Sunday, April 1, 2012

Seabreeze Island Grill & Raw Bar, Redington Shores, FL

I adore it when I can report a serendipitous food find that far exceeds expectations, so get out the flouride rinse because I am in the throes of new love and don't want to give anyone cavities.

I lived two blocks from the building that now houses Seabreeze Island Grill when I first moved to Florida almost 25 years ago. Then, it was a Shell's franchise (back when their only side dishes were paper boats of iceberg lettuce and boiled new potatoes). I am loving the evolution of this venue.

Despite a somewhat off-putting first impression delivered by the hostess, who displayed a marked lack of enthusiasm as a Sunday afternoon line snaked out the door (at least two groups of potential diners finally walked away in exasperation...and we would have, too, had we not been meeting friends), the food ultimately offset our seemingly interminable wait to be seated. Maybe she was overwhelmed or just having a bad day, but I am mentioning it in the interest of dialing down the puppies and rainbows so everyone's tooth enamel remains intact.

We opted to sit at a booth in the bar area which boasted big picture windows with intracoastal waterway views, and this proved to be a wise decision. As it turned out, it's happy hour all day on Sunday in the lounge...which meant $2 ice cold Miller Lites for Underdog and Sweet Polly, $3.50 margaritas for Max and $5 appletinis for Felicialicious (our seafood snarfing partners in crime). We also received very friendly and competent service from our lovely brunette bartender/wait staff (wish I could remember her name, but we all remember her beautiful smile).

Warm, lightly sweet Hawaiian bread promptly appeared, nicely presented with molded honey butter. I was SO enamored of the extra effort that went into this...and, really, everything we ordered today. Nothing at Seabreeze is the Crappy Bill's standard issue fare you find at the ubiquitous cookie-cutter seafood shacks lining the Pinellas beaches. It's not more expensive...just more thoughtful.

Having never experienced a stone crab application in a soup before, there was no way we were going to pass on the Stone Crab Chowder. It was luxurious, silken perfection...not overly-thickened with roux, but like buttah on the tongue and liberally studded with stone crab morsels, corn kernels, onions and potato bits. Ridiculously good.

Macadamia crusted mahi bites tasted ocean-fresh and were fried to perfection.

I like to imagine that I make the best coconut shrimp on the planet, but I think I might've been proven wrong today. Delicately enrobed a light and crispy coconut crust and accented with fresh grilled pineapple, tequila creole mustard and lime cilantro slaw, they forced me to admit defeat. I wish I could hate you, Seabreeze Island Grill.

Dinners here are served with a salad and your choice of one of several interesting-sounding side dishes, which caused me to perk because most of the usual boring suspects (garlic mashed, steamed veggies, baked potato...I'm talkin' about you) weren't there. A restaurant house side salad can often be a lowly beast, but the version presented to us was definitely a cut above average with its ripe tomato, goat cheese crumbles, sunflower seed accents and homemade dressing.

It was really tough to decide on an entree at Seabreeze. I loved the sound of so many things on the menu (for instance, "Red Coconut Curry Seafood Pasta - Fresh shrimp, scallops, & mussels sautéed with vegetables in penne and tossed in red coconut curry sauce, lightly spicy"...wowza!), but I was in a crustacean kinda mood so I went with the half Florida lobster with crabmeat stuffing. It was wonderful and the stufffing was crab-riche. I also really enjoyed the garlic roasted new potatoes which were nicely executed with soft centers and beautifully caramelized crusts.

Great minds think alike, so Felicia followed suit but added a small filet, the taste and texture of which rivaled many others I've enjoyed in Tampa Bay at twice its price point. The steaks served at Seabreeze are 100% hormone, antibiotic, and steroid free, completely natural and sourced from Midwestern and California ranchers committed to these high standards, hand cut and wet aged a minimum of 21 days. What's not to love about that? The filet was simply prepared with sea salt, cracked pepper, and red chimichurri butter, but had a depth of flavor I've seldom tasted in tenderloin. Felicia also couldn't stop raving about the black beans and spicy rice. No one is dumping beans out of a can here...these had clearly been soaked, simmered and well seasoned.

The boyz both selected the Jamaican Grouper served with fruit chutney, along with a side of the tres Suthren and gently spiced side dish of mashed sweet potatoes with cinnamon and golden raisins.

Felicia had an undeniable desire to "kiss the cook" after our amazing meal, and who could blame her? Chef Alex not only has fine culinary skills, he's also cute!

Seabreeze Island Grill's cuisine offers top quality ingredients, freshness, creativity and and culinary cohesion while its broad menu provides choices for every palate and dietary lifestyle. It's a real crowd-pleaser that seems to do a lot of different things right...we'll definitely be back!

Seabreeze Island Grill on Urbanspoon

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