Back Of The House

Doing It Right

By / Photography By Peter Acker | April 04, 2016
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Pomona Bistro & Wine Bar

Why do co-proprietors Ryan Boeve, executive chef, and Arthur Lopes, pastry chef, make such an effort to properly source the ingredients for their Pomona Bistro and Wine Bar?

“I’m not even sure the right answer for that,” says Ryan, genuinely confused by the inquiry. “It’s just the way it should be. If you can get it locally, why wouldn’t you?” And therein lies the entire philosophy behind the operation, as noted on a sign that hangs on the beautiful kitchen wall: Do it right.

Since you’re an Edible reader, chances are you love good food. And if you love good food, there’s an even better chance you’ve already eaten at Pomona, as there’s no way culinary pleasure-seekers would pass up the opportunity to eat at this downtown fine-dining restaurant where Ryan and Arthur have found their groove as the innovative powerhouses of polished cuisine. These two don’t bend on their pursuit of “good food,” which means an unwavering effort toward sourcing local, organic ingredients to display in dishes so beautiful you almost hate to tear them apart. Until you take the first bite. Then the hesitation is over. Local, organic, and beautiful are well and good, but downright delicious is the clincher and that dinner plate won’t stand a chance.

Although it should seem wildly obvious for a chef to choose organic, regional, farm-fresh ingredients, sadly the statistics aren’t always in the diner’s favor and most folks end up scarfing down a modified mess of mistreated animal parts. However, a table in this elegant eatery guarantees that every bite, from the sinfully spectacular charcuterie board to the famed fresh raspberry souffle, is made in the style that made being a chef so special in the first place. It means your meal was created with passion: passion for plating, passion for flavors, passion for creating something exquisite from ingredients which were grown and raised by farmers who give a damn about their produce and livestock.

A peek at Pomona’s seasonal menu will give you a taste of the thoughtfulness behind every component. Most of the items are straightforward, simple even, yet they also imbue an intricate and complex quality that can only be created by a chef with an intense commitment to his ingredients and a desire to evolve his culinary know-how. The menu isn’t huge, yet it boasts an incredible assortment of flavors: warm marinated Mediterranean olives with sheep’s milk cheese and organic olive oil; sea scallops with a blood orange/ avocado/tatsoi-mizuna salad; red snapper in parchment with ginger, turmeric, coconut water sauce, and sautéed greens; duck breast with balsamic-glazed beets, Hakurei turnips, farro, orange duck jus; and veal wweetbreads with turnip greens, turnips, and smoked bacon.

Yeah. I know. It’s like a digestible fairy tale. And we haven’t even discussed the ridiculous perfection of the charcuterie, the decadence of the cheese plate, or the pure magical mastery of Arthur’s famous desserts! One word = souffle. Two words = holy moly. Three words = eat it tonight.

So, who are these gustatory wizards?

Ryan and Arthur have been teaming up for almost two decades. They began their journey 17 years ago in the kitchen of Ophelia’s, a long-standing Siesta Key spot, with Ryan creating dinners and Arthur conjuring up dessert. Five months later, the opportunity to start a restaurant of their own came knocking and although the two hardly knew each other, their shared belief in quality and consistency led them to open Zoria. Demand brought them downtown, where Zoria thrived for 11 years until closing in 2010.

“It was time,” says Ryan. “It wasn’t us anymore.” They were ready to create a restaurant that encapsulated everything they wanted to accomplish. Six months later, on December 15, 2010, Pomona opened its doors in the heart of Citrus Square, hence the homage to the Roman goddess of citrus who graces Pomona’s kitchen wall in a life-size painting that watches over the staff.

“We wanted to make it small and better than anything we did before,” says Ryan. “We strive to make every dish the best work we’ve ever done.” Well, guys, rest easy. You nailed it.

Be on the lookout for Ryan and Arthur’s latest masterpiece, Lila, a downtown Main Street eatery with an extremely veg-forward menu consisting of dishes I can’t yet reveal. But, allow me to say this: It’s ridiculous and if you need me over the next three years, I can be found there. Lila is set to open this summer, and you can bet your behind that all of the passion, care, and love found in Pomona will be gracing Lila’s plates as well.

Better food. Better health. Better world.

Happy eating.

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