As the screen taunts you with Rick Steves on a European tour or a PBS-produced backpacking adventure through Asia, you can’t help but sink into the dissatisfaction of the latest pizza delivery. Regardless of the name, Hawaiian-style pizza is simply false advertising. And while the Great Wall, the Louvre or Machu Picchu can’t be served on a platter, the next best thing is eating authentically by the hands of those who strive to bring their culture to yours. With international travel off the table, the latest form of worldly indulgence is via the taste buds, and sinking teeth into genuine dumplings, crepes and ceviche has to be better than drooling over the latest Travel Network production. So instead of fastening your seat belts and raising your seat to the upright and locked position this fall, lean back and loosen your belt because these three Lakewood Ranch restaurants are serving up the world’s best flavors in style. Ingredients imported, tradition mastered, table set—let the Lakewood Ranch food tour begin. 

Dim Sum King

Two centuries ago, traders and travelers embarking down the Silk Road would stop to rest, setting aside their packs and goods to raise cups of tea to their lips while reaching for rich snacks to replenish and refuel before continuing on. The dim sum tradition has since spread from tearooms in China throughout the world, even arriving in a small corner of Lakewood Ranch while remaining true to its traditional roots and flavors. Chef and owner of Dim Sum King, Mingbo Situ, from Guangdong in southern China, has worked as a dim sum chef for 20 years, melding tradition and experience to create authentic Cantonese-style dim sum. With hand-wrapped dumplings and carefully twisted buns, Dim Sum King presents almost 2,500 years of steamed and nourishing comfort food tradition in bamboo baskets. With fresh ingredients from Sanwa Farmer’s Market in Tampa, a multicultural and multilingual market for ethnic cooking, Situ creates everything from Pork and Shrimp Shumai and Shrimp Dumplings to Hong Kong–Style Rice and BBQ Pork Buns—hot, sticky, salty and sweet. 

Traditionally served as brunch, dim sum has found its popularity throughout the whole day in Lakewood Ranch, filling the often mouthwatering void for quality Chinese food in Florida. With many residents originally from larger cities up north, Dim Sum King is serving up not only traditional Chinese cuisine for those who wish to indulge in authentic flavors, but for those who only need a bamboo basket to satisfy some wanderlust.  Dim Sum King, 8194 Tourist Center Dr., Bradenton, 941-306-5848.

Paris Bistrot 

After visiting his father-in-law’s restaurant on Anna Maria Island, Jean Christophe along with Alexandra Nebra, high school sweethearts who just celebrated 24 years together in June—decided to open their own restaurant and carry on the family tradition of French cuisine. Since 2008, Paris Bistrot has encapsulated France for the local community’s enjoyment and indulgence, using the same menu that Alexandra’s father has perfected and served since 1986 in Paris. “It’s always nice to be a small, authentic place,” says Christophe, priding himself on the Little Paris his family has worked to create, with him in the kitchen, his wife on the floor and French community tossed back and forth between them. With a casual atmosphere during the day, serving fresh crepes, pastries, salads and paninis, a Parisian afternoon is closer than you might think. Then in the evenings, the more traditional and elaborate plates arrive: Pork tenderloin with black pepper and a cognac sauce is a house favorite. And what could make you feel more French than Boeuf Bourguignon or a Bouillabaisse from the south of France? “All is French,” says Christophe, who selects only the most authentic and favored of dishes to cook for his customers. 

With Lakewood Ranch quickly growing, Paris Bistrot has become a globe-spanning, time-traveling haven for locals suffering from nostalgia, wanderlust, or a mix of the two. “It transports them a year, two years, five years or 10 years ago when they were in Paris,” says Christophe. “And they feel like they are back in a small European bistrot.” And what better dining experience is there than that?  Paris Bistrot, 8131 Lakewood Main St., Lakewood Ranch, 941-388-0564.  

Inkawasi Peruvian Restaurant 

“We get people experimenting and trying different flavors,” says Kleyver Zamora, son of Jimmy Arias, the owner of Inkawasi Peruvian Restaurant. A Peruvian native, Arias has always had an appreciation for travel and cuisine with a special love for the cooking of his homeland—thanks to his mother, the owner of a restaurant of her own in Peru. And with live music each weekend, imported Peruvian beer, wine and sodas, and a Peruvian chef with a specific dedication to authentic presentation and flavor, Arias has done well bringing a true Peruvian experience to Lakewood Ranch.

“There are many people who have traveled to Peru and come [to Inkawasi] knowing what they are going to eat. Other people come out of curiosity,” says Arias. And with the majority of their ingredients arriving directly from Peru, there is no doubt of authenticity for both the experienced and first-time tasters. Whether it’s the Lomo Saltado, a flamed beef cooked with red onions, tomatoes and cilantro; or the Duo Marino, a half ceviche half fried fish dish, Inkawasi spans the land and sea for often overlooked and underrepresented traditions and flavors that have evolved from a fusion of Incan and often Asian influences. Chifa, dishes with a mix of Cantonese elements with traditional Peruvian ingredients and traditions, are a house favorite; specifically Chaufa Amazónico, a rice dish mixed with green onions, soy sauce, sesame oil, Peruvian smoked pork and chopped sweet plantains. And with lunch specials and happy hours, tapas and canchitas—sometimes referred to as the un-popped popcorn of Peru—there is no shortage of true Peruvian gastronomic experiences to try at Inkawasi. Inkawasi Peruvian Restaurant, 10667 Boardwalk Loop, Bradenton, 941-360-1110.