2016-04-28 / Cuisine

Throwing The Curve a curve: An inside look at a chef’s menu development

Florida Weekly Correspondent

When it comes to sports bars, expectations usually range from chicken wings to burgers. “Upscale” typically equals flatbreads or blue cheese on your burger. But executive chef Robert Moltzan is throwing a curve ball at the standard pub food lineup — at least at the dining room side of The Curve in the Wyvern Hotel in downtown Punta Gorda.

Recently, Chef Moltzan has been inviting some local foodies to preview and comment on a few of the potential menu changes he plans to introduce next month. So on a quiet weekday night, Florida Weekly foodies dug in to a few of the chef’s impressive new creations while images of baseball legends loomed over us.

The Curve can, unfortunately, be overlooked by Charlotte County diners scouring the numerous restaurants available to to them. Or they head straight up on the Wyvern elevators for the sweeping vistas from the rooftop bar. To attract locals to the hotel’s main dining space on a more regular basis as well as to provide hotel guests with a more sophisticated culinary experience, Chef Moltzan is introducing a number of new dishes on the fine dining side of The Curve within a concept that he labels “affordable elegance” for “anyone who truly wants extraordinary food at reasonable prices”.

Chocolate ice cream Chocolate ice cream The chef hopes to change up the dining room entrée menu monthly, offering fresh protein choices that will be used throughout the menu during the week. “Sometimes that protein could be part of an appetizer, or used in a soup. Fish is whatever is fresh … might be Atlantic salmon, halibut,” he says. “Appetizers could be different every time you come. The same with desserts.”

Florida Weekly’s tasting preview opened with two glistening carpaccio dishes. Slivers of delicately sliced beef rest on a bed of a jellybean-colored dollops spicy flavor sauces, both a feast for the eyes and the palate. Crackling fried capers add a crunchy texture and unique flavor to compliment the delicately sheer slices of tuna carpaccio.

Key lime ice cream Key lime ice cream The chef took time to explain each dish and his philosophy of creating art on a plate, as the stunning entrees arrived. An obvious culinary tinkerer, Chef Moltzan talks about the color on Scallops a canvas of bronze pan seared scallops served over red quinoa with broccoli rabe accompanied by a mushroom au jus with a hint of saffron. Grilled lamb lollipops were marinated in a Middle Eastern spices, served over couscous and roasted fennel with radish added for freshness and crunch.

The chef’s philosophy is simple: “The idea is to travel the world without leaving your kitchen.”

And then there were the desserts. We tasted house-made ice creams served in glasses to display the layers. One was a deconstructed key lime pie made with a buttery graham cracker base, creamy key lime flavored ice cream topped with whipped cream and the “Oreo cookie,” with the cookie used as a crumble base and luscious chocolate ice cream. In the future, Chef Moltzan is envisioning a burnt-peach cobbler among other sweet delights.

Chef Moltzan is no stranger to Charlotte County. In addition to inspiring the menus at the Wyvern, he opened JD’s in Port Charlotte, introducing an oasis of high-end dining with mellow jazz in a previous desert of casual food chains and pizza places, and the former Tapas One in Murdock. He’s also had close calls with fame via television programs on the Food Network.

Chef Moltzan trained in Buffalo and has cooked for Jim Kelly of the Buffalo Bills, Jimmie Van Zant, Reggie Williams, Thurman Thomas, Bobby Bonilla, and, of course, many others who have stayed in the hotel, including Mindy Abair.

Despite the fine dining changes, the lounge for now will remain pretty much as is. The comfy seating with the leather banquets and chairs with the sports motif will stay. If after all is said and done, and what you’re looking for is a sports bar scene, The Curve’s bar has more than enough TV screens and will be retaining the casual bar menu.

The new menu in the dining room will be available Tuesday through Saturday nights staring in May. ¦

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