Shangri-La Springs is a historic property in Bonita Springs, FL. They have opened a new version of their restaurant space now called Harvest and Wisdom. I had written about this property three years ago. As for an intro, I don’t think I could write one any better.
The initial building on the property was built in 1921 as a small hotel to accommodate potential buyers for a local real estate development. The property changed hands many times over the years, expanding and it’s mineral springs becoming a health-related focus for osteopathic and homeopathic owners. The present owners acquired the property in 1998. Their focus was preservationist, but also to expand the holistic and naturalistic vision of some of the former owners of Shangri-La. This is done partially through visual and performance arts. In addition various Classes featuring modalities such as yoga, dance and meditation complement the artistic endeavors here.
The culinary arts at Shangri-La Springs fit very well into the vision for this property, but more on that later. As you enter the main building you will happen on a statue of the reclining Buddha, sort of a symbol of enlightenment.
One can also see some of the beautifully restored areas of the interior such as this lobby space from the original hotel.
I had eaten at the restaurant three years ago. At present, it is run by Executive Chef Allen Fisher and CDC (Chef de Cuisine) David Robbins, two chefs that have very diverse and interesting bios.
The restaurant has been open, as of this writing, for about one month. Intrigued by the caliber of the chefs in the new restaurant here, my dining companion (DC) and I were anxious to try the culinary fruits of HW. At present they are open for lunch only.
One of the appeals of HW is their access to about five acres of organic gardens on site. Although this does not fully meet the needs of HW which of course is seasonally influenced, it does provide for a majority of the needs of the restaurant.
What makes all of this really interesting is that they have a very sophisticated and unique (for a restaurant) agricultural operation here. Much of the produce grown on-site are items known mostly in Southeast Asian or South American regions which our climate mimics in Southwest Florida.
Chef Robbins brought some greens grown on property for us to sample that were being used in a salad for an upcoming menu item.
Clockwise from left to right, we sampled Okinawa spinach, cranberry hibiscus and sissoo spinach. Muntingia berries, which tasted a bit like cotton candy and cecropia fruit followed. The cecropia fruit, found in South America, was really interesting. The fruit is finger-like, was soft, almost gelatinous and tasted mildly of figs. French lentil sprouts followed, then moringa leaves from Southeast Asia and finally katuk leaves which almost had a bit of a nutty flavor. All of this is unique to this area in terms of restaurant fare.
DC and I ordered a few things off the menu. At present, being so new, their menu does not have an online presence.
Although not sampled, they also had a very nicely curated wine selection. One must keep in mind that their menu changes frequently based on the availability of seasonal produce and the whims of the chefs.
Initially, we ordered a few menu items but Chef Robbins, the CDC, sent a few specials off the menu and a dessert our way.
The first thing ordered was the duck rillettes. This was a very appealing presentation, both beautiful and delicious. Confit of duck leg is used here. Shredded pieces of duck are made into a sort of “country pate” with duck fat and seasoned with shallots, chives and Dijon mustard. After plating, the duck is “sealed” with a layer of duck fat and topped with pickled cauliflower, mustard seed and cornichons.
What was equally as interesting as the rillettes were the breads. A locally produced bread containing purple wheat flour, a recently rediscovered heirloom wheat strain high in protein and low in gluten.
Even better were Chef Robbin’s quinoa crackers. The crackers were made from brown rice and quinoa flour and mixed with sunflower seed meal. Olive oil, water, chives and quinoa seeds seal the deal before baking. Both of these baked vehicles were exceptional, adding that much more texture and flavor to the already over the top rillettes.
We also ordered the summer squash and zucchini salad. This was equally as wonderful. Ribbons of zucchini and summer squash are complemented by radishes, lemon oil, mint and a base of herbed ricotta. As I was slowly brought into culinary bliss, it only kept getting better.
Next was a special that day, the beet tartar. This was another amazing dish. Beets and carrots are cooked sous vide, all the while being infused with white balsamic, salt and thyme to infuse these flavors while cooking. Post sous vide, the mixture is chilled, chopped, and mixed with fresh chives, chervil, olive oil, Dijon mustard, shallots and lemon juice.
After plating, the diced sous vide vegetables are topped with a mango fluid gel. Fluid gels are interesting, part of molecular gastronomy introduced into American cuisine a number of years ago. Fluid gels hold their own at rest, but upon shear stress (e.g.- chewing) they become liquid. The mango fluid gel was perfect in this context, especially when complemented with Chef Robbin’s quinoa crackers. Another beautiful and flavorful dish.
Another special that day, octopus confit, was also brought to sample. It was almost too beautiful to eat!
This dish was simple, most pleasing to the eye and delicious. Confit of octopus is plated atop roasted smashed potatoes, topped with green onion and served with a gochujang aioli. Gochujang is that wonderful fermented Korean red pepper paste adding heat, umami and sweetness to all it touches. I thought this dish was a fifteen out of ten.
We finished with HW’s version of cassoulet, a bean casserole slow-cooked including smoked pork belly and seasonal vegetables.
The seasonal vegetables this round were yellow squash, zucchini and collard greens among others. This was another exceptional dish, most highly recommended.
We were brought a serving of vegan key lime pie, another aesthetically beautiful dish.
This was a lovely finale to the exceptional food served to us that day. The crust was made from cashews, the filling used an avocado base and the topping whipped coconut cream. It, like every other menu item and special sampled here, was excellent. I can honestly say this was one of the best meals I have had, locally, in quite some time.
HW is a unique restaurant space in Southwest Florida. The aesthetic of the restaurant per se is quite pleasant and well complemented by the food served, much of which is grown on site. The new principal kitchen staff, both of whom are extremely competent, have brought the food offerings at Shangri-La to a whole new level. I hope readers will dine here. HW will not disappoint.
It’s a wrap for another post on Forks.
Harvest and Wisdom
27750 Old 41 Rd.
Bonita Springs, FL 34135
Open Tuesday-Sunday 11AM-3PM; All major credit cards accepted.