Sunday, May 15, 2016

Selene Fresh Fare & Bar, St. Pete Beach, FL

Hold onto your hats, everyone...there’s a newish dining destination on the Pinellas beaches that is NOT a great place for grouper sandwiches, onion rings and Key lime pie (not that there’s anything wrong with any of that) or a mediocre tourist trap with Sysco offerings.

A former Village Inn location has morphed into a modern and serenely chillaxing adult oasis (I didn’t see any children or a kids’ menu – and a youngster would need to have seriously adventurous palate to find something to order and be happy with here). That’s okay because sometimes grownups need a break. The interior is sleek, somewhat minimalistic and awash in the soothing shades of Santorini blue and white.

My party of four toddled in at the embarrassingly early hour of 5:00 PM, as we AARP card carriers are wont to do, only to find that our iron-poor blood paid dividends when the happy hour menus were dispensed. If there is a finer happy hour menu with similar pricing in Pinellas county (and comparable food quality), I want to hear about it (my email address is at the end of this column). Generous pours of house wines and locally brewed craft beers are priced at $4 (domestic beers at $3) between 4:00 and 6:00, and a delectable selection of apps are also discounted. We were required to dine in the bar area to qualify for these discounts, but the environment is quite pleasing and the service received was knowledgeable, friendly and attentive.

Right off the bat, I must lavish kudos on the remarkable complimentary bread service. A Jenga-like stack of hot, crispy slabs of gluten-riche decadence showed up along with some sexy, curry-infused crunchy breadsticks. A luxe little trough of brightly fresh hummus for dipping rounded out this low-carber’s nightmare.

Because we could, we ordered a few of the discounted apps. The rock star of our sampling was a heaping $7 piled of grilled octopodi. Little char-grilled disks of cephalopod were almost lobster-like in consistency and accented with oregano, red wine vinegar, onion, capers. One of the best versions to be had in Tampa Bay for my money. A $6 selection of toasty pita wedges with a choice of three spreads was also snarfed in short order. Most selections afforded out-of-the-ordinary taste sensations and all elicited multiple dips and “mmmm”s and “ahhh”s– smoked eggplant, yellow split pea mousse (FAR more delightful than it sounds – sweet and delicate), and the adventure-seeker’s skordalia (a mild, silky mashed potato and garlic based spread spiked with garlic and pureed fish roe). The $5 stuffed mushrooms with bacon, roasted peppers and mozzarella were also winners, boasting a meaty, non-slimy texture that even the non-funghi lover in our party appreciated. Perhaps the only item on my “not to order next time” list would be the $7 roasted quail in white wine and lemon juice. It was flavorful, but a tad overdone…and I always feel a little like I’m eating someone’s parakeet when I’m nibbling the flesh from their tiny bones. Best that I avoid dishes that make me contemplate vegetarianism as a lifestyle.
Entrees were, for the most part, both healthy and filling. Fish dishes are done simply and extremely well at Selene. Hub’s entire deboned branzino was lightly grilled to moist perfection with olive oil and lemon…that’s it. Served with a warm slaw, a nutty $5 side of giant limas (don’t diss them ‘til you’ve tried them) was tacked on to share with the group. Steak lovers need not despair – NY strip, filet mignon and ribeye are all available at Selene and prepared with care based on the taste I had of the beautifully seared, juicy tenderloin with grilled veggies and a side of Béarnaise I snagged from the plate of a dining companion.

Never one to feign daintiness or pretend to count calories when dining out, I practically did a face plant into the depths of my pool of luxurious shrimp and grouper risotto (a special of the evening). I’m a huge advocate of moderation…especially as it applies to moderation.
The dessert menu is outré and might cause traditionalists a moment of hesitation…but one must keep an open mind. I’ll admit that I recoiled in horror at the very idea of a cheesecake lavished in tomato jam and sweet spoon olives. Really, what sounds more horrible than that? Maybe an old tire frosted with a can of cream of mushroom soup. Guess what? This works…I don’t know how, but it does. You will be unable to keep your fork out of it. The pear poached in white wine and saffron, stuffed with vanilla ice cream, is also a solid choice if you need to stay closer to your epicurean comfort zone. Baby steps.

Selene Fresh Fare and Bar Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.


  1. That shrimp and grouper risotto sounds absolutely magical! I'm a lot more dubious about that tomato jam & olive cheesecake though.

  2. I was wondering what was going in at the old Village Inn. This is good, the beach needs some more good options.

  3. Hope they keep that risotto on the menu.

  4. Looks like another delightful place that I have to eat.

  5. Miss your writing of this blog. Followed you also on WTF. Are you writing (reviewing) elsewhere? Please post an update. Thanks