High-Tech Heaven at Carmel café
Carmel Café & Wine Bar near University Parkway and I-75 is high-concept and high-tech. Printed menus may be had upon request, but the default is an iPad customized for Carmel Café that allows you not only to select photo-illustrated beverages and food but to place your order wirelessly. You can settle the bill the same way and opt to have your receipt waiting in your email inbox when you get home.
Like the interior design, this digital approach is both snazzy and fun, the idea being that you order what you want, either from the bar or the kitchen, when you're ready for it and it comes out as soon as it is ready for you, allowing you to time service to your own pace rather than the kitchen's. Given the small-plates format and the extensive by-the-glass wine list, this works well.
The drill allows one iPad for every two diners, which is intended to foster a spirit of sharing and conviviality. Being decidedly old school, I'd prefer to have my own menu, but Colette, whose iPad is her constant companion, had no quibble with the setup. Like the many younger diners present, this new regime came naturally to her.
The kitchen's emphasis also is squarely on choices and customization, the iPad offering previews. with suggested wine pairings, of a very wide range of finger foods, starters, salads, topped flatbreads and large and small plates featuring veggies, seafood and meats, as well as a number of a la carte sides and several desserts. Even "large" plates are available in two sizes to fit your appetite. We like this approach a lot.
We sampled widely and found all the dishes we ordered competently turned out and speedily delivered to our table. Our choices: smoked bacon and artichoke flatbread with provolone and sundried tomato paste ($7.89); light little logs of formed chickpea fries ($4.99); a pair of grilled lamb and veal sliders with mint-cucumber sauce ($7.99); a pretty small plate of three seared sea scallops ($12.79 small, $19.99 large); a small plate of four-cheese pasta "satchels" stuffed with ricotta, mozzarella, Parmesan and Pecorino Romano ($7.99 small, $10.99 large); and the smaller portion of Moroccan lemon chicken, a grilled, skinless and boneless half breast with pine nuts, saffron, olives, lemon and quinoa couscous ($9.79 small, $12.99 large). For dessert we enjoyed grilled pound cake with strawberries and a luscious chocolate lava cake (each $5.79).
Choice is also key to wine selections, most coming in three-, six- and nine-ounce pours or by the bottle. Nice!
Carmel Café & Wine Bar
8433 Cooper Creek Blvd. in the Shoppes at University Center, Sarasota
Phone: (941) 893-5955
Hours: Lunch 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday; dinner 5-10 p.m. Monday-Thursday, until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday; brunch
11:30 a.m.- 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Cards: All Major
Parking: Ample in lot
Handicapped accessible: Yes