Monday, February 29, 2016

Rococo In Downtown St. Pete

In the mood for a nice juicy steak accompanied by a bottle of Dionysus's finest, my bride and I met up with our friends Sweet Polly and Underdog at the premier, non-chain, downtown St. Petersburg steakhouse Rococo (the one with the backward 'c'). While Bacchus is the Roman god of wine, Dionysus is the god of the grape harvest, wine making, wine, and of ritual madness and ecstasy in Greek mythology. I think Dionysus and I could have been BFFs.

Now, where was I ... oh yeah, Rococo. The four of us wandered in right at the 5:30 opening of the doors. We were greeted and seated in a timely fashion by several smiling staffers who seemed pleased to see us. One of the first things that caught our eyes was a large red glass chandelier that looked as though it could have been created by glass-master Chihuly. Our surroundings were plush and comfortable.

Joshua, our server for the evening, took our beverage order - a Peachy Canyon Westside Zin for us manly men and a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Chardonnay for the dainty damsels. Both wines were excellent, although two in our party didn't think Peachy Canyon sounded all that manly.

Up next were the tasty beginnings on our food journey. Each of us requested something different so that we could get a little taste of several offerings from the soup and appetizer part of the menu.

The Sweet Corn Lobster Bisque with a creamy letter 'R' was a winner for me. I am not a bisque aficionado, but this was rich, creamy, and blessed with small chunks of lobster.

The Charred Cuttlefish with heirloom tomato, hazelnuts, and dandelion pesto piqued my curiosity. I was intrigued to discover any taste difference between cuttlefish and squid. Both are from the same family and any discernible differences were subtle. The cuttlefish strips were tender to the tooth, maybe more so than squid, but I did not detect anything that appeared charred. I can now scratch cuttlefish from my gastronomic bucket list.

Holy mother of Edesia (Roman Goddess of Food - Edesia, not Mom), the Salmon Creek Brulee of Pork Belly with cauliflower, Granny Smith apples, lamb lettuce, and citrus maple jus was probably one of the best menu items of the evening. Rich, juicy, flavorful - I could have made a complete meal out of that pork belly. I might have had to ask for seconds.

And the ubiquitous Steak Tartare with pine nuts, chervil, radishes, horseradish, cucumber, and toast points. This tartare, as one at our table stated, met my expectations but failed to exceed expectations.

Moving on to our entrees, but in no particular order ... oh to heck with that! The very best of the four was the Duo of Lamb Porterhouse - medium rare, if you please.

This dish was roasted to lamby perfection - tender, juicy, and so full of flavor. After a tiny taste of that lamb, several at the table were wishing that they too had requested this dish, especially two who had ordered the 7-ounce grass fed Filet Mignon.

Both filets were prepared to the requested temperature, but both were dry and lacked flavor. The redeeming feature for one was the 'Enhancement' of an added Crispy Fried Lobster Tail for an additional $18. The Rococo on-line menu lists this tail at $12. I didn't pay attention to the in-house menu, so I don't know if the price went up or if this was a screw-up. Either way, the lobster tail was way better than the steak.

The final entree ordered was the Tagliatelle a rich but rather spicy tomato based pasta dish with trumpet 'shrooms and ox-tail that was good but again failed to exceed expectations.

Our table ordered three side dishes with each one large enough to share between two or three people: Cream Corn Mash, Artisanal Mac 'n' Cheese, and Mash Potatoes.

At this juncture I was too stuffed to even think about more food even though I did not finish my steak - it just wasn't worth the effort. The table did order a couple of desserts: the Bread Pudding and the Daily Crisp A la Mode.

Our table split the bill and the total for two with wine and food came in around $250 before gratuity. You could get out of there for less with cheaper wine or wine by the glass, but this was a party - a dinner party, but a party nonetheless.

A parting thought: Been there, done that! Consistently great steaks and more unpretentious bang for the buck at Texas Roadhouse or Longhorn.

Rococo Steak Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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