With an abundance of dining options in Sarasota, it is sometimes a struggle for restaurant owners and chefs to come up with fresh ideas and flavors that help them stand out from the crowd.
Chef Wes Duval, owner and executive chef at , however, has discovered a way to keep his patrons on their toes with an eclectic concept that ensures a unique new dining experience every month.
A trip to Duval’s New World Café on a Monday night feels a little a miniature excursion to Disney’s EPCOT theme park, where no passport is required to do a little globetrotting.
Duval’s New World Café takes its patrons on a culinary voyage around the world by celebrating the cuisine of a different country or region each month. In addition to its permanent menu, which features a mixture of upscale dining options and delicious quick lunch fixes— the Po’ Boy sandwiches are easily some of the best in town— Duval’s New World Mondays features a four-course meal representing the cuisine of the country of the month.
This month, in the spirit of Cinco de Mayo, Mexican cuisine dominates the menu on New World Mondays. For $35, customers can treat their taste buds to a prix fix fiesta with an upscale twist.
The appetizer course, modernized Mexican bruschetta, puts a south-of-the-border twist on the Italian classic with crostini garnished with sliced prunes, fresh herbs, queso fresco and fruity olive oil. An avocado and heirloom tomato salad with cilantro tomatillo dressing serves as a delightful segue to the entrée course, in which customers are given the option of pumpkin seed-encrusted fish with a roasted corn and black bean tamale and smoky mole drizzle, or barbacoa beef tacos served with tempura fried cactus bites. The experience closes out with everyone’s favorite course, dessert, consisting of rich Mexican spiced chocolate mousse tuile “tacos.”
Those whose appetites are whet by the dining options detailed above should act fast. Starting in June, Duval’s will say “adios” to the Mexican-themed menu and introduce South African cuisine to New World Mondays.
“Most people like to eat out a couple times per month when they can, so we want to make sure they want to come back here and don’t feel like they’re stuck eating the same things over and over,” said Duval.
“We try to divide it up across the globe so there’s something completely new and different each month,” he added.
Previous locales featured at Duval’s New World Café, which opened its doors at 1435 Main Street this spring, are New Orleans and Japan.
Chef Duval, a graduate of the Culinary Institute in America, has been cooking professionally for more than 25 years. Prior to opening the original Duval’s on Webber Street in 2006, Chef Wes made a name for himself in the Sarasota culinary scene with his first restaurant, Déjà Vu, which he opened with his wife, Ceci, in Gulf Gate in 1990.
His decision to open Duval’s stemmed from dissatisfaction with international dining options in Sarasota.
“My wife and I just weren’t happy with the food we were finding, so we decided to give it a shot,” he said.
From the moment the restaurant opened its doors, Duval’s earned a reputation for its signature po’ boy sandwiches served with chipotle remoulade. According to dining manager, Aaron Carlton, it is not unusual for visitors from New Orleans to praise the po’ boys for their authenticity and state that they are just as good, if not better, than the sandwiches served in most restaurants back home.
The permanent lunch menu at Duval’s features five different kinds of seafood and chicken po’ boys, as well as a selection of salads and soups— including another signature New Orleans dish: Gumbo with onions, celery, peppers and Andouille sausage.
Although lunches at Duval’s are quick and simple to accommodate the 9 to 5 business crowd in downtown Sarasota, the evening menu ramps up the fine dining experience with a diverse wine selection and dinner options like filet mignon, herb crusted rack of lamb, sautéed scallops Rockefeller, and daily fresh fish catches served in a variety of customizable flavors.
“I like to stick with the freshest ingredients and keep it as simple as possible,” Duval said. “That way, when you taste the food you know exactly what you’re eating.”
As expected, the desserts do not fail to please— especially Duval’s signature bread pudding made from several different kinds of Danish pastry.
With such a diverse permanent menu selection combined with a rotating carnival of international treats, Duval’s New World Café has a little something to satisfy everyone from the adventurous gourmand to the finicky traditionalist.
To stay apprised on the latest additions to the menu, follow Duval’s on their Facebook page or simply stop in for a bite on New World Mondays. One never knows where in the world Sarasota’s resident culinary travel guide, Chef Wes, will take his diners’ taste buds next.