Photo credit to Emily Parish Photography.
At the heart of Bonita, the beautiful Shangri-La Springs is steeped in history and mystical intrigue. Its fully organic, fine dining restaurant is a doorway to the gardens and grounds beyond, where a majestic, Mysore Fig tree towers and a serene spring (for which Bonita Springs was named) flows into Oak Creek.
“Bonita was birthed out of this property,” says General Manager Zawi Borsa. “We want to be the heart of the community again.” For years, Shangri-La was shielded from public enjoyment, with rumors of what went on behind its gates. A grand reopening was celebrated in March 2016 for the historic property, which originally opened as a hotel in 1921 and later became a health spa, centered around the healing springs. Now the former hotel houses the organic restaurant, along with an art gallery and gift shop filled with handmade jewelry and other “objects of beauty.” In a separate building deeper within the gardens called “Hummingbird,” lies the Shangri-La Wellness Center and Organic Spa, offering massages, facials, and body treatments. An open area under the canopy of the fig is used for drum circles, community yoga and artistic expression.
The entire property exudes a Zen atmosphere, with the scent of essential oils filling the air and a Buddha statue sitting at the base of the giant fig, visible to guests who opt for open-air dining. Inside, original artwork adorns the walls, while local musicians set up in the lobby for the new dinner hours, performing original compositions. Furnishings include antiques from Asia, Bali, and Indonesia.
In the kitchen, Chef Pyro extends the emphasis on nature and beauty. He sources locally, growing many items in his own two-acre garden, including the winter crops of potatoes, eggplants, salad greens and goji berries. Shangri-La has planted more than 50 different edible trees and plants acquired from ECHO Global Farm in North Fort Myers, with plans to expand to 600 and to offer educational demos on growing edible plants.
“My heartbeat is that garden,” muses Chef Pyro. Produce also comes from Inyoni Organic Farm in Naples, while organic meats and eggs are sourced from Bonita-based Circle C Farm. The restaurant’s menu changes frequently, showcasing seasonal produce, with several vegan and vegetarian dishes. Protein options include Gulf grouper and shrimp, along with locally raised, free-range chicken and grass-fed beef and pork. Even drink selections are organic, from Organic Numi Hot Tea to organic beer and wines, including our server-recommended Sustainable Cabernet Sauvignon.
Chef Pyro attended culinary school and trained at a French restaurant in New York City before moving to Southwest Florida, where he has run his own catering business for the last six years. In April 2016, he opened the Shangri-La restaurant, exalting health-conscious cuisine to finely plated works of art.
Monthly Art & Nature nights, held every second Wednesday, draw up to 90 guests for a three-course dinner. Other community night festivities include live painting, live music, poetry readings and free mini spa treatments.
“This really is the Edison Estates of Bonita,” Borsa says. “This is a place more people should know about and spend time here.”
SHANGRI-LA SPRINGS RESTAURANT
27750 Old 41 Road, Bonita Springs | 239.949.0749
Hours – Lunch: 11 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., Monday-Saturday
Dinner: 5-8 p.m. Thursday-Friday
(and every 2nd Wednesday during Art & Nature events)
Rich in color and flavor, beets are presented three ways in this feast for the senses, featuring both red and golden beets. Sliced, stacked or pureed, these beets deliver an earthy sweetness to start the meal. Goat cheese mousse, colored with beet juice, offers culinary contrast for the palate, while candied walnuts bring out the sweetness of this dish.
02. SHRIMP & GRITS
Fresh-from-the-Gulf jumbo shrimp are served in a tomato-based stew over grits made from millet. Chef Pyro turns this southern staple into fine dining fare with his artistic presentation, using a garnish of garden-grown microgreens to finish this succulent starter.
03. WINTER SALAD
This refreshing seasonal salad starts with fresh citrus, which is harvested in abundance during Southwest Florida’s winter growing season. Greens of healthy kale and quinoa enhance this salad’s flavor and texture, while julienned tart apples and red onions balance out the sweetness of candied walnuts, made in-house at Shangri-La year round. Topped with a dollop of sweet potato puree, this salad is sensational.
04. MIRIN & MISO GLAZED GROUPER
A meaty, eight-ounce portion of black grouper, fresh from the Gulf of Mexico, is the star of this delightful dinner entree. Mirin (sweet Japanese rice wine) and miso paste give this dish an Asian flare. Grouper is served over Forbidden Ride — a tasty blend of black rice, corn, spinach, tarragon and corn sauce — which can be a vegan entree of its own.
05. MAPLE SYRUP PORK CHOP
This sweet and savory dinner entree delivers a culinary combination that’s bone-gnawing delicious! A 10-ounce pork chop is glazed in rich maple syrup and served over sweet potato puree, accented with zippy Gribiche sauce, a mustard-mayo blend with capers and egg yolk. The entree is completed with fresh, garden-grown vegetables and microgreens.
06. CHOCOLATE MOUSSE
This decadent dessert blends dark chocolate into a smooth and satisfying mousse, enhanced by fresh blueberries at the bottom of the dish. Garnished with fresh raspberries and whipped cream, this is a no-guilt dessert, as it is rich in antioxidants and contains natural probiotics. A few spoonfuls of this luscious mousse is the ideal way to finish an organic dinner extravaganza at Shangri-La Springs.