Meliora (MEH-lee-OR-ah). Meaning: Latin term for BETTER.
That's a big statement AND a whole lot to have to live up to. So the question is, can Meliora and its staff live up to their name?
1920 Hillview Street has been several things over the years. Not as many as some other addresses in town. But this restaurant space has changed the sign above the door a few times.
The last time that this Southside Village restaurant buzzed like this was back during the twenty years (1988-2008) that Miles and Mindy Millwee owned and operated The Hillview Grill. It was almost always busy!
Every now and then, we have a local Sarasota restaurant opening that has folks talking way before the first course is even served (we even wrote a piece about that very topic back in 2015). Meliora's (1920 Hillview St., (941) 444-7692) opening has certainly had that effect.
This sign went up incredibly early. When the sign goes up, it usually means things are quickly moving towards an opening. In this case, the sign turned out to be just a very long tease. It wasn't until months later that the window paper was finally removed, and the doors were flung open for service. That buildup of anticipation may have actually worked in the restaurant's favor.
Owners Drew Adams (Executive Chef) and Bruce Price (General Manager) have their restaurant roots in the DC area. Drew as a chef in some of Washington's best-loved and Michelin starred restaurants. And Bruce with experience on the operations side of the business. Seemingly a dynamic culinary combo!
So, let's get to why you're here. Is Meliora really 'better"? And what is a trip to this brand new, heavily anticipated restaurant like? We've got a first look and a few answers for you!
Yes, it's been completely overhauled on the inside. The space looks nothing like any of the restaurants that came before it. It screams big city vibe.
Of course, the menu is nothing like any of the prior places either.
This is not your typical Sarasota restaurant menu! It's divided into two distinct sections; HOT and COLD. The serving sizes are on the small side, so they recommend 2-3 dishes of each temperature per person. That turned out to be right on the money.
A sampling from the cold side...
The raw scallops underneath that creamy chive basil sauce were melt in your mouth perfection.
Next, through some culinary magic, they are able to turn this...
I didn’t even realize that “aged fish” was a thing. It is. And it’s good. ** NOTE – The red snapper dish below also used aged fish.
Oh, we couldn't forget our veggies!
This was by far the most intriguing of the dishes we tasted. It's a complex and delightful dish.
Hey, what about some hot stuff!? Don't worry. We're only half full. We put together our own "Meat and Potatoes, Surf and Turf" from the hot list.
From the hot side...
There is the surf. Red snapper, nicely cooked and served with hearts of palm and a zingy citrus emulsion.
Medium rare prime rib eye steak. And, of course, the potatoes...
A fried potato delicately cut into small cubes, topped with super thinly sliced mushrooms, a dollop of velouté, all set on a marsala sauce. Whoa!
Even though the plates were small, they were filling. Not a lot of room left over for another course. But if you are a dessert person, fear not! They did offer four choices for anyone that wanted a little something extra to finish things off.
📝 SOME NOTES – The wine selection included a little something for any taste and budget. And EVERY wine on the list (9-sparkling, 17-whites, and 30-reds) is available by the glass! They also featured a dozen or so handmade cocktails and a good craft beer selection. ALSO, for a more personal dining experience, they feature a Chef's Kitchen Table. This is a fantastic way to explore the Meliora menu. It seats a half dozen or so adventurous diners, and offers a unique window into how a high-end kitchen operates. You’ll also have access to the “Kitchen Blackboard” specials!
Let's tie a bow on this tasty package, shall we? First, I know that this place just opened. But Meliora doesn't feel new. It feels experienced. The service was a cut above. Very attentive and personal. The dishes were expertly prepared, and there is something for just about any taste on their constantly changing menu. I get it that this style of cuisine/dining might not be everyone's thing. But if it's yours.. 👍
Is it pricey? Yes. There is nothing here on the dollar menu. But at the same time, this is a perfect example of "you get what you pay for." And what you're paying for is a unique (at least to Sarasota) dining experience. Meliora delivers that and more.
🗓️ SARASOTA FOOD EVENTS 🗓️
Here are some upcoming local food events that we think you might find interesting. All you need to do is make that reservation. We’ve provided you with a link to more info.
🧑🌾 LOCAL FARMER’S MARKET INFORMATION 🧑🌾
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