Monday, July 7, 2014

Gulf Boulevard: A Culinary Destination

Ever on the lookout for cutting edge, innovative, culinary delights, my bride and I often wind up on Gulf Boulevard, that strip of road that parallels the Pinellas County beaches. We have grazed from Clearwater Beach down to Pass-a-Grille and back. We have enjoyed a myriad of memorable meals, the latest at Café Luna Bistro, 6700 Gulf Boulevard.

The Belle of Ballast Point (she who has retired) and I along with our dear friends Sweet Polly (she of the Epicurean Perils of…) and her mighty Underdog entered this delightful yet unassuming dining spot this past Saturday for what has come to be called our Blogger’s Convergence. This is an opportunity for four foodies with refined buds of taste to indulge in fine food and wine.

The Café Luna Bistro did not disappoint. We had the requisite reservations and were promptly seated and presented with menus. Beth, our charming and professional server then arrived to cater to our every gastronomic whim starting with a couple of bottles of wine for the table: a Chardonnay for the fair damsels and a manly red Petite Sirah/Petit Verdot for the…well, manly men.

While awaiting the arrival of our Thai Spring Rolls and Smoked Fish Spread appetizers the table received a basket of crispy, light, and airy breads with herb infused olive oil.


The spring rolls consisted of beef and Asian vegetables wrapped and fried a crispy, golden brown, and then presented with a sweet chili sauce for dipping.




As good as those spring rolls were, and they were good, the Smoked Fish spread with a combination of grouper and snapper mixed in a chipotle, onion and mayonnaise spread was the best I have ever had.

 
This is the benchmark for all future fish spreads. Warmed crostini accompanied the fish, and a couple of drops of Cholula chipotle hot sauce added just the right amount of heat.

Each in our party of four ordered a different entrée. I had a taste of everything and I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. They all were perfectly prepared and presented, but I will start with my Filet Napoleon.


This was a medium rare, grilled filet, topped with a grilled crab cake, sliced Portobello mushroom with a honey Dijon horseradish cream sauce and sweet balsamic reduction served with loaded mash potatoes and steamed asparagus. The cream sauce with balsamic reduction complimented the Portobello, crab, and filet perfectly. All elements of this dish practically melted in the mouth.

I still find it difficult to believe a simple chicken breast could be as heavenly as the Belle’s Chicken Marsala. This tender sautéed chicken breast was coated with a rich, sweet Marsala sauce with creamy whipped potatoes and the ubiquitous asparagus. Though my bride isn’t a fan of mushrooms, she said even they were good.



Sweet Polly had one of the best red snapper dishes I can ever remember tasting. The Chili Snapper, panko coated and pan-fried to crispy goodness was then slathered in a sweet chili teriyaki glaze, and served with seasoned rice, and crisp stir-fry vegetables.


Underdog was probably fortunate to lose only a few bites of his Shrimp and Andouille Sausage entrée to his bride, a true Southeran gurl. The jumbo shrimp with Andouille sausage was sautéed with bell peppers, onions and celery in a port wine demi-glace, Cajun seasoning and chives served with…here it comes… three cheese grits. To quote Sweet Polly, “I love grits almost more than life itself.”


I am not a dessert person, but the table did order two dishes that apparently pleased the palates. The Apple Cinnamon Bread Pudding was probably the favorite followed closely by the Double Chocolate Brownie with berries and vanilla ice cream.
 

I would have to rate the dining experience at Café Luna Bistro as one of the best in the Tampa Bay area. The service was friendly and efficient; the wine selection left little to be desired, especially in pricing, and the food was exceptional.

All food and wine for the four of us came to $270.92. We split the bill down the middle so the bill for two came to a very reasonable $135.46. We tacked on an additional 20% for our server Beth.

Good food, good wine, good times, and it didn’t strip the family coffers. Another winner on Gulf Boulevard, the boulevard of gastronomic dreams.

Cafe Luna on Urbanspoon

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