Sonata From Chef Ted Dorsey Delivers A Fine Dining Masterpiece

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ST. PETERSBURG, FL – Sonata Restaurant at The Mahaffey Theater located in downtown St. Petersburg at 400 1st St S. is the newest project for Chef Ted Dorsey (previously of The Mill). The menu is focused on fine dining with dishes such as Pork Osso Bucco Bourguignon, Day Boat Gulf Fish, and Crispy House Smoked Duck. The restaurant is backed by businessman Bill Edwards, a household name well-known for taking on ambitious projects and investing in the arts and communities.

Wagyu Beef Tartare & Braised Bone Marrow.

Several of the dishes take simple restaurant food and then break down and reconstructs them into a gourmet serving, such as the Gasparilla Salad which is hardly your average taco salad but instead filled with remarkable shrimp flavors and a savory dressing. Dorsey’s mastery of cooking is evident with each bite and also in the plating and presentation of each dish. There was not one thing I tried that disappointed me or lacked a creative flair.

Char Grilled Octopus.

Chef Ted Dorsey is not new to the restaurant world and when put in a scenario where he can spread his wings, he delivers food that matches. He is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts and it shows. I appreciated his prior restaurant projects, but was left with a new impression of him after this dining experience. I frequently ran into Chef Dorsey at events around Tampa as a food writer, but this was my first time meeting the chef in person.

Anyone can serve a high-quality steak or expensive seafood dish at a fine dining restaurant, but to be able to uniquely create new flavors in a way that leaves someone who has visited hundreds of restaurants across the world intrigued is not an easy feat. I have enjoyed squid ink paella in Barcelona, dined waterfront in San Francisco, and enjoyed craft cocktails in Tokyo. I would say that Sonata could have a place in any of these food cities and the menu showcases an understanding of many cultures, cuisines, and backgrounds. It makes sense with Florida being a melting pot. One of the late Anthony Bourdain’s greatest critiques of the world of fine dining is the lack of imagination in those concepts, but that is not true at all at Sonata.

Equally impressive was the dessert menu with my favorite dish on the menu being their key lime pie. I am usually not much of a dessert person, mainly because I eat so much during regular meals and tend to order more appetizers or an extra side. Each dessert, similar to dinner, also had a unique flavor to it. The espresso chocolate mousse was superb for someone like me who loves coffee and tiramisu, but maybe wants a lighter version of it. The key lime pie was tart without being too tart. My face did not wince, but was instead pleasantly surprised. Nice.

The waterfront view of the city from our table was impressive. The moon art display was also very appropriate considering it was the day of the Solar Eclipse.

The cocktails at Sonata have a wide-spectrum of flavors and profiles that one would expect for a speakeasy or upscale tiki bar and complement the food well. Visitors to The Mahaffey Theater are in for a treat, but Sonata is appealing to more than just theater attendees, but a culinary destination that should be attract diners across Tampa Bay and visitors to Florida. It is a great place for a celebration or a romantic date. The appetizers and cocktail, beer, and wine menu also make it great for corporate gatherings or meetings.

The restaurant only recently opened in the winter of 2023, but there is clearly much more being planned for the concept and brunch is already available for diners to enjoy. Sonata has award-winning potential as a restaurant and I really think if people give it a taste, they’ll be back soon. I know I will be. The artistic vibe of the building and celebration from people who love the arts is a great marriage of the two at Sonata. Don’t miss it.

About me: Hello my name is Carlos Hernandez and I am a writer and journalist with over 10 years of experience. I write the food and travel blog Carlos Eats ( and also contribute to several newspapers and magazines on numerous topics. Follow me on X @CarlosEats, Threads @CarlosEats, and Instagram @CarlosEats.

Carlos Eats

April 11, 2024 |

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