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'The Best You've Ever Had'

Petar’s Restarurant, 3300 Bonita Beach Road, Bonita Springs, (239) 494-1343, petarsrestaurant.com


WHY WE LOVE IT: We can’t resist front row seats to the one-man show starring the young and talented Petar Al Kurdi. His kitchen is smack dab in the middle of the restaurant, no windows or distance between him, his helpers and the tables arranged in a semicircle around them. But since this isn’t Hell’s Kitchen, it’s possible for friends and colleagues to have a quiet meal in the otherwise typical bistro.

IDEAL MEAL: Somehow anything Al Kurdi prepares turns out to be among the best you’ve ever had, be it a crab cake appetizer or braised short ribs. Part of his Midas touch stems from his focus on quality ingredients (he doesn’t own a freezer) and his choice to limit the menu to a handful of dishes he knows works. He began his training in his native Bulgaria and perfected his technique through years at upscale eateries in the States. That diverse background informs the often unexpected mix of flavors—fresh dill in a butternut squash risotto or seared salmon with button mushrooms and hollandaise. The offerings are changing for summer, but knowing his track record, it’s nearly impossible to find something you won’t love. Note: Customers missing a favorite can request it when making reservations, and he’ll gladly bring it back for an encore.

VIBE: Despite the reality show unfolding while you dine, the cozy room has a relaxed feel. As you order a glass of wine, you feel a world away from the Publix a few doors down. It’s where to go when you’ve left the office and workday cares behind and are in the mood for some culinary magic. (Note: The restaurant will close the month of September in preparation for season.)

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