Tsunami Samuel Ray Owner

Sam Ray was just trying to pay the rent during his junior year of college when he started serving at his favorite Japanese restaurant in town. Three weeks later, he was promoted to manager. But, as much as Ray loved his new job, the eatery was on the brink of closing.

“I had some ideas and a little bit of tip money, so I met with the owner and invested everything I had (personally and financially) into saving the restaurant in exchange for a small percentage of the business,” says Ray, who now co-owns Tsunami Sushi & Hibachi Grill in downtown Sarasota.

After some minor remodeling, menu changes and staff training, the restaurant’s sales increased by 200 percent in six months.

“I realized this was something I was truly passionate about and I definitely wanted more,” Ray says.

So did his customers. They began flocking to the restaurant for signature dishes like the King Lobster Roll, the Lobster Yakisoba and the Salmon Hibachi.

“Our chef has refined his technique in his 20 years of being in the kitchen. From our 32-ounce rib-eye that is grilled to perfection to the sushi-grade filet of salmon baked with a honey glaze, patrons have the opportunity to experience some less mainstream Japanese cuisine,” Ray says.

In Ray’s opinion, what makes Tsunami an “Original” restaurant is that the staff “strives to make every meal a celebration of the senses,” he says. “Our team works to ensure that every aspect of your visit is designed specifically to your individual tastes.”

Tsunami Sushi & Hibachi Grill100 Central Avenue #1022 | Sarasota | 941-366-1033 | www.tsunamisushisarasota.com

Author:  Abby Weingarten

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Duvals Josh Halbrucker Operating Partner Nils Tarantik Chef

The signature Fresh Catch at Duval’s is about as Gulf Coast as it gets.

At the revamped downtown Sarasota eatery, more than 40 varieties of fish from area waters are served annually, and patrons feel the satisfaction of knowing the origins of their seafood.

“When you dine here, you can be confident that there is always an outstanding piece of fresh fish available that was filleted in-house that day,” says Duval’s co-owner Josh Halbrucker, who has worked in the restaurant industry since age 15. “My favorite is the hognose snapper. The chef will typically do a very simple preparation of fresh, seasonal, sautéed vegetables and a light white wine butter sauce to complement the delicious, delicate sweetness of the hognose.”

This concept is precisely what makes Duval’s an “Original.” Halbrucker’s business partner, Nils Tarantik, is also the executive chef and “magic maker” in the kitchen. Together, they created the coastal chic concept that Main Street craved.

“Nils uses only the finest and freshest ingredients that he sources from local fisherman and farmers,” Halbrucker says. “We are the only restaurant in Sarasota that focuses on fresh local seafood.”

Lunch regulars return for the N’Awlins Style Po’ Boy with flash-fried seafood, napa cabbage, rajun- cajun remoulade and roma tomatoes on a fresh-baked baguette. Dinner is all about the fish filets. And the new full bar offers nautical cocktails to match the catches.

“As we tell our guests at the restaurant, ‘The only knife that touches the fish before yours is the chef’s,’” Halbrucker says. “Producing stunning, sophisticated seafood while working with high-quality shellfish and fresh fish is my passion.”

Duval’s: 1435 Main Street | Sarasota | 941-312-4001 | www.duvalsfreshlocalseafood.com

Author:  Abby Weingarten

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enRich Rich Knowles chef owner

Since he was a preschooler, Rich Knowles—the eldest of six siblings—was cooking for his family. He grew up fishing, hunting and serving up his catches. At 13, he was already bussing tables at a restaurant.

Today, he owns his own. As the restaurateur/executive chef of the 2014-opened enRich Bistro in Bradenton, Knowles elegantly whips up with Southern, Asian and Cuban delicacies.

“I am from a fifth-generation Bradenton family and I’ve always been passionate about food,” Knowles says. “For enRich, I collected a lot of ideas from steakhouses in Austin, restaurants in Montana and seafood places out on Anna Maria Island to create the menu.”

Knowles’ inspiration comes from his career experiences. In Montana, for example, he cooked under his mentor, chef Scott Mechura, at Timbers Restaurant and the Yellowstone Club. Knowles later moved to Austin, Texas, to help with the opening of Bob’s Steak & Chop House. Then he returned to Bradenton to launch his current venture.

His behind-the-scenes glimpse into the culinary world showed him the importance of using locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Knowles now buys his produce from Geraldson’s Farm Market and his sustainable seafood from A.P. Bell Fish Co. in Cortez. He even uses home-cultivated honey.

“I keep the ingredients as local as I possibly can, and that’s a big part of being an ‘Original,’ I think,” Knowles says, adding that regulars often request his Thai pork tacos, Cuban sandwiches and buttermilk-fried chicken. “I only want to serve the highest-quality ingredients. Also, I’m proud of my hometown and it’s important to me to showcase the products that are grown right here in our community.”

enRich Bistro | 5629 Manatee Ave. W., Bradenton | 941-792-0990 | enrichbistro.com

Author:  Abby Weingarten

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Local Dish Season 2C smallOrtygia Restaurant Gaetano Guy Cannata Chef Owner

Restaurateur Gaetano “Guy” Cannata of Ortygia turns to his childhood when brainstorming menu items.

He thinks about his Abruzzi-born mother and Sicilian father whenever he considers showcasing a new delicacy at his eatery in Bradenton’s Village of the Arts. So it was a natural move for him to do the same when choosing the dish for Forks & Corks 2016. His pick: sweet and savory stuffed baby bell peppers (the way his family used to make them, of course). It is a carefully guarded recipe.

“My mom and dad always made stuffed peppers for the family while I was growing up in my Italian neighborhood in New Jersey,” Cannata says. “Sicilians love vegetables and they love stuffing them. Name a vegetable and, if I haven't stuffed it before, I'll figure out how to do it!”

At Ortygia, the stuffed pepper underwent many revamps until it was perfected, Cannata says. Cannata needed to figure out how to make it totally vegetarian in such a way that even carnivores would order it. He even modified it to be gluten-free. Now it is the menu’s top seller.

“Some of the reasons I chose this dish for Forks & Corks is that, except for vegans, it is acceptable to almost everyone at the event,” he says. “Although I use a full-sized red bell pepper at the restaurant, the yellow, orange and red baby bells are the perfect size to give away for a sample. One or two bites and it’s gone.”

And the Forks & Corks feedback? Positive all the way around.

“I have been told by many of the event’s partakers that it is their favorite dish and that they look forward to it every year,” Cannata says. “Also, people who come by to sample usually say that they were told by others that this is one dish that should not be missed.”

Ortygia | 1418 13th St. W., Bradenton | 941-741-8646 | ortygiarestaurant.com

Author: Abby Weingarten

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drunken poet 9 12 smallDrunken Poet Café Thai SushiDrunken Poet new

One of Oy Punyahotra’s signature dishes at Drunken Poet Café, the Pad Thai Shrimp was just as popular at Forks & Corks 2016 as it is daily at her Sarasota eatery.

With its combination of fresh vegetables, herbs, noodles and seafood, it is a much-requested savory, spicy delight.

“Here’s a tip: Make your Pad Thai fresh to order. Don’t let it sit. The noodles will dry out and get sticky otherwise,” Punyahotra says. “Also, this national dish is even more flavorful with a squeeze of fresh lime.”

PAD THAI SHRIMP

Ingredients:
1 package rice noodles, soaked in water until soft
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup shrimp
1 scallion, chopped
1 radish, chopped
2 tablespoons ground, roasted peanuts
1 egg
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
 
For the pad Thai sauce:
1 cup tamarind
1 cup palm sugar
1 cup water

Method:
Heat the wok until it is very hot and add the oil. Pour in the egg, scramble it and add the shrimp. Cook the mixture for 2 minutes and set the shrimp aside. Put the noodles in the hot wok and stir until they are soft. To make the pad Thai sauce, mix together the three ingredients. Then, add the pad Thai sauce, radishes, peanuts and fish sauce to the original mixture. When the noodles are dry, turn off the heat, and add the bean sprouts and scallions. Serve with a fresh lime and a hot Thai chili.

Drunken Poet Café | 1572 Main St., Sarasota | 941-955-8404 | drunkenpoetsarasota.com

Author: Abby Weingarten

Photo Credit: www.dinesarasota.com

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