A Balancing Act at Restaurant Doro
At Restaurant Doro in Neptune Beach, Chef Chris Polidoro greets staff with a warm smile and a friendly joke as they arrive, one by one to start their evening dinner service shift. The mood amongt arrivals is light and industrious. Everyone moves quickly to their stations with a smile and begins prep.
A recent transplant from New York, Chef Polidoro has transformed the ambiance of a former Neptune Beach sushi bar into a modern, intimate dining room. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Chef Polidoro runs the kitchen, while his wife Jessica oversees front of the house operations. A team of sous chefs, garde manger chef, bartenders and wait staff turn out a menu that highlights seasonal ingredients in simple, but creative new ways. Polidoro refers to it as “fortified home cooking.”
Clean and bright with an elegant beachside casual vibe, the cozy dining room holds about 12 tables. The relaxed atmosphere includes white and gray decor, polished cement floors and artwork on the walls that changes with the seasons. Seats at the bar have a bird’s-eye view onto the garde manger (garde manger is French for "keeper of the food”; it’s a food station where cold dishes such as salads, hors d'œuvres, appetizers are often prepared for service) and action on the line. Given the tight space, the team has quickly mastered their own kind of kitchen choreography. Camaraderie amongst staff is evident.
A family meal is served prior to the evening’s opening, allowing the team to try new flavor profiles that may one day appear on the menu. Sitting together before a shift begins, the staff talks about ingredients and cooking techniques used to prepare the meal. There is also some good-natured competition aimed at outdoing the previous night’s offering.
Customers expecting a focus on seafood at this seaside restaurant will be surprised to find an equal emphasis on meat. “I wanted to put a a good meat on the menu,” said Polidoro who handles the butchering for lamb and beef dishes.
Lamb ribeye is served with a cauliflower puree, glazed carrots and charmoula, a marinade traditionally used in Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian cuisines. A duck breast dish is served with apple brown butter, green onions and butternut squash. The staff is well versed in matching each dish and wine. The wine list provides a good sampling of labels not found at local stores, which pairs well with the menu.
Chef Polidoro sources ingredients from local farms, such as Frog Song Organics, as much as possible and it’s likely you’ll find a whole host of seasonal ingredients on the menu on any given night. “I thought opening the place, it would be strictly cooking, but ordering and working with purveyors takes up most of my time,” he said. “I’m aiming for a balance, so I can have a life, a family.” Family is important to the chef and his team, both in the kitchen and in the dining room. And indeed, everything at Restaurant Doro — from the plates of food they serve to the ambience they create — seems to be a pursuit of balance.
Learn more about Restaurant Doro's menu, restaurant hours and location by visiting their website at www.restaurantdoro.com