Monday, November 16, 2015

Kon'nichiwa To Osaka Sushi And Thai

My bride and I moved to the beach a year ago this month. For most all of that year we have driven past Osaka Sushi and Thai on Park Boulevard in Seminole. With each drive-by we were presented with a sign reading OPENING SOON. How soon we wondered? It certainly wasn't a Japanese "soon" since that means right freakin' now. We decided it had to be a GTE soon, something we learned as employees of that now defunct company. For non-company employees, that means, Get To-it Eventually.

Osaka finally opened a few weeks ago. Since they made us wait for them, we decided to ignore them for a few weeks as payback. Last night, I could wait no longer. So we wandered in a little after their 5 o'clock dinner opening and were promptly seated. We had seen the school cafeteria tables and chairs on-line, so we asked for a booth and were graciously guided to a comfy one just past the sushi bar.

Pat was our most delightful and charming server who brought menus and inquired of our beverage requirements. Beer for my bride and a bottle of cold sake for me, onegai. You'd be surprised at the smiles received when a few words of Japanese are spoken ... even poorly. Of course, if you get a funny look or a blank stare you might want to stick with English.

I had hoped for the sea urchin, but they were out of this delicacy. No surprise there as that delight sells out quickly and is hard to find. Maybe next time. Instead, I chose the BBQ Squid as my appetizer, and I can heartily recommend this tasty, albeit chewy, treat for the taste buds. This grilled whole marinated squid was served with a savory wasabi mayo sauce.

My bride decided to dine on the Ramen Noodle Stir Fry with chicken. These stir fried egg noodles were cooked Japanese style with green cabbage, broccoli, carrots, and dry seaweed.

This was a large serving of flavorful noodles and veggies that required a take-home box. The leftovers made a superb breakfast for me the following morning.

I just go quackers over aquatic fowl and Osaka had a crispy duck dish that screamed my name: Duck Rock & Roll. This duck dish was adorned with steamed mixed vegetables topped with a choice of sauce; garlic, ginger, basil, chili, sweet and sour, Panang, or red curry. I chose the garlic and this Thai style dish was one of the best I have ever devoured.

There were so many more Japanese, Thai, and sushi items on the Osaka menu that simply titillate my taste buds and cause me to envision many a return visit. The prices are very reasonable with food and adult beverages running at $67.70. We exceeded a 20% gratuity for Pat since she provided extraordinary service.

Arigato, Pat and Osaka.

Osaka Sushi & Thai Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato 

Chez Colette French Bistro

Despite several name changes Chez Colette French Bistro at 796 Indian Rocks Road in Belleair Bluffs has returned to its former glory under the ownership of Colette Pommel, her husband Bernard Jacob, and their son Nicolas Denis. Some might remember Chez Colette as Le Bouchon Bistro or La Petit Bistro. Since arriving from Avignon, France, buying the place and changing the name, Colette has retained some of the more popular dishes. They kept the foie gras, the boeuf bourguignon, and the Burgundian escargots with the parsley and garlic sauce.

During our recent visit, the four of us tried all three of those menu items. But first, le vin, si vous s'il vous plaît. Our table requested a bottle of Burgundy and Pouilly Fuisse. Our server, Justin, properly presented and served the wines and then took our requests for appetizers. Our table shared the Duck Foie Gras and the Escargot.

The Duck Foie Gras was undoubtedly the best that I have ever been served. It was creamy and delicious spread on the accompanying toasts with a dab of jam.

The Escargot did not inspire. While the snails were cooked to al dente perfection, the sauce was bland and devoid of taste except for a hint of a freshly mowed lawn.

Our table had greater success as we moved on to our entrees. My Duck Confit was good, but the top was a little over done. The skin was nice and crisp but the meat underneath was dry. Digging deeper and the meat was moist with more flavor.

I had a bite of the Sirloin and was pleasantly surprised at the flavor, juiciness, and tenderness of this cut of beef. The accompanying French Fries were deemed to be superb.

One of the standouts of the evening was the Boeuf Bourgogne. The beef was tender, and the Burgundy sauce was excellent. I pride myself on being a good cook, but this boeuf bourgogne was better than the one I cooked at home a few weeks ago. My compliments to the chef.

And, lastly, the La Atlantique, a savory dinner crepe that I tasted, but sadly do not remember. That is not meant as a negative comment, but rather a case of being too full to appreciate more food.

We capped our evening with several desserts that, as I mentioned before, I was way too full to appreciate, or (obviously) photograph.

For the most part our food was good, the service was excellent, the company terrific, and the prices were not unreasonable. Our total for four people with food and wine came to a bit under $260.

Chez Colette French Bistro Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato  

Sunday, November 1, 2015

The Cruise Of Three Seestors

For the longest time the Belle of Gulf Boulevard has wanted to go on another cruise. Not just any cruise, but a cruise with her Seestor (that's sister with an accent ... a whole other story). I found a great deal on a Carnival ship a few months ago so I booked a balcony suite for the three of us (I am the third Seestor, the one with a hormone issue ... a whole other story).

The three of us chugged out of Tampa last Monday aboard the Paradise on a five day cruise to Grand Cayman and Cozumel. After the mandatory safety drill we headed for the nearest bar to get the party started. Woo! Woo! Pump it up, pump it up!

Tampa fades into the mist as the ship sails from the Garrison Channel and we settle in to our new lives "... sailing, sailing o'er the bounding main ..."

The whale's tail stack belched smoke as the Captain shifted the ship into over-drive and we waved goodbye to Tampa Bay and hello to the open seas.

 Each evening upon our return to our suite we found a new towel sculpture ... in this case, a pig.

Have you ever kissed a pig? Well, my bride has.

Our first full day at sea was a Carnival Fun day, with a myriad of activities such as eating, drinking, dropping some change in the casino, or enjoying the pool when the sun peaked out of the clouds. While wandering about the open deck area, I picked up a couple of pointers on what and what not to wear at the pool.

The next day we once again planted our feet on dry land. We dropped anchor on the back side of Grand Cayman. The Georgetown side was too rough to safely tender back and forth from ship to shore, so we tendered in and hailed a taxi for the ride to town.

After a bit of plundering, my two lovely wenches abandoned me when they happened upon a swarthy pirate.

The next day, the Paradise tied up at Puerto Maya on the island of Cozumel and we were able to disembark and hail another taxi into the town of San Miguel for some shopping, sightseeing, cerveza, and Mexican cuisine.

Before leaving Tampa, I had done some research on food venues in San Miguel, and Casa Denis was recommended. I was more than a little excited when we stumbled upon this Mexican eatery.
The ladies weren't all that hungry after a big cruise ship breakfast, so they settled upon a plate of real Mexican nachos which is somewhat ironic since nachos is not a Mexican dish. They were good though.

And for me, pulpo, por favor. What was served was a delicious plate of grilled octopus prepared in an authentic Yucatan style. I was a happy Gringo!

Back at Puerto Maya we came across Ali Gator, who looked as if he had a dandy meal of Tourista Ceviche and was thinking of mucho mas.

 We side stepped Ali and made like tourists over at the seawall.

Aye, me beauties!

Back aboard ship, we prepared ourselves for a grand dinner. Each of us got our own personalized menu listing the gut busting delicacies awaiting our taste receptors.

The Chef's Table took us through one of the massive kitchens for appetizers and then a sit-down seven course meal. There was a whole lot of eatin' needing to be done so not everything was photographed. No one left that dinner feeling hungry. Most of us could barely move.

It looked like an egg yoke, but it is a Mango Sphere using molecular gastronomy.

 We are pretty sure this is the Rosemary Biscuit. The Salmon Tartar Cornets were too blurry to use.

This was amazing! It looked like a shrimp on a skewer, but was Chocolate Bacon with Apple Ribbons and faux caviar, again using a molecular gastronomy technique.

After the appetizers, we were escorted to the dining area where the chef's genius continued to boggle the mind and delight our taste buds.

Bisque Our Way had a spectacular presentation and was followed by Wagyu that had the taste and texture of a slow braised pot roast.

I breathed a sigh of relief when the last dish was presented. While the individual servings appeared small, this was still a lot of food. 

Except for the pulpo on Cozumel this was the best food served on the entire trip. You pay dearly for it, but heavens to Murgatroid is it so worth the money.

Next, is our last towel sculpture of the trip.

The next day the Paradise pulled in to Port of Tampa and the Three Seestor's Cruise came to a close. The cruise is over, but the memories will last forever.