Owner/chef Tommy Klauber has made Pattigeorge's not only a Sarasota institution, but a gathering place for the area's young and restless, with fun special events (including interactive dinners where the guests take a turn at tableside cooking) and a menu with plenty of small-plate foods for nibbling and sharing over fancy cocktails and gossip. They can even bring their children, since the kitchen will make pizzas and pasta dishes, and kids are encouraged to create their own artwork on the butcher paper that cloaks the white tablecloths.
Finicky gourmands generate no anxiety for Klauber, since he shares their love for exciting, exotic foods. Eight years ago this month, Klauber opened his restaurant; soon after, he married Jaymie Barrie, who's now restaurant manager and also runs Fête, the boutique catering division of Pattigeorge's.
From the outside, Pattigeorge's resembles a rambling mellow-yellow two-story summer cottage, promising comfort and coastal ambiance. The inside delivers with a pared-down modern Crate-&-Barrel kind of attitude and handsome bistro furniture.
Besides the sun porch area, you can eat in the main dining room, and there are a few high tables near the entrance. The floor plan is open and airy with plenty of natural light.
I like Pattigeorge's menu, which Klauber defines as coastal cuisine. This is a place to enjoy a genuine culinary thrill ride: things like wok-charred yellowfin tuna with an orange-tamarind glaze, or Thai green curry mussels.
On a recent visit I opted for a Mediterranean-Asian fusion concoction called Palermo pad Thai ($24.95). It consisted of fettuccine noodles, chicken shrimp and vegetables such as zucchini in a spicy tamarind-peanut sauce. Although some of the ingredients were from an Italian kitchen, the dish tasted decidedly Thai and was full of layered flavors, some of them quite sharp.
My dinner partner was grazing in another country. He selected the paella Valencia, the traditional recipe of saffron rice with seafood and meats with the addition of shiitake mushrooms. Totally toothsome at $27.95. Our appetizer was pork and prawn dim sum, and for dessert we shared a chocolate pear tart ($8). The pear slices had been poached in zinfandel and would have been delicious alone, although the chocolate added another dimension.
Other options from diverse cultures include Myakka Ranch beefsteak, New Zealand lamb, Bahamian lobster tails, Madras curry, Vietnamese rolls or five-spice calamari with orange blossom honey in the dipping sauce. The menu changes seasonally and mirrors Klauber's wide-ranging interests.
The appetizers, about eight in all, average $10 and can be shared. Then there are three stir-fry offerings, several pizzas, half a dozen salads, and almost a dozen large plates that average $27. Additionally, there are eight sides (chef calls them accessories), such as white truffle-Parmesan fries, grilled asparagus or coconut jasmine rice. All are about $6.75. There's also a stir-fry that's strictly vegetarian. Desserts are on a separate menu and tease with selections from simple banana bread pudding to fancy tarts and extra-rich chocolate ganache.
The bar offers an impressive range of beers and cocktails, and a separate wine list is brought to the table along with your menu and a basket of fresh, warm, chewy bread and a bowl of olive oil-based dipping sauce. With so many Asian-inspired dishes offered, I looked in vain for an Alsatian Riesling or even an un-oaked French Chablis. Instead, I chose a beer, and it worked just fine.
Dinner at Pattigeorge's is a satisfying experience from bread to bonbons. Chef Klauber knows how to run a quality restaurant, and how to compose a food experience for guests that will leave them talking about the meal and wanting to take the menu as a souvenir.
4120 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key
Dinner: nightly from 6 to 9:30 p.m.