Sunday, August 14, 2011

Eat Here, Holmes Beach, FL

Eat Here is an offshoot of its more renowned flagship restaurant, Beach Bistro...which is high on my wish list, awaiting my next birthday or anniversary splurge. UD and I decided to hit I-75 South on Saturday for a more casual sampling of what might be in store for us if for some reason I do decide to admit to/acknowledge any more birthdays down the road. I knew from doing my due diligence that Eat Here is a small place which does not accept reservations and is prone to waiting lines that spill out the door and down the sidewalk (which I DON'T do, and Underdog does even less), so we hit the place promptly at 5:00 PM like the earlybirds (once again, in denial) that we clearly have become. Has anyone seen a glitter-encrusted Barbie pink Hoveround? I can't remember where I parked it. It would also be nice if someone could kindly remind me to take my Ginkgo Biloba.

The modest, strip mall exterior:

But, look inside...what a little dollhouse of a restaurant! I loved the terra cotta paint and the giant sunflower on each table. How could this not make you smile? SO charming and inviting! Although we were some of the first patrons of the evening to arrive, the place filled up and was buzzing along nicely with clearly happy diners in the hour that followed.

Moving on to the important stuff, let's talk food. The surprisingly low prices on the dinner menu led me to believe that we were ordering small plates (which did not turn out be the case and resulted in over-ordering). Really, I was shocked at the quantity (and, in general, the quality) for the $$ of the items we tried.

I like to think I know a thing or two about liver pate, being as it's one of my favorite foods on the planet and I've snarfed it everywhere I've ever seen it on the menu encompassing three continents. Eat Here's $8 "duck, duck...mousse – the ploughman's platter" (chef-made duckling pâté, apple smoked cheddar with berries, applies and house pickles) was one of the most perfect in taste, texture and presentation (at least for my palate) that I've ever had. No lie/no over-bestowing of kudos just because all that foie gras pate I mowed through in Paris is a hazy, 3.5 year old memory. This was my favorite offering of the evening...and I'll drive 50 miles again almost any day to get more.

I'd read some online reviews of diners who stated that they felt "rushed" in this establishment. I have to say that service was quite prompt, professional and efficient (you're not going to wait a long time for anything here)...but while I didn't sense that lingering was encouraged, I also never got the feeling that we were overstaying our welcome. Our server, Josh, was extremely accommodating and courteous, and he did a great job of helping us navigate the menu. Indeed, he suggested that we might not need fries with the $12 "gulf coast oyster fry" (cornmeal dusted, brushed with aïoli, on garlic toast, with eat here slaw with fries & aïoli) since fries would also be coming with two of the other items we ordered. Everything's in lowercase on the menu at Eat Here, and I kind of like the suggestion of modesty implied by that.

The oysters themselves were off the chain...sweet, fresh, perfectly and lightly breaded. I liked the aoli and tarragon. Neither the spousal unit nor I were a big fan of the cole slaw that accompanied most entrees. It desperately needs something...Eat Here, Underdog would be happy to share his Bleu Cheese Cole Slaw recipe with you. ;). Either go more vinegary or more creamy because what you're currently dishing up tastes pretty much like lawn clippings.

Things took a southerly turn with the rockfish "fish and chips" offering. There was nothing wrong with the light, crunchy breading and the fries were hot, crispy perfection (as well as being pleasingly redolent of garlic salt). However, the fish tasted like it had been a while since it last swam which resulted in the majority of it being left in the basket.

Since we had no idea that these $12-ish offerings were going to be so huge, we also put in an order for the deep fried ribs. After the fact, I'm not so sure that ribs really need to be deep fried. The meat was fine (moist, tender and falling off the bone), but I think they would've been equally if not more appealing without the frying. I also would've preferred a more substantial sauce as opposed to the thin, almost non-existent acidic bath they were washed in. Why don't you throw some brown sugar and chipotle in there? I want sticky fingers! More of the great fries and not-so-great slaw were served with.

Dessert really ratcheted my heart rate up a notch. The apple crisp with pecans, ginger and ice cream was right up my of the top five desserts I've had this year. It was gorgeous, the apples were tender and lovingly spiced, and the "crisp" was truly crunchy and spicy with chewy, caramelized edges that I absolutely loved. Sofa King good!

Bottom line: We spent $98 here which included everything above and a bottle of Hess Chardonnay. Filtered water was presented ice cold in a bottle at no extra charge, which was very nice. Service was the best. Ambience can't be beat. While some of the menu items we tried didn't rock our tastebuds, others surpassed expectations...and the price point is pretty amazing considering the venue, overall quality and food quantity. We'll be back.

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