The restaurant industry is challenging and establishments change hands, bringing variety to the ever-growing food scene, in the Tampa Bay area. A welcome addition to St. Petersburg is Allelo, a Mediterranean-influenced restaurant on Beach Drive. Shawn and Jeanna Damkoehler combined forces with Volet Hospitality and the innovativeness of Chef Alex Pyser to bring a remarkable new dining experience to the market.
The archways of Allelo invite you into a chic bar area, designed by the New York-based firm, AvroKO. The combination of the black and white tile, glass wine wall and raw brick makes the cozy space seem larger. The bar showcases artwork by Annette Gloomis, an artist with ties to Safety Harbor and a passion for Mother Nature. Her featured painting portrays Florida birds, connecting to the Allelo name, which derives from the word allelomimesis, the phenomenon of a group, such as birds, coming together to form a flock. The space is purposefully designed into two distinct areas—the bar lounge area and the dining area, each with a slightly different vibe. Food is meant to be shared and each dish allows everyone to create their version of the perfect bite, each with a special tie to the Mediterranean.
There are times when a cocktail defies expectations and awakens the taste buds. Like a Virgin is such an elixir.
The gin-based drink is paired with mastica, a sweet liquor from Greece, chartreuse and citrus-flavored olive oil. The beads of olive oil add a pop of color to the drink and taste to the tongue.
The Sumac That doesn’t disappoint as a slightly, sweeter cocktail. Beyond strawberries, lemon and prosecco, this vodka drink has sumac, a spice with citrus overtones, which refreshes the palate.
Although the round, flat salad bowl is the same building base for the Beet Salad and the Endive Salad, the final presentation of the two salads couldn’t be more different. The Beet Salad has a layer of chevre, topped with an array of colorful beets. The Endive Salad arranges the radicchio, endives, pears, pecans and blue cheese in a lovely nest, held together by the mustard vinaigrette. The deconstructed salads allow each person to build the perfect bite, based on their flavor preferences.
Every dish is designed to the last detail, including the serving ware. The thinly sliced petals of snapper crudo, dusted with peppercorns, a touch of yogurt, sprig of mint and surrounded by the cool cucumber puree melt on your tongue.
The beef tartare is in a category of its own, prepared tableside, starting with the ring of finely cut rare beef. The spices are colorfully arranged, with a raw egg in the middle to create the binding. Once this is stirred together at the table, it slides onto fresh Khobz—a Moroccan flatbread that creates a Mediterranean version of beef tartare, velvety and light.
Do not question the word colossal for the description of the prawns at Allelo. Colossal is an understatement for these crustaceans. The four large Norwegian shrimp are as big as a hand and yet, tender like a lobster. The saffron chili remoulade brings out the buttery flavor of the prawns to melt in your mouth.
Allelo’s version of traditional Bolognese brings forward the Mediterranean influences with fresh tomatoes and a touch of citrus, adding a zing to the dish. Agilanico, a delightful red wine from Campania, Italy plays on the acidity from the sauce, a pleasant pairing.
The deconstructed lemon custard citrus dessert is the last chance to end a perfect meal. There are ways to build that spoonful including fennel jam, graham crackers, toasted pasta, coconut and olive oil. It takes practice to find the perfect combination of flavors, but it’s a good kind of practice. The infused olive oil that started the evening off in the cocktails, rounded the evening out in the desserts – the Mediterranean to the finish.
Allelo’s vision for being a place to come together has come to fruition. Steps off Beach Drive, you are invited to relax and dine in a space of togetherness, with a Mediterranean vibe. The inventiveness of the dishes makes you want to try them all. Be sure to make reservations, in advance, for this one-of-a-kind dining experience. ♦
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