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Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A Mecca For Tourists Perhaps

While enjoying our mini-vacation last weekend at Clearwater Beach we overheard a couple raving about their visit to the Island Way Grill.

Always on the lookout for a new dining adventure, my bride and I made reservations for dinner at seven that evening. It's a good thing we did, because the joint was jumping.

We were escorted through a maze of tables to the nether reaches of this packed restaurant. Once seated we had a bit of a wait until our server stopped by to take our drink orders. The wait was tolerable and understandable given the large crowd.

The Grill offers a "blending [of] unique flavors of continental, pacific rim, island cuisine with an exciting pan-asian flair. Whether you indulge in something from the sushi bar, the wok or our specially built oak fired pit, there’s no doubt you’ll love every bite."

The side of the menu that appealed to us the most was Appetizers and Small Plates. We are enjoying the tapas concept more often of late because it allows us to try an assortment of foods and tastes. I had also read a reviewer's comment on the Beef Carpaccio - prime tenderloin, truffle oil, capers, arugula and grape tomatoes that sounded intriguing, so that was one of our choices.

Like the reviewer before us, when we received the carpaccio we wondered where the beef was until we realized that wasn't a pink plate, it was a plate covered with the thinly sliced beef.

That was definitely a decent sized serving of a somewhat dry and tasteless carpaccio. This dish gave the distinct impression that it had been prepared hours earlier and just sat in the cooler until an order came in. Oh, well.

Having tried the Raspberry Point oysters the night before at another dining spot, and seeing the shucking station as we walked in with a sign advertising these succulent mollusks, I felt compelled to have another go at them.

While the price per oyster was less than what I paid at the Shor, the oysters here did not have the same salty taste of the sea, or the same sweetness.

I know that I am an oyster snob and I am not trying to pick nits, but these oysters were not properly shucked. The heavenly liquor that the oysters should have been swimming in had been poured off.

Oh well, again!

As I was slurping down my oysters, the Belle of Ballast Point was munching on her Spring Salad with fresh mixed greens, red and yellow tomatoes, candied pecans, dried cranberries, sherry vinaigrette, and maytag blue cheese crumbles.

One of the best of the small plates we were served that evening was the Korean BBQ Steak Skewer, a filet mignon marinated in Korean BBQ sauce. We had requested the steak cooked to medium rare and that is what we received. It was very tender and juicy. A real winner!

Another small plate that pleased the palate was the Wok Seared Scallops with galangal, black vinegar and a sweet citrus sauce.

Galangal is similar to fresh ginger root, but has a more pronounced flavor.

The scallops were really good, but at $5.45 each they were more than slightly over priced. I think the Grill could have tossed another one or two on that plate.

My bride decided to top off her meal with a dessert, a rather decadent slab of Island Way Grill cheesecake that adequately satisfied her sweet tooth. I prefer to drink my dessert and I was pleased and surprised to see Lucid Absinthe included among their after dinner drinks. I enjoy dancing with the green fairy, so I requested a glass.

The Grill does not prepare or serve the absinthe in the tradition way: pouring cold water over a sugar cube placed on a spoon, and into the waiting arms of the green fairy as the beverage louches from a very clear pale green into an opalescent cloud of goodness.

What I was served was at least a three ounce pour of a clear liquid in a wine glass. The aroma was that of anise, but the taste was harsh and lacked the syrupy feel of Lucid Absinthe. I know because I have a bottle of that elixir sitting on the kitchen counter. Whatever that stuff was in the glass, it was awful, and way too cheap to be a quality absinthe like Lucid ($55 for 750 ml at ABC).

Our total for the evening came to $115 and included a 20% gratuity. Our server did her best to please us, and deserved a decent tip.

Island Way Grill on Urbanspoon

On the way out we again passed the shucking station and I had to wonder how they keep one variety apart from the others when they all seem to be piled together.

Island Way Grill Inc on Foodio54

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