|Pen and ink drawing - JLR 2013|
For years we have been going to the beach at Pass-A-Grille. We have dined at the usual beach bars and tourist magnets unaware of a gastronomic gem located a mere block away from the beach road.
An epicurean delight, the Black Palm Restaurant located at 109 8th Avenue demanded our presence. After drooling over their on-line menu, we were helpless to resist.
We called ahead to make dinner reservations for yesterday evening, so when we arrived we were promptly seated and attended to by not one, but two servers.
Jim and Kevin provided us with excellent service - speedy delivery of adult beverages to get the juices flowing, and recommendations that enhanced our evening.
My date for the evening and for life, the Belle of Ballast Point, started with a glass of Bodini Chardonnay from Argentina - a light refreshing beverage.
I pondered the choices from the cocktail menu and decided on an interesting, yet unusual, Hendrick's Cucumber Mojito - Hendrick's Dry Gin, fresh cucumbers, fresh squeezed lime juice, fresh muddled mint, sugar cane syrup and a splash of club soda.
This was a perfect beverage to calm the nerves and wash away the road dust after a long and arduous journey across the bay from the paradise that is SOG City - South of Gandy in Tampa.
That might have been a touch melodramatic. The journey wasn't that bad, but the mojito was really good.
We decided on a bottle of Tikal "Patriota" (60% Bonarda/40% Malbec), 2010, another Argentinian taste treat, to accompany our dinner selections. While the wine breathed, we agonized over our food choices - should we order just from the tapas menu, or be little piglets and choose a couple of tapas and a couple of large plates from the dinner menu?
All right then, piglets it is! From the tapas menu we requested the Salchichón con Asiago, grilled South American salami, served with Asiago cheese and heavenly white corn cakes.
The sausage was savory and good, but I couldn't keep my bride away from those corn cakes.
She raved over them!
Our other tapas choice was the Lomo Fino Carpaccio - a peppercorn encrusted beef tenderloin seasoned with smoked salt, chimichurri oil and Asiago cheese.
This carpaccio was superb, topped with arugula and highlighted with flavorful tomato and avocado slices.
From the Cenas (dinners) side of the menu, the Belle chose the Café con Carne, an 8 ounce pecan-espresso encrusted filet mignon served with flash fried veggies and tortilla wrap mashed potatoes. This cut of Angus beef was perfectly prepared to the requested temperature and just melted on the tongue. Muy delicioso!
I was torn between the pan-seared lollipop lamb chops and the aquatic fowl. Jim said he could heartily recommend both, but the Pato Apasionado, an orange passion fruit glazed crispy duck breast with sofrito cream rice and grilled zucchini, was a personal favorite. Generally, if the server says it's good, then I defer to their judgement.
Jim did not lead me astray. This was a dish bursting with flavor cooked to a perfect medium rare as requested, and apparently as the chef prefers. The only difficulty I had with my dinner was keeping my bride away from the sofrito cream rice. She swooned over that rice. Swooned, I tell you!
Not that either of us really needed a dessert, but since women are blessed with a dessert stomach, she decided on the Cheesecake de Guava with a almond-butter crust. I'm not much for sweets, but the bite that I was allowed was very good.
It is always a highlight of any dining experience to meet the chef, and on this night we were honored to meet the young gentleman responsible for our outstanding dinner at the Black Palm - Matt Smith, the Chef de Cocina.
The Black Palm has been around since 2005 and we cannot believe we have only just discovered for ourselves this hidden gem. There is everything from food, beverage, and staff to recommend the Black Palm.
For all that we consumed and enjoyed, our total for the evening came to a very reasonable $158.36, plus an additional 20% for superior service.
I don't believe I mentioned that Black Palm has a full bar.