Tucked in among the trendy boutiques, eclectic restaurants, and stylish condos that call Main Street home, is a delightfully bright and cheery restaurant called Duval’s New World Cafe. The food is incredibly delicious and well-prepared – bring friends; you will NOT be disappointed you made a trip out to this place!
This review is part of a series of restaurant reviews that follows The Watering Mouth’s restaurant review guidelines.
Background Info on the Review
My favorite part of actually writing my restaurant reviews is when I get to write about a place like this. Because it’s been a couple of weeks since I dined there, and now I get to relive the meal visually and mentally and that’s almost as good as eating it in the first place. Who am I kidding? These pictures are making me RAVENOUS.
One of the many cool things about this place? They have a big screen TV at the back of the place that is a live feed from the kitchen so you can watch the Chef and the Sous Chef cooking up a storm! What a cool way to bring the back of the house into the front!
Duval’s New World Cafe was a hit for us the minute my Dad and I walked inside. It’s been open since late last year and man, do they have their act together. The decor is so crisp and clean and the service is so great – somehow there’s a lot of youthful, vibrant energy in this place. I’m sure you’ll get that feeling when you go in for your first time, too. That being said, you’d still eat at this place if they just served their food in a cardboard box on the sidewalk, it’s that good. You know the drill; scroll down and drool…
Cheri’s Food Review
So first of all, I’m not lying when I say that the bread here is phenomenal. You wouldn’t think that a primarily seafood restaurant would pay much attention to a detail like this, but I have to quote the Three Kitcheneers when I re-iterate that they literally have “the best bread in all of Florida.” My favorite part about all of this is that, when I asked where they got their bread, they would not tell me. They have TOP SECRET BREAD! When a restaurant refuses to give their secret, it’s because they know they’re doing something right. The Top Secret Bread is the perfect mix of crusty and soft served with whipped butter. But this wasn’t the only top secret ingredient of the night. Keep your eye out for the Gazpacho…
One quick thing I want to mention is that they offer brunch on Sundays, which I am dying to check out because apparently they make their own croissants! *drool* Also, if you’re into wine, the staff here has a great handle on what wines pair well with what dishes, and even if I don’t know much about wine, I was able to appreciate that when we were given suggestions.
An appetizer mix of the Crab & Shrimp Cakes and the Flash-Fried Calamari is shown here. I have only good things to say about this dish – the calamari was completely tender and not springy at all. The breading was light and golden-colored, a real treat! I didn’t even use the sauce at first, but that was delicious too. They served a chipotle remoulade, a cocktail sauce and a dijon. And the crabcake. Now, if you’ve been following along, you’d know that I’m usually not impressed with crabcakes. This is always because they just end up being way too heavy for my tastes with way too much breading. But these crabcakes! They had some nice chunks of crab and shrimp and the breading that they used was a lot lighter than I’ve had – you can even tell by looking at them that they are a little different than normal. And I loved them! Score!
The Cecelia House Salad. Really good. They tell me that this is a customer favorite, and I can see why. It’s filled with all those delicious things you want in a hearty salad, greens with spinach and spring mix, red onions, bleu cheese, cashews, tomatoes and a raspberry vinaigrette that isn’t too heavy. And the bleu cheese is subtle enough to not be overpowering. A delicious, satisfying combination of a salad. Pardon my brevity, my Dear Reader, because I didn’t come to this place for a salad. But if you’re a salad-orderer when you go to restaurants, you will leave happy!
Crab Stuffed Mushrooms with lemon butter sauce and wilted spinach. These mushrooms are tender and flavorful, swimming in butter with a slight hint of lemon. They are nicely browned with a creamy sort of cheesy-tasting flavor. The spinach gives a nice contrast to the dish and makes you feel a tiny bit better knowing there are a few decent nutrients being eaten alongside this sinful treat.
Some notes from my Dad’s and my experience with this dish. First of all, we discovered a hidden secret, which is to dip the Top Secret Bread into the mushroom butter sauce. Dieters beware, this is not for the faint of heart. The rest of us: you won’t be sorry!
And lastly as we were munching on these, I warned Dad to stop eating halfway through because I knew there was a ton of food left to try, and I got some resistance with his exclamation, “Cheri, I grew up hungry!” and I knew I’d lost him. He polished off those mushrooms without thinking twice.
According to the menu, the Gazpacho is the typical cold soup made with tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, red peppers, garlic, and vegetable juice and there is a nice drizzle of sour cream on top. But this is the dish I referred to when I was talking about another secret ingredient. When you take a bite of this soup, you’ll notice some hint of something, which, the second it hits your tongue, it tingles. I speculated that it must be some kind of carbonated liquid, maybe even just sparkling water. But it’s a feeling that really sort of grabs your tongue and squeezes. I don’t really know how else to explain it. You have to try it for yourself, and I asked and again, and they won’t tell me! Another secret ingredient, I’m told. And at this point, I’m really having fun with all this mystery! Loved this soup.
The 6 oz. Filet Mignon is served with bleu cheese cream sauce, herb roasted red skin potatoes & the chef’s vegetable choice. It was cooked absolutely perfectly medium rare, with a nice, brown seared crust on the top. Super juicy and flavorful. The sliced side potatoes were cooked in butter so they were soft and flavorful with some pepper; the perfect complement to the steak. The vegetables weren’t super impressive to me, I think just because they were overpowered with an herb like thyme or rosemary. And while I normally love my herbs, these had just a bit too much for me. And, next to a steak like that, would YOU be worrying about eating your veggie side??
Advice from the server for eating the Shrimp Po Boy: “Smash it down, cut it in half, lean over the table.” Agreed; good advice. You probably can’t get through this sandwich without it falling apart, and I’d actually be amused to see someone try. Also, I have to be up-front with you, because when I recorded my notes about this sandwich, I used an expletive, so I will maintain the fervor of that language while slightly altering for young ears. I noted that, “The Shrimp Po’ Boy is *effing* incredible.” And I wasn’t kidding. I mean, this is an amazing sandwich: really simple with just a few ingredients, but they are all the right ingredients. Chipotle remoulade, tomatoes, Napa cabbage, lightly breaded shrimp, perfectly cooked AND the Top Secret Bread! My only advice: Get. This. Sandwich. It rocks.
The Sauteed Scallops Rockefeller dish came out next and I have to be honest, this wasn’t my favorite meal of the night, though the bar was set pretty darn high from what came before this dish. I felt that the scallops were a bit undercooked, and in turn underwhelming, and the sauce didn’t do enough to play them up for me. I liked the spinach on top, like I did with the mushrooms appetizer, and I’ll say that the fried oysters above that were actually quite lovely! They had some great flavor and the texture was perfectly divine.
And last but not least on the entree menu was the Chef’s Fresh Catch of the Day, which was a mild whitefish called a Triggerfish. Personally, I felt the fish could have used a bit more salt, but that is because I’m not a huge fan of capers. If you like the capers with this, I think you’ll find it to be the perfect combination. The fish was cooked perfectly, with a nice brown crust along the outside, and tender, flaky meat. And I absolutely loved the sun-dried tomato mashed potatoes with their creamy smoothness. Plus the name of the dish rhymes and that really does help.
So, the Creme Brulee. Yum. If you take a look at this picture, you would figure that this is a bit too burnt, and for your tastes, you may be right. But the creme brulee is this dark by design here, so if you get it like this, just know that this is how it comes! In French, “brulee” means burnt, and the Chef here takes this a bit more literally than most other places. And I have to say, that I didn’t dislike this treatment. I’m the kinda gal who burns my marshmallows to a crisp over a campfire, so I can appreciate the flavor with this preparation, however, I am positive that if you requested a lighter “burn” on your sugar, that your wish would be granted! Vin Santo is a spicy dessert wine that was served with this and made for the perfect compliment to the creme brulee.
The Bread Pudding is out of this world. They prepare this with their housemade danish instead of leftover bread scraps, and it was so sweet and delicious with a fantastic crust on the top. The dessert is very dense, soft and sweet, yet not overpowering and in a few spots you even get a hint of the filling from the Danish! An interesting take on an old classic.
The German Chocolate Cake!! This is a massive piece of cake, with incredible Devil’s Food cake, dark and chocolate-y, and a sweet, sticky coconut topping with sprinkles of shaved chocolate on the end. Dad is a total German-Chocolate-Cake-lover and he thought this was an absolute delight, and paired with the Vin Santo brings it to a whole new level. And don’t you think this piece looks a little like Alf, from the late 80’s hit TV Show? Just me? Okay whatever, it’s cute!!
What is this dark and mysterious character at the end of my review? Why, that is the Chocolate Flourless Cake, that’s what. This cake is every bit as sinful and rich as you would expect it to be, with a sprinkle of powdered sugar on top, you just can’t go wrong here. Dense, moist, and stick-to-your-ribs chocolate-y, this will satisfy the most hardcore of chocolate dessert lovers.
Cloaked Restaurant Review
This is the part where I have an anonymous review done to critique the entire restaurant experience in a undercover way so that you can get a good idea of what it’s like for the typical restaurant-goer like yourself! It keeps us all honest!! Here’s what they said:
Tucked in among the trendy boutiques, eclectic restaurants, and stylish condos that call Main Street home, is a delightfully bright and cheery restaurant called Duval’s New World Cafe. There is a small, outdoor seating area for those that choose to enjoy the glorious weather that Florida has to offer and a lovely, spacious, indoor dining room with a variety of seating options to accommodate large groups or intimate dinners. The wait staff is friendly and attentive as well as courteous and knowledgeable. The preset tables give a feeling of tidiness but without being pretentious. There is not a lot in the way of décor, but what there is is comfortable, and that’s fine because this feels like the kind of place that you can sit for hours and have real conversations with your dinner companions. Perhaps the best adornment is a flat screen TV displaying the action taking place in the kitchen. This is the best of both worlds! Giving patrons full access to see the food being prepared but not like the standard open air kitchens that exude heat and ingurgitate whatever germs are brought in by the customers. Very intriguing! While perusing the menu with a glass of Delta Luna merlot wine, I noticed that the nationality of each dish was presented next to the title. This caught my interest and it occurred to me to challenge myself, and the “World Cafe” title, by choosing dishes from different locales. After all, what’s life, and dinner, without a little whimsy?
I started my culinary travels with appetizers of Thai Spiced Potato Croquettes (Thailand) and Eggplant Rollatini (Italy). The potato croquettes were a simple dish in both complexity and presentation but don’t let this dissuade you. Whipped potato infused with the Thai spices was encrusted in a panko coating, deep fried and served with chipotle remoulade. You cannot possibly imagine my surprise when I popped this light bite of heaven into my mouth. The coating was crisp and not greasy while the potato was airy. It was as if it melted in your mouth. My first thought was this must be what a deep fried cloud would taste like! The eggplant rollatini consisted of thin slices of fried eggplant wrapped around a blend of ricotta, asiago, and mozzarella cheeses, all topped with marinara, a sprinkling of parmesan, and a drizzle of pesto. It is a mix of fresh, delicate flavors and rich ingredients that meld together to yield a light yet satisfying dish. This could easily be paired with a salad and a glass of the Durigutti malbec to create a full meal.
Trudging on, I continued my delicious journey with stops in France and England. When referencing British cuisine, what could be more ubiquitous than Fish and Chips and the chef hit all of the high notes. There were three pieces of flaky cod, encased in a delicate tempura batter, and lightly fried. Unfortunately, there was nothing impressive about the chips but that’s not really why I ordered the dish. I would like to offer a recommendation based on my experience: request the chipotle remoulade sauce as a condiment as it adds a lovely, light spice that balances well with the fresh flavor of the fish.
France offered a substantially different, yet equally delightful, Filet Tip Sandwich and a side of the same fries as above. A lightly toasted French baguette overflows with bite sized pieces of juicy filet mignon, cooked medium to medium rare, accompanied by caramelized onions, sautéed spinach and mushrooms, topped with provolone and a horseradish cream. The bread soaks up a lot of the juices, and releases them down your fingers with every bite. The real problem with this is trying to lick your fingers to catch every delicious drop, while still endeavoring to keep up the airs of propriety. Each ingredient brings a nuance that, in many ways, makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts. Due to a minor accident of my own making, which I won’t go into, I can also state that this could easily be turned into a very satisfying vegetarian sandwich! The heartiness of the sautéed mushrooms, onion, and spinach paired with the buttery richness of the provolone cheese, horseradish cream and crusty bread is enough to satisfy almost any appetite.
This brings me to the jewel of my globetrotting trip: dessert! For this course I could not resist one of my personal favorites, Crème Brulee (France), specifically Orange-Thyme (I had to revisit France to try this, you understand), and one of the main attractions, Chef Duval’s Signature Bread Pudding (New Orleans). The quintessential hard, caramelized sugar topping on a crème brulee, in this case was unfortunately burnt beyond edibility. After removing the burnt sugar, the Orange-Thyme crème had a smooth custard consistency with a thick, creamy texture that coated the mouth but was not too intense due to the refreshing quality of the citrus. The thyme plays a supporting role, lending only its essence to the overall flavor profile. The bread pudding is their signature dessert and a must try. Caution: This is NOT a traditional bread pudding! The “bread” is a blend of three types of danish pastry (cherry, cheese, and apple cinnamon) chopped into bite-sized pieces, mixed with what one can assume are the more common ingredients, then baked to golden perfection (no “pudding” effect) and served with a dollop of homemade whipped cream. This desert is dense and decadent, fluffy and flaky. It’s not sounding like any bread pudding you’re accustomed to, now is it? This is an original and delicious dessert, but to call it bread pudding is a misnomer. The chef has created a magical concoction that deserves a name all its own. Our server recommended a glass of vin santo to accompany the desserts, and the dark golden nectar was a perfect match though served too cold for my liking. As it came up to temperature the viscous similarities to a white port or an eiswien became more pronounced, with notes of melon and honey, complimenting both desserts quite well.
Duval’s New World Café is the type of restaurant you make plans to return to, before you’ve even left. The staff and management are helpful and friendly, going out of their way to ensure your visit is thoroughly enjoyable. The only exception to this was when complaining about the burnt sugar on the crème brulee, both the server and the manager admitted to this being a persistent issue, but neither seemed able or inclined to do anything to fix the situation. Otherwise, their attention to customers was tireless; their recommendations regarding food and wine choices were beyond knowledgeable, which is really impressive due to the long list of daily specials and an ever-changing assortment of boutique wines coming in. Patrons’ suggestions and customizations are welcome and encouraged, from substitutions to alternative ingredients, your input and requests are heard.
Cloaked Review Ratings
|Food Quality & Menu|
Go to my Flickr account to check out my Duval’s New World Cafe, Sarasota, FL, Restaurant Review images set to see the full set of pics.