I went to St. Pete Brasserie the other night, with the intent of having a glass of wine and heading out to try another restaurant. Well, that did not happen. Why? Quite simply, once I was there, I didn’t want to leave.
Brasserie has an ambiance about it that is perfect for relaxing after a long day. The lighting is soft, the decor is upscale but not “in your face” and the staff is polite, without being obtrusive. It’s easy to have a conversation there and catch up with friends. Business is brisk, although not overwhelming and the space does not feel crowded.
I’ve eaten at St. Pete Brasserie on three occasions, and I find it to be consistently on the mark, for the most part. On my first visit, I ordered the Short Rib Spring Roll ($8), the Cassoulette ($5) and the Tenderloin Carpaccio($9). (Dining deal hint: If you arrive during happy hour which lasts from 4pm to 7pm, drinks and most appetizers are 50% off the listed menu price.)
The Short Rib Spring Roll was a brilliant idea of theirs. It gives one the unctuous taste of a tender, cooked short rib without eating an entire heavy dish of it. It was perfectly seasoned and tasty. The Cassoulette was good also. White beans and duck confit with sausage make for a hearty dish, and it warmed me right up on one of those cold days we had recently. The Carpaccio was well seasoned and came with some of the requisite accoutrements; small toasts, etc.I have no complaints about it. It just wasn’t my favorite dish of the day compared to the other two.
On another recent visit, I had a chance to try the Beef Bourguignon, served over rice ($13). It was comforting and served hot, with tender pieces of beef and vegetables, however I didn’t get a lot of the red wine flavor that the dish is known for. It was still a hearty, enjoyable entrée.
Valencia Seafood Paella ($13) is served with shrimp, calamari, mussels and Salamanca chorizo. Oh my, was that incredible! I literally could not stop eating it. The texture of the rice was perfection and it was not dry. It had just the right amount of saffron in it and a touch of heat. It is now my favorite paella in St. Pete. Before all the Latin inspired restaurants get mad at me, go try this dish first and tell me it is not fantastic. I was already full!
The duck breast came ($15) and it was tender, a perfect medium rare and flavorful with a not-too-sweet cherry gastrique over a celeriac cake. It was the best duck I’ve had, by far, in St. Pete. At this point, I was very satisfied and feeling as if dinner just couldn’t get any better.
Then, the dessert came.
How can I best describe this dessert to you? Sheer decadence. Chocolate Lava Cake served with vanilla ice cream and a small scoop of what tasted like a seriously intense chocolate gelato. I thought I could not eat another bite, but I ate it with enthusiasm.
St. Pete Brasserie is located at 539 Central Avenue in St. Petersburg. It is now open six days a week, with happy hour specials between 4 and 7 pm. On Fridays and Saturdays they also have happy hour from 10 pm until closing. Their Prix Fixe menu is now $17 and includes soup, salad and your choice of any entrée, except the lamb which is an additional $3. If you don’t check this place out, you will be missing out on some of the best food and atmosphere downtown. I will be visiting there again, very soon.