The Saltwater Cafe is one of those Nokomis-Venice staples that you just have to try! I would definitely recommend this restaurant as a worthwhile trip for many – there are some incredible dishes and I love the interior of this place!
Background Info on the Review
The Saltwater Cafe in Nokomis FL is one of those restaurants that has so much to offer! There is a lot going on here! Described on the website as a “fine dining experience in a friendly, casual atmosphere”, I find this to be a great description of this place. When a friend of mine nominated this restaurant for review because she had just had lunch there and loved it, I was excited to see what they were about. And silly me, I’d never even known that Chef Rolf has his own local cooking show called Chef Rolf’s New Florida Kitchen. What a treat to meet him! Not only a great chef, but he’s a super nice man as well!
When I first arrived at the building, I thought that the outside left a little to be desired. But when I walked in, I was surprised to see quite a romantic setting with a dark wood interior and brass accents. The restaurant itself is massive, with several large dining areas and a full Cheers-style complete bar; and yet somehow it still felt cozy, with walls adorned with local and not-so-local artwork and a huge fish tank. I immediately warmed up to this place the minute I stepped inside.
Dad and I visited this place together (hubby is always working when I do my tastings now! too bad, so sad) and it is always a real treat to get to check out a new place with him. Chef Rolf came out to greet us and give us an idea of what we would be served, and we were forced to start off with a couple of cocktails from the bar. They were sweet and just what I was looking for, but I think anyone could find a drink they love here with the huge bar, and a beautiful wine cellar offering over 500 different wines!
Cheri’s Food Review
A couple notes I wanted to highlight quickly are that most everything served here is housemade, which is something I think carries a lot of weight when you dine somewhere. Also, they use only natural steaks from Creekstone Farms and they have a full gluten-free menu with lots of different choices for every palate.
Unfortunately, I don’t remember the name of this bread, but it was a typical bread from Europe that Chef Rolf makes from scratch. It was soft and fluffy and was served with a sweet butter on the side. We both loved it, even if we had to restrain ourselves from eating it too much so as to save room for later!
First up was the Raw Bar Tower. I had never had such a smorgasbord of seafood in one go like this and more importantly, the “on ice” version. The oysters and clams were great – tender, soft and salty in all the right places. The crab and mussels were good, but I much prefer these two things hot, so this was a bit of an adjustment. But the crab had a great texture. I think I like mussels in general hot, and the texture of these left a little to be desired for me. The peel-and-eat shrimp were a group of jumbo, juicy and tender little guys, and we broke our rule and ate them all, they were that good! Those were my favorite part.
Mussels from the raw bar tower.
The last part though, and I want you to look at the picture below if you’re unfamiliar, was the Oysters Romanoff. Imagine with me, if you will: a bed of smooth, succulent, tender oysters, topped with a magical combination of sour cream, freshly chopped green onions and salty, texture-popping caviar. This was my favorite treatment of oysters this night. I tend to like oysters with some kind of sauce so these were a big hit for me. Dad liked them too, and he’s not even an oyster lover!
The Tasting for Two appetizer was the perfect mix of small items to get your appetite going for a larger meal and can easily please anybody! We both loved the calamari, which was lightly breaded and had a nice light sauce for dipping. The mussels and clams were hanging out together in a lemon butter cream sauce, and these were much more my speed – loved that sauce, so creamy! The pork dumplings were a steamed treat, but the crab cakes were a bit underwhelming as I would have liked more crab flavor and the breading made them a bit bland. But we liked them more dipped in sauce!
The House Specialty of Escargots was one of my favorites this evening – they were served in a special garlic butter sauce and they had a divine texture; cooked perfectly and not overly done. They went well with the garlic bread on the side, even if that was slightly overpowering.
Chef Rolf sent out a sampler of the soups and the theme for this section of the meal to me was comfort. There wasn’t a soup here that I didn’t like. From top left, there was a Soup of the Day which was a Beef and Rice. Dad said it wasn’t quite what he was expecting, but that he was surprised in a good way. The Clam Chowder was nice and creamy with salty, tender bits of of clam and large potato chunks. We were both really pleasantly surprised with the Gazpacho soup, which is shown in the middle. It had fantastic, complex flavor and a great spicy kick. It was a good combination of smooth and cool with the perfect chunky highlights of onion and tomato and spices. Very refreshing! I don’t normally like French Onion soup, but this wasn’t overpowering at all – it has a great onion broth with cheesy soft onions. A hit for both of us. And the Lobster and Shrimp Bisque was my favorite of all the samplers – it gives that warm, comforting feeling with good chunks of seafood and the perfect flavor. It came with some extra sherry on the side, which, don’t tell anyone, I just drank straight because I’m cool like that.
And the She-Crab soup was my favorite soup of every one that we tasted. I absolutely loved this soup! I’ll say it again if I need to! There was some great crabby chunks and a hint of green onion with a light, runny, creamy base, all perfectly (and comfortingly) topped with some flaky pastry crust. That crust really took it off the charts for me. This would make a perfect little small meal in itself and is something I would definitely go back for.
This one has a mouthful of a name: Sesame Crusted Sashimi Grade Rare Tuna Pizza topped with wasabit cream sauce, scallions, tomato and pickled ginger. This one was really interesting to me because I was wondering if Dad would even venture to try it because it is so out of his normal comfort zone, but I was pleasantly surprised to see him try it and even really enjoy it. The ingredients were an imaginative take on pizza, and made for a very hearty, rich, more upscale version. We were both quite pleased with this journey outside of our normal repertoire.
As a side dish, the Potatoes au Gratin came out as a cheesy dish filled with a perfectly broiled warm, gooey goodness inside. I noted the taste of nutmeg in there, which automatically brings it up a notch in my book because nutmeg is one of my absolute favorites.
The Potato Crusted Grouper special came with a peppercorn-onion sauce with asparagus and a spinach bacon vinaigrette salad. The fish was perfectly cooked and surrounded in a potato pancake-like coating. I loved this dish, even though it probably was a bit heavy in the calorie department – but hey, we’re talking taste not calories, right? Loved it – and the salad on the side made me feel like I was doing a little something right. I thought the combination of potato and fish went perfectly well together – too bad it was a special and not on the menu at all times!
Ohh, the Filet Mignon with creamed spinach and asparagus with hollandaise sauce. See the detail picture below – this meat was perfectly cooked medium rare and was so tender, juicy and flavorful. The sear marks made for great texture and flavor, and the meat itself has so much flavor because it’s from an All Natural farm. Chef Rolf used his proprietary grill rub (for sale at the restaurant!) and it added a flavor that complemented everything. This meal was a home run and sure to please absolutely any steak lover.
Detail of the Filet Mignon.
So if you’re a Lobster Mac & Cheese fan, you’re going to go crazy about this one. Chef Rolf drowns penne pasta in a creamy, cheesy sauce, so decadent that you can feel your arteries protesting at the first bite. (Which happens to be a great thing for your tastebuds.) It is topped with large chunks of lobster and scallions and a generous smattering of truffle oil permeates the entire dish. All of this while the lobster shell stares at you from the side of the dish, defending his contribution while staring at you from the side. A truly rich meal sure to satisfy the upscale mac n cheese lover. I happen to be more of a fan of these two meals by themselves, sans the truffle oil, but this is no reflection of the dish itself, it’s just my personal preference! Chef Rolf uses fine truffle oil from the Venice Olive Oil Company, which I happen to know is a great establishment.
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:
Having driven by the Saltwater Café in Nokomis any number of times, and seeing the full parking lot, I promised myself that I had to stop in. Crossing the outside seating deck, you enter a cozy foyer. To the left is a partitioned bar area, with the dining room is to the right. The interior is heavily wooded, reminiscent of the galley of a ship. As you proceed through the dining area, this feeling is furthered by a large model of a sailing ship. The walls were adorned with nets, fishing paraphernalia, and photos of beautifully plated food. I was seated at a comfortable booth with a white paper covered table, and handed a menu that reads like a novella. A few minutes later a braided yeast bread loaf, a whipped butter mixture, and a plate of fruity olive oil & sweet balsamic vinegar arrived. When offered water, still or sparkling, remember if you want tap water, say so. I will attest that the still Mountain Valley Spring water from Arizona is quite refreshing.
To whet my appetite I started with an order of toasted Spanish artichoke hearts with garlic bread and a small carafe of Cupcake Red Velvet. The artichoke hearts were swimming in a white wine, butter, and lemon bath. Crisp, acidic, citrusy flavors were good on their own, but when combined with the garlic on a soft, toasted baguette, the marriage of flavors balanced the dish perfectly. This was followed by a large bowl of rich crab, shrimp & lobster bisque with a sidecar of Gibson cream sherry. It is tomato based with flecks of seafood and had a slight, building heat on the back of my throat that may have been from the sherry. It pairs exceptionally well with the aforementioned braided loaf for a warm and comfort food style experience. My first entre was a 6 ounce filet mignon with a café de Paris sauce, and a 6 ounce Caribbean lobster tail.
The filet was cooked and seasoned to perfection, and was accented beautifully by the café de Paris. The lobster tail, on the other hand, was over cooked a bit lending to a tough consistency. They were served with the house standard creamed spinach, and a unique version of potatoes au gratin that is heavily infused with lemon.
The next dish was a 9-ounce, sautéed, Idaho rainbow trout (head-on) topped with a flurry of artichoke hearts, diced tomatoes, bay scallops, shrimp, and laden in a lemon glaze.
The fish was flakey and succulent, the scallops and veggies were fresh and tender, but the shrimp was slightly overcooked and served tail on. I ordered a side of jasmine rice, and was surprised that it was a yellow color; however, it paired nicely with the entree and didn’t compete with the flavors of the dish. For dessert I ordered a Saltwater Supreme and, at my server’s suggestion, the Apfel-Cruechi. The Supreme is a simple brownie, served in a very deep bowl, covered in vanilla ice cream, hot fudge, ample whipped cream, and drizzled in chocolate sauce.
The Apfel-Cruechi is slices of apple, beer battered and fried, then thickly coated in sugar and laid on a pool of vanilla sauce with an island of vanilla ice cream rising up in the center, all dusted with powdered sugar. The hearty apple slices were cooked fork tender, encased in a crispy sweet shell that paired well with the custard-like ice cream. This was not only my favorite dish, but the kind of dish that once you try it, you know you’ll be back for more.
The restaurant is clean and cozy with a charming nautical theme. While offering upscale selections, the casual atmosphere welcomes a wide range of diners. The staff is pleasant, knowledgeable, and willing to offer suggestions upon request. This is helpful due to an extensive menu, furthered with specials and gluten free options.
Cloaked Review Ratings
|Food Quality & Menu|
Review Disclaimer: This review is part of a series of restaurant reviews that follows The Watering Mouth’s restaurant review guidelines. My Tasting photographs may not show the true portion of a meal a typical customer would receive. These reviews are based on two visits to a restaurant, one open Tasting where I taste and photograph a restaurant’s best dishes, and one full, anonymous review (like the typical restaurant-goer would experience) found at the bottom. We are honest with our reviews, and assume that each restaurant is consistently performing to the standards we experienced!