Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Sumatra: A Brandon Bistro?

Sorry for the question, but we spent five months in Brandon when we first landed in this part of the state in 1990, and the most sophisticated eatery there was Olive Garden.  While the town is still a chain-lover's dream, a smattering of independent restaurateurs is attempting to break new ground.

A case in point is Sumatra Bistro Cafe & Bakery, which occupies a corner space of a building located east of Lakewood Drive, off Oakfield Drive.  Once I found the place, which, approaching from the west, has terrible visibility and a dysfunctional parking lot, I joined the Mississippi Maven at an outside table on a spiffy spring day. 

Sumatra's patio is a plus, but server access was a problem during our visit.

Although I have my share of beefs with Brandon, this sprawling bedroom community has managed to retain a vestige of small-town folksiness, and we were greeted with enthusiastic hellos and a smiling staff.  The level of professionalism ended there, however, as I received the wrong meal and servers busing open-air tables tried futilely to enter the restaurant bearing armloads of dishes.  Patio diners politely offered to open the door for the plate jugglers - which begs the question, why not prop open the door?   I could take a trip down Snarky Lane, but I'll forge ahead to the food.

Reminiscent of Season's Fresh (see recent post), Sumatra is following an emerging trend:  a focus on fresh, organic and locally grown ingredients featured in salads, paninis, wraps and sandwiches.  Gourmet coffee, tea, and baked goods complete the cafe-bistro profile. 

Since the Trib gave Sumatra an enthusiastic review, I guess I expected more substance and creativity.  I ordered a cup of Tomato Basil Bisque and an Eggplant and Mozzarella Sandwich. What I mistakenly received was hard-boiled egg and cucumber served on a Pepperidge Farm deli flat.  Rather than remove the dish and correct the order, the server said the chef must have misunderstood her "egg" instructions.  I didn't want to hold up the Maven's meal by requesting a new sandwich, so I simply ate what was before me, which certainly was no guilty pleasure.  In fact, it was quite diet-friendly.

Weight watchers, rejoice!

Deli flat.  Cucumber.  Egg.  Need I say more?  The high note was the fresh-tasting soup, rich with tomato and nicely infused with basil.   I would also recommend the coffee, which the server said was - you guessed it - Sumatran. 

The Maven had a Chicken Caesar Wrap, which she uncharacteristically remained mum about throughout the meal.  Both entrees were accompanied by a handful of mixed greens, some carrot shavings, a few cheese crumbles and a side of ordinary house vinaigrette. 

The word verdant comes to mind.

When I asked her in the parking lot what she thought of the place, the Maven shrugged and said we've had better lunches.  She's right.  We both could have made any of this stuff at home.

Sumatra Bistro serves breakfast and lunch, and stocks a bakery case full of treats.  The hours posted on the website vary depending on the day, so consult before you go. 

Verdict:  So-so bistro.

Restaurant Info:
Sumatra Bistro Cafe and Bakery
1602 Oakfield Drive

Sumatra Bistro Café & Bakery on Urbanspoon


  1. Thanks for sparing me the pain. The only really good food to be had in Brandon is at Della's After Dark. You would truly be amazed by how this little deli turns itself into a higher-end, romantic jazz club and bistro on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights. The food is beyond compare for this side of the county (and for most of county as well). Love reading your posts.

  2. Thanks, Polly! I enjoy yours, too. My sister, the Tennessee Puzzler, shares your love of Della's. I am sure she'll be chiming in here after she reads your comment. We haven't gotten there yet, but it's on my list. Thanks for reading.

  3. When we lived in the Tampa area, Della's After Dark was one of our favorite restaurants. We always had good food and excellent service. The jazz music from Valerie Gillespie and her group was delightful and enhanced the dining experience on the weekends. Diners are never rushed through their meals for the next seating so it's a wonderful place for celebrating special occasions like anniversaries, etc. Now that we no longer live in FL, we miss our evenings at Della's. Hopefully, the blogger and her hubmeister will have a pleasant experience there as well.