday
Cards: All Major
Handicapped accessible: Yes
Parking: Ample in lot

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