Bar Zin Bistro & Wine Bar

With its cozy atmosphere, Bar Zin offers casual fine dining with classics like Pan-Seared Scallops and Braised Short Ribs, chef’s daily creations, and a superb wine list.

Bar Zin is another spot that houses memories for some long-time Amelia Islanders. When my husband and I walked in, we were snapped back to warm memories of my sweet mother, our tiny little girls, and the kind people who ran the deli there. Dinner that night was every bit as memorable.

It is a quintessential bistro, a cozy, a fine but casual place that is popular with locals. Art adorns the walls, of course. It has a seating design feature I so enjoy in good restaurants is a variety of table sizes, heights, materials, and arrangements: in one corner is a round booth that seats seven; in the middle a round wooden table; a long rustic wooden table here, a row of booths against the wall there, and ours even had a comfortable sofa. So French bistro.

Enjoying a Strawberry Gin Smash was a refreshingly Florida way to ponder the menu and the evening’s specials. Tantalizing classics make up the regular menu. Inside a box marked Market Selections are promising “tasteful daily creations by Chef Abe” where the chef showcases his creativity: Small Plate, Fresh Catch, Butcher Selection, Vegetarian. Our waiter Ryan explained that the Chef had grown up in Charleston and been mentored by a Cajun cook. What this means for us is that he brings powerfully authentic flavors to Bar Zin tables.

Seven simple starters include an expandable charcuterie board, calamari with balsamic vinegar and capers, and crispy Brussels, among others. My pick, the bacon-wrapped Medjool dates with herbed goat cheese, was divine. Oyster-loving husband’s eyes sparkled as our waiter Ryan described how the fried oysters were beer-battered and served with Cajun remoulade. Huge creamy oysters, too. “Some people love these oysters so much that they get two or three orders as their meal,” said Ryan. Noted for future visits.

Among the Plates are several items I’ll want to try on future visits, as Chicken Piccata, Tuna Crunch, or Scallop with Mushroom Risotto.  This night I had succulent Cajun shrimp, flavorful Andouille sausage with a subtle burn, and asparagus that was cooked perfectly. Admittedly, each bite of asparagus isn’t usually special but this chef has strong skills. Personally, I still get a small thrill seeing that bright purple edible orchid garnishing my evening: nibbling the crisp, fresh flower reminds me of watercress or endive, and I’m eating a flower! Ryan had told us to expect attention to the very last detail, and after dinner we understood what he had meant.

Limoncello Mascarpone Cake, Decadent Chocolate Cake, and Powdered Sugar Beignets all sound grand, so why did I have to choose between my three favorites, lemon, dark chocolate, and pastry?  The varying textures and tastes in the chocolate cake were hedonistic indeed. Another time I’d like to try the beignets with a Toasted Pecan Old-Fashioned.

The Pine Ridge chenin blanc-viognier California blend was just right for us with its slightly bold, dry, fruity flavor profile. Had it not been, we would’ve merely stepped into the adjoining Amelia Island Wine Company to select for ourselves. Offering tastings and special events, this business is completely independent but also convenient for those wine connoisseurs who know exactly what they want. Corkage is only $15. Bar Zin has its own extensive wine list, but the wine shop next door means no limits on a diner’s wine-drinking imagination.

Altogether, our Bar Zin bistro experience had been magnificent. We could have but we did not leave with bottles of wine or works of art, only rich flavor memories and plans to return soon.