The restaurant’s name, ‘Wink Wink’, intrigued me and so did their menu.
Wink Wink is a lounge in the Sarasota Modern Hotel. It truly is a lounge; half of the lounge is in an atrium and the other half is in the lounge proper. There is no separate dining room.
It is noisy and busy, and it looks like the lounge is mostly patronized by hotel guests.
There is valet parking, offered at a fairly stiff price. You could also look for free parking to save the expense but forego the convenience.
Their menu is intriguing, and if you take a close look at the picture above, I think that you would agree.
We ordered wine by the glass, as there did not seem to be a bottle option. That was fine, we had a lovely glass of Oregon Pinot Noir.
In addition to their regular menu, Wink Wink also offered a special pre-Valentine’s day menu that we could choose from on the night that we went.
What brought us to Wink Wink?
‘Wascally Wabbit’. This dish really grabbed my attention when I was looking at their menu online as it’s rare to see rabbit on a menu these days. Also, the restaurant was given good reviews in our local newspaper.
I commented on the rabbit to the maître d’. Of course, this started a whole conversation. He seemed very knowledgeable about their offerings including items from their regular menu as well as the specials they were featuring that night. It turns out that he was formerly Wink Wink’s chef. He now works the front of the house and is happy to have made the move. He loves chatting with his guests.
Veletine’s Day Venison…
Their special menu featured venison, and of course this led to how to prepare venison, which led to how he hunted and so he had a good understanding of the attributes of a loin of venison. We agreed that because venison is so lean, it should be prepared so it is rare in the center, and medium rare on the outside. I have a couple of venison recipes in my recipe section if you want to look at venison that I have prepared and posted. I just love venison.
We ordered. Of course, I went with the venison and my husband with the New York strip. I asked that my venison be prepared rare to medium rare.
After all the discussion about the best way to prepare venison, I was surprised to see it presented medium to medium-rare. When asked by the server how we were enjoying our meal, I commented that the venison was a little over done, but that it did taste delicious, and it did.
Eventually, they clarified that the venison was cooked souse vide first, to ensure a perfect medium to medium-rare, and then finished on the grill. This was always done as this was the way that most people expected their steaks to be cooked, and I guess venison fit into this category.
Another Restaurant, but Different…
It answered my question and reminded me of another restaurant that we went to years ago (no longer there). It was a little Bistro that was owned by a French chef and his wife. The first time we ate there, I ordered a bouillabaisse and was astounded by the gigantic serving portion.
We went there quite frequently for a while as amongst some of his better dishes, he served an incredible house foie gras pâté and steak tartare. He even taught me how to make the foie gras pâté one night after the restaurant closed. Really simple, but delicious.
Over time we chatted, and I eventually asked why he served such immense portions. His answer was that that was what his customers expected, and any portion less than his serving portions were criticized as people felt that they were not getting their money’s worth.
The Moral to This Story…
There is a moral to this little aside and that is that some chefs will bend to the voice of their clientele whether that voice should be listen to or not. They do this of course to encourage their customers to return so that the restaurant will stay in business and prosper. This, I believe, is at the expense of the chef’s instincts and training and ultimately, a great dining experience.
My impression of the menu at Wink Wink was that it was pretty good, different than the average restaurant and interesting. However, it seemed to me that customer friendly compromise has taken something away from the experience and the chef’s expertise. We would have to go back again to prove out this theory as one meal may not be a good indication, and it’s only my impression. I think that there is some good cooking there, provided that the new chef follows his training and his instincts.
Would I go again?
I don’t think so, the ambiance could be better, and while we took a chance based on the menu, hotel eateries are not our favorite.
P.S. I have been holding off on this posting because I was not sure that I was completely fair. At the end of the day, my impressions are what they are, and I still think that there is some potentially good cooking by the chef, but somehow I feel that the the venue and the clinentelle may not be the best fit to bring all this out. Just my impression.