ST PETE BEACH – The west coast of Florida is dotted with so many high-end fine-dining options that there's usually little reason to drive very far in order to enjoy one. Within 30-minutes of anywhere in Bradenton, one can sample the fair at least a couple dozen $20-40 an entrée eateries. However, a new entrant on St. Pete Beach not only warrants the 35-minute drive, but will likely inspire return trips over the Skyway Bridge.
|Raw Oysters Castile|
Castile is housed within the Hotel Zamora, St. Pete Beach's first new hotel in more than three decades. Executive Chef Ted Dorsey has created an inspired menu that features both creative originals as well as new twists on Floribbean favorites.
The restaurant, which includes both a second floor dining room as well as a gulf-facing rooftop bar and grille above the 50-room boutique hotel, is the perfect compliment to the property in both style and substance in a hotel that brings a very authentic Mediterranean feel to the island.
Pickled jalapenos and an heirloom tomato caponata make the Raw Oysters Castile sing, while zesty gespachos are a perfect way to limber up the taste buds and cool down the senses on a sticky summer evening. The lobster fries are sure to become a signature item, but the candy cane beet tartare, with its shaved goat cheese and grape must over smoked pistachios on a grilled sourdough baguette, still managed to steal the show in the first course.
Despite a wealth of local seafood options, a sun-soaked afternoon at the beach left us in the mood for steak and we would not leave disappointed. Dorsey's Harissa Grilled Culotte Steak is a hearty and robust cut of tender beef nicely complimented by cilantro with horseradish crema and chimmichurri. The accompanying avocado frites were to die for, and I found myself craving a dose for days to come.
Despite such accomplished fare in each course, it was the Oak Grilled Tenderloin that proved most memorable by far, an impossibly tender cut of Meyer Prime Angus topped with a zesty cilantro-based gremolata, crispy shallots and malbec jus. Perfectly paired with white asparagus, it was splendid in both taste and presentation, and I can honestly say it holds its own with anything you'll find in Burns, Shula's or Charlie's.
Wine aficionados will be pleased, as Castile's list proved formidable and included a number of rarely found favorites such as Castello Banfi's Chianti Classico Riserva. The by-the-glass menu was also generous, and I was pleased to discover Sebastiani's Sonoma Cabernet, a favorite when enjoying red meats.
|The Grouper at Castile|
For the less vino conscious, there were a host of South Beach-styled signature drinks, including an immensely popular ruby red martini topped with a splash of prosecco, along with several Cigar City craft beers.
We'd indulged far too much to even consider dessert, but the menu again suggested enough interesting options to demand a return trip. Considering both the impeccable cuisine and the unbeatable atmosphere, Castile certainly warrants a a gastronomical road trip to St. Pete Beach.
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