A 3 day weekend at the Safety Harbor Resort yielded mixed results restaurant-wise. As always, the Columbia in Ybor was wonderful (1905 salad, boliche and a new shrimp dish on the luncheon menu with pepper, onions and yellow rice).
Biggest disappointment was Sideburns. It has been touted quite highly on this and other boards. In short, it tries too hard and falls far short. An example is the grouper cashew toast on the dim sum menu. Its elaborate description included references to a Thai vinaigrette, whatever that is. I didn't taste a vinaigrette, Thai or otherwise. In fact, the ample toasts were a bit greasy and bland. The grilled swordfish with pumpkinseed risotto, among other elaboratley described accompaniments, including a red wine mole reduction sauce, fell flat. While the fish was cooked perfectly, the dish had little flavor to speak of. The chef must have high blood pressure, because the dish was cooked with no salt that I could discern. The special filet, though with a nice foie gras reduction sauce, was above average at best. For some reason it came with a mound of fried onion rings that was more akin to a dish at Outback Steakhouse. With mediocre fare overall, you then become annoyed with the cheeky pricing (all entrees prices ending in .91; wine with .01), not to mention the ridiculously expensive wine list (1999/2000 Merryvale and Ironhorse for $80.01 - 110.01, easily double what most restaurants charge).
Antojitos was a very pleasant suprise. Excellent Columbian fare with one of the best meat pies/empanadas I have ever had. The chicken stew and beef stew had deep flavors. And despite the crush of people, the service was very friendly.
In Safety Harbor, near the resort, there was more than I imagined in terms of restaurant selection. Very good (and resonably priced) sushi at Meko Japanese Sushi. Nice outdoor dining at Green Springs (wonderful gumbo and smoked fish app.; the pork entree was severly overdone and taken off the tab). Athens diner for breakfast or lunch is inexpensive and hearty.
All in all, a very good trip, with the generous help of those that contribute to this board.
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