Polo Grill & Bar in Lakewood Ranch has had some work done. The facelift has brought a cozier feel to a dining room that originally might best be described as cavernous. A newly walled-off private dining room has turned one big room into two and banquettes have been added at strategic junctures to break up the space and provide more intimate dining options.
The menu has been retooled, too. In the most telling change, one of its two pages is now devoted to Polo Fit, owner Tommy Klauber’s collection of healthy dishes reflecting the “clean eating lifestyle” that fuels his efforts as a triathlete and Ironman competitor.
Topping that list is a starter called Tommy K’s minced chicken and lettuce cups, which is exactly what you’d expect from the name, a house specialty imported from Klauber’s Pattigeorge’s Restaurant on Longboat Key. A little further down is the starter Colette chose on our recent visit, a baby beet salad ($5.50) embellished with radishes, apples, walnuts, arugula and locally sourced goat cheese. Good for you, certainly, but what’s more important is that it was a fresh and delicious blend of lively flavors, just right as a first course.
The second page of the menu is considerably more traditional, with a strong emphasis on high-quality meats and fresh fish. Again, there are starters imported from Pattigeorge’s, notably the tuna tartare wontons that we’ve enjoyed often, and hoisin duck spring rolls. On this occasion I chose something new, a “frito mixto” (mixed fry) of shrimp, tiny bay scallops and calamari ($8) with a side of Chianti marinara for dipping. It sounded like a fine idea and that proved to be the case, everything lightly battered and fried up crisp.
A trio of sliders—banh mi, Moroccan lamb and beef—tempted us, but we decided the combo really would make a better bar nosh than an appetizer, and we agreed we’d put that to the test next time.
Another temptation resisted—but just barely—was the Rosas Farms organic cheeseburger, which drew aahs and triggered a flurry of smartphone photography when the behemoth was delivered to an adjacent table. It is served on a pretzel bun, which caused me to wonder briefly when pretzel breads, suddenly everywhere, had taken over the world. We added the burger to our future bar chow list.
Colette failed to resist the herb-crusted Australian rack of lamb ($32) and was very happy with that decision. The superior lamb came to table exactly at the medium rare she had specified and spiked with a nicely balanced rosemary pan sauce. Rosemary, the pretzel bun of the herb world, can be overpowering, but not so here. Gratin potatoes and mixed veggies came along for the ride.
I chose a heavenly 16-ounce bone-in ribeye ($29) and was impressed both with the quality of the beef and with the expert seasoning and grilling. I have seldom encountered a ribeye, my favorite cut, so savory. The accompanying steak fries, which too often elsewhere prove to be big tasteless slabs of starch, were as good as the steak. A side of Myakka Ranch barbecue sauce for dipping was pretty good, but the meat really needed no embellishment.
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This article appears in our January 2014 issue. Like what you read? Click here to subscribe. >>