Monday, March 30, 2009

Rumba Island Bar and Grill

I wasn’t expecting to hit a new restaurant this weekend. I had a busy week at work and I wanted to do a little boating and enjoy my own kitchen. When our plans changed and we stumbled out for lunch, our thought was to hit the beach for one of our favorite places but again, plans were derailed. Spring break beach traffic became backed up before we got 5 miles from the beach. So with my oldest daughter following in her car with her boyfriend, we ducked into the parking lot of a restaurant on Gulf to Bay Blvd. in Clearwater that I’ve wanted to try for some time. The Rumba Island Bar and Grill just looks like a place I would like. From the bamboo and palm tree décor to the tiki style bar serving rum runner’s 2 for 1, this place seems more suited to be beachfront than on a busy intersection at Keene and Gulf to Bay. I might have enjoyed a cocktail at the outdoor bar but having 4 kids under 21 with us precluded that.

After being seated and ordering a round of drinks, we checked out the menu. Impressive, I thought. If these items were fresh, this place is sure to be a winner. The menu is mostly the standard Caribbean takes on delicious and fresh ingredients with an eye to crisp and clean flavor. There were so many great choices on the appetizer menu but I chose two conch preparations. The Conch Fritters and the Conch Ceviche were both pleasing. Notably, these fritters were as good as I’ve ever tasted. They were light and pillow-y with no resemblance to their southern US corn fritter cousin (which I think is much heavier). I loved their take on them and the jerk aioli for dipping was wonderfully tangy. Lisa, who boasts her dislike for most seafood, enjoyed these too. I wished I could have tried more from the appetizers because the list included some of my favorites like Coconut Prawns, Mussels in Saffron Infused Coconut Milk, Calamari and Fish Spread.

The rest of the menu was pretty exciting too, I thought. I wasn’t sure if it was their signature dish or not but they offered these rice bowls made with shrimp, coconut rice, fruit, vegetables then topped with your choice of other fish such as BBQ Salmon or blackened Mahi or jerk chicken. I almost went this direction but I saw one of my favorite selections so I chose that. I have a soft spot for soft shell crab, if you’ll pardon the pun.

It has a texture like none other and throughout the same whole crab, the flavor ranges from ultra mild to pretty fishy (and I happen to like that). In case you don’t know, soft shell crab is just crab that has molted and not grown into its new shell yet. Seems a bit unfair, really, to take these little guys in that vulnerable window of time but I love them nonetheless. I thought it was spectacular and I could have eaten a couple of more. If I have to pick on something, it would have to be the slaw. I was a bit put off by the pineapple. I love pineapple but it felt out of place to me.

Lisa ordered a salad. Jerk chicken to be exact. It looked just spectacular. I tasted it. The traditional flavor collideascope of allspice, pepper and clove shined in the jerk seasoning. The salad was marvelous and hearty. I was jealous. Again, Lisa was pleased and if you ever went out to dinner with her, you would know this was not a small feat. I usually leave NEW places off the list for her until I’ve scoped out the possibilities. This was a winner.

What was really nice about the whole affair was my oldest daughter, Brittany, was visiting for the day from Ft. Lauderdale with her boyfriend. It was a great opportunity for the family to just sit, relax and enjoy a good meal. I give Rumba Bar and Grill a thumbs up and recommend you find out for yourself.

No comments: