Darwin Santa Maria scores with Malabar and Tommy Bahama’s just gets better.
By Judi Gallagher
Just off the “Recipe for Happiness” event for Meals on Wheels Plus, which was an absolute HUGE success, (thanks to all the sponsors, volunteers and speakers), I couldn’t wait to be back on the blog scene with the latest, scrumptious details of our food world. And the world is all the tastier lately with these great additions.
Malabar, the new brainchild of chef Darwin Santa Maria and his wife, opened last week in the former California Bistro space on Ringling downtown. (open Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m). Darwin has long been a chef favorite of mine and almost all of Sarasota, and now his creative style of Peruvian cooking has taken a casual style with “create your own salads,” starting at $6.95.
Choose from an enormous selection of fresh ingredients like avocado, Chinese noodles, sweet plantains, white beans and grilled asparagus. Add on proteins from $1 extra for egg whites to $2 for quinoa crispy chicken to $3 for tender grilled steak. Passionfruit dressing, pomegranate vinaigrette, tomato mojo dressing and about a dozen more top off the choices. Sandwiches like the Lechon—juicy pork, lettuce, mayo and criolla sauce—and Apanado A Lo Pobre, crispy chicken with lettuce, tomato, fried eggs, plantain and criolla salsa, will make you sing for joy. Most of all though, I am glad to see that Darwin is still at the helm of the Selva Grill: we had a fabulous meal the other night of porcini ravioli with duck confit and his new wok stir-fried steak with tomatoes and onions. (The steak with foie gras butter is still my favorite, though.)
Another favorite, Tommy Bahama's, just keeps getting better and more innovative. The addition of a new corporate chef has brought Tommy’s to a greater level of flavor, and the service continues to be impressive and friendly without overbearing. Since roast chicken is my favorite comfort food, I ordered that with zest, while hubby snuggled up to the new scallop sliders. An order of tuna tartar started the feasting and we were off! The meal was amazing from the bread down to the sauce with the roasted chicken and baby squash. Make sure you order a side of the broccolini with lemon, and, if you go for the scallop sliders (and I must insist that you do), two is plenty! Best of all, Tommy Bahama’s longtime manager, Thai, makes each visit “the best” in hospitality. And in case you are wondering why we didn’t finish with the awesome piña colada cake—well, Debbie Appleseed left her famed Dutch apple pie on my doorstep that day! Oh, happy days…
The best restaurant manager in town, Thai at Tommy Bahama's.