The discriminating diners mecca

Michael’s on East • 1212 S. East Ave., Sarasota

Michael Klauber and Philip Mancini’s celebrated restaurant in Sarasota has been a mecca for discriminating diners for three decades. While styles and tastes have changed over the years, Michael’s on East has always delivered an impeccable dining experience. It is based on the highest of standards and degree of skill, a definition of the expression, “on point.” 

The kitchen staff, under the command of chef Jamil Pineda, displays a higher degree of skill on every dish. At the same time, the restaurant’s team of service professionals creates a guest experience second to none.

The filet mignon tartare is a great choice to start your experience. The grind of the beef strikes the perfect balance and is presented on a pool of dijon aioli with crispy garlic. The dish is capped with hackleback sturgeon caviar. The roe gives a creamy, almost buttery flavor that compliments the richness of the beef. Pair this with a Cape Town Sundowner, a cocktail made with South African Inverroche gin, yellow chartreuse and lime juice. A dash of pink peppercorn syrup lends just a hint of spice and the lime juice helps to cleanse the palate after each bite of the tartare. 

Another great pairing is the Hola Santo cocktail and the Boston green salad. Boston lettuce, arugula and watercress combine with granny smith apples, red pears and candied cashews. It’s all tossed with a sherry vinaigrette and sprinkled with shaved Parmesan cheese. The tart taste of the apple balances the sweetness of the pears and cashews. It’s light and flavorful, with a peppery surprise from the arugula.

The Hola Santo follows through with the nut flavor and starts with Santo Mesquila, a blend of mescal and tequila. Velvet Falernum, a liqueur infused with lime zest, ginger root, cloves and almonds, is added, followed by the aperol-inspired Cocchi Rosa. Sipped and savored, this drink identifies, and spotlights, each unique flavor.

Entrées at Michael’s on East put a higher degree of culinary skill front and center. It takes three days to create the elements of the porcini-rubbed rack of lamb. It crowns a pool of black truffle demi glace. The demi is sublimely delicious. It is studded with shaved black truffles and accompanies an onion-and-tomato chutney laced with mint chiffonade. The lamb is the type of dish that defines a great restaurant.

Everything is executed perfectly and every detail is deliberate. The mint chiffonade pays homage to a past era when mint jelly was the standard accompaniment to lamb. At Michael’s, it’s part of a chutney that defines modern cuisine.

A thick Atlantic swordfish steak is seared and finished slowly in an oven to produce a tender, moist cut of fish. It is presented on impossibly thin, crisp green beans and nestled against herb-roasted new potatoes and cherry tomatoes. If that wasn’t enough, shiitakes swimming in a rich, prosciutto-flavored beurre blanc finish the dish. The crust of the swordfish gives way to a tender, moist center, while the acidity of the tomato cuts the velvety richness of the white butter sauce. This exquisite presentation of seafood is delicious.   

The dessert menu at Michael’s on East is filled with chocolate, fruit, caramel and spice. These are the building blocks for a memorable finish to the Michael’s experience. I always like to get a couple of desserts to sample, but if you only get one, the squid ink chocolate torte should be your choice.

Four layers, including a chocolate torte, chocolate mousse, cacao nib brittle and caramelito nougat, rest under a thin chocolate ganache flaked with sea salt. A squid ink chocolate sauce creates a polka dot pattern on the plate, while guava caviar fills a tiny white chocolate spoon. And just for a little whimsy, a green sugar tuille adds a pop of neon color. Each layer stands out on its own, but the combination of nougat, ganache and sea salt is what sweet dreams are made of. 

The team at Michael’s on East sets the bar for fine dining in Sarasota. A great restaurant offers extraordinary food, using unique ingredients, a stylish and contemporary space, gracious service and exacting standards and Michael’s emphatically checks every box.  And that’s the reason Michael’s on East is “on point.” 

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