Monday, October 20, 2014

Recent Eats : Cassis & Rococo Steak

The husband and I love to cook but-- surprise, surprise-- we also love to eat. One of our favorite pastimes is exploring new restaurants and local eateries, and St. Pete hasn't failed us so far. Well, we did have some less-than-stellar sushi at Vue 19 (it was so bad we didn't finish our rolls, which was a first) but that sushi and martini bar closed soon after our visit. The pitfalls of being new in town. Sometimes you get a miss. But overall, our dining choices have been hits.

Two recent successes in our adventures in eating were at Cassis American Brasserie and Rococo Steak.

[ The view from our table at Cassis. ]

We've passed by Cassis several times while walking downtown on Beach Drive, and every time the restaurant is busy and bustling and I remark to GT, "We need to go here sometime!" That time came last week, after taking the pups to the dog beach at Fort De Soto Park. We humans were in need of some sustenance (and a cocktail) and since my culinary curiously had previously compelled me to look up the menu online I knew Cassis had a wonderful lunch menu and a bevy of adult beverages from which to choose.

[ The sandy beach dogs got plenty of water, treats and attention at Cassis. ]

GT had his favorite drink, a G&T (that's gin and tonic, in case you aren't familiar). While I'm not a big gin fan, I do like sweet, fruity cocktails, so I decided to shake things up and order The Bramble: a combination of gin, creme de cassis and lemon juice, garnished with a lemon twist and fresh blackberry. I find gin's trademark piney taste a bit hard to swallow but the black currant liqueur cut right through. It was delightful.

[ The Bramble. ]

For our late lunch, we started with a plate of Spicy Homemade Guacamole (upon recommendation by our server) with flat bread triangles for dipping. The guacamole was supremely good and fresh and tasted slightly like peas (but in the best way). The only problem is that we were almost two full for our main course!

[ Spicy Homemade Guacamole with Artisanal Flat Bread. ]

Luckily, we had ordered salads. The Butter Lettuce (with applewood-smoked bacon, roasted corn, aged gouda and sun-dried tomato dressing) for the hubs and Warm Lentil and Sopressata (with a heaping portion of baby arugula, fennel, lemon vinaigrette and parmesan cheese) for me.

[ Butter Lettuce salad. ] 

[ Warm Lentil and Sopressata salad. ]

I'd love to come back for brunch or dinner, or even just to have another Bramble and people watch on a busy weekend evening.

[ Rococo Steak. ]

Our trip to Rococo Steak was in celebration of GT's 30th birthday. When asked his dining preference on his special day, he said he'd prefer a steakhouse and I was dedicated to delivering whatever the birthday boy wanted. I googled "best restaurants in St. Pete," checked out the steakhouses that popped up on this list and Rococo seemed like a surefire winner (especially when I saw GT's fave on the menu: lobster bisque). 

[ Cheesin' in our booth while enjoying pre-dinner cocktails. ]

Far from the traditional (read: stodgy) steakhouses my your dad might favor, Rococo is fine dining for the hipster crowd. Modern, artsy, intimate and, dare I say, sexy is how I'd describe the eatery, which is new on the scene and a bit off the beaten path in downtown St. Pete. Housed in a brick 1920s building (that used to be a funeral home!), Rococo offers meat-eaters their choice of grass- or corn-fed beef in varying sizes and a lineup of delectable sides (they all sound so amazing it's hard to choose!).

Rococo has quite a unique and impressive exterior. Definitely hard to miss! ]

[ Ruby red chandelier in Rococo's dining room. ]

[ Rococo's signs were all lit up on our way out. ]

I joked that GT is turning into his father because he ordered exactly what his old man would: a Hendrick's martini, the Dry Aged NY Strip (a whopping 14 ounces!) and truffle fries.

[ Massive NY Strip with a little bit of veggies, a boat of bernaise and a bowl of truffle fries. ]

I also didn't veer from my status quo either-- ordering fish at a steakhouse. I got the Black & Blue Halibut, except I held the "blue," the blue cheese butter. I kind of missed having a bit of sauce on my plate, but the blackened fish was moist and delicious without it, and the sweet caramelized onions helped pump up the flavor factor. I just wish I hadn't ordered the lobster bisque to start; it was creamy and dreamy but so filling!

[ Sweet Corn Lobster Bisque with Wild Mushroom and Rosemary Oil. ]

[ Black & Blue Halibut, without the blue. Caramelized sweet onions hiding underneath. ]

Nevertheless, we had to get dessert. We opted for the night's special: a berry-topped sabayon reminiscent of strawberry shortcake (without the cake). A dessert that harkens back to younger years? What could be more perfect on the hubby's 30th?

[ Berry-topped Sabayon. ]

After dessert, we walked a couple blocks to enjoy a few glasses of wine and city views from The Birchwood's rooftop lounge, The Canopy. (You may remember I posted about The Birchwood before.) Listening to live music, sipping our wine by firelight... It was a great way to end the evening and send GT into what I think will be his best decade yet. Which will include, I'm sure, many more adventures in eating.

[ Canopies at The Canopy.

[ After-birthday dinner drinks. Two Pinots: Grigio for me, Noir for him. ]

Cheers! What better way to start the week than with the memory of that wine and those flames. Have you discovered any fabulous new restaurants lately?

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