State of Grace
The Privileged Palate
Grace | 120 Eighth Ave., Pass-a-Grille Beach
Grace is an unassuming restaurant, tucked away on a small side street, near the southern tip of Pass-a-Grille. It has a minimalist interior design, almost to the point of austere. But don’t let that fool you. The food is based on quality ingredients showcasing natural flavors, skilled preparation and artful presentation. At Grace the food stands alone in the spotlight.
Add some sparkle to your experience by starting the night with a Stuart cocktail. It features Sicilian lemon vodka and has a unique dark blue color. It gets a festive feel from the edible glitter swirled in. The signature cocktail menu is extensive, featuring both sweet and dry profiles. There is something to entice everyone. The Grace is a vodka-spiked lemonade that gets additional flavoring from a blueberry-lavender shrub. It’s bright and refreshing, perfect after a day at the beach.
Beef, chicken and vegetarian dishes are offered on a menu that emphasizes seafood. Starters include a prosciutto-wrapped lobster tail. The tail is sliced in half and wrapped in prosciutto to reveal the tail on one end. The presentation is beautiful, with the bright orange tail shell peeking out under the crisp prosciutto. It’s served alongside an asparagus salad, tossed in white peach balsamic vinaigrette. Grilled octopus is the most popular appetizer at Grace. The process of marinating, poaching and grilling yields surprisingly tender meat and is served with a shaved fennel and citrus salad.
A beautifully simple presentation awaits diners who order the salt- and sugar-cured heirloom tomatoes. The flavors of perfectly ripened tomatoes get elevated during the curing process. They are served with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and orange blossom water. A scattering of fried pistachios adds a little crunch. This dish proves that great ingredients, and simple preparation, are all you need.
Each week, Grace offers special dishes based on seasonal availability, like a flatbread made with a mix of wild mushrooms, gruyere cheese, escarole and black truffle butter. Another special featured pan-roasted Corvina with a crab-scallion hash. The Corvina has a sear producing a crust with a crisp texture. Big chunks of crab stud the potato hash, while the scallions give flavor and a little crunch. The fish is mild, and firm, while the accompanying blood orange butter sauce gives richness to each bite.
Pavlova is a delightful standout on the dessert menu at Grace. It’s easy to love a dessert made with a meringue shell, whipped cream and macerated fresh berries. The meringue’s brittle shell gives way to a sweet, and slightly chewy, center while the berries sit on a pillow of whipped cream. Natural juices from the macerated fruit trickle down and pool around the plate. It’s a sophisticated mixed-berry shortcake and a quintessential springtime dessert.
After dinner, if you need a little more Grace, stop in their little shop next door. It’s filled with sundries from local companies and take away fresh pasta they make in-house. You can keep your experience going for a few more days. And let’s face it, we can all use a little more Grace.
For more great places to eat in Tampa Bay, check out the Privileged Palate dining series on TBBWmag.com by Michael Mikuliza. ♦