The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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Archive for the ‘Mediterranean’ Category

We were driving through Westchase earlier today and I noticed a new restaurant on Countryway Blvd called Fresh Bites, so we headed over there for dinner.  It’s a little Mediterranean restaurant that boasts of fresh, natural ingredients.  You order at the counter and then they bring the food out to you.  We started off with the cucumber yogurt salad which came with pita.



This wasn’t exactly what I was expecting.  It was a bowl of very liquidy, creamy spiced yogurt with slices of cucumber in it.  I was expecting it to be thicker with cut up cucumber in it.  It just dripped off the pita.  For our entrees, we ordered the beef shawarma and the lamb grilled kafta kabab.




Our inexperience with Mediterranean food and the fact that the person who brought our food to the table didn’t clearly specify which was which meant we actually ended up eating each other’s order instead of our own.  I had ordered the lamb kebab, but ended up with the shawarma.  We didn’t realize it until we were done eating and I happened to look at the menu and realized mine should have been the one with the rice.  The plates were both overly filled with salad.  For the price, I would have expected more meat on the plate.  They also came with roasted veggies and hummus.  I liked the taste of the kababs and the rice.  Loren cleared the plate.  He likes hummus and that kind of leafy salad.  It all had that very distinct middle eastern spice flavor to it. The shawarma was wrapped in pita, though we didn’t order it as a wrap.  It was cooked with onions and tomatoes, but again, there was just very little meat to it.  I think vegetarians would enjoy it here.  Normally, I drink water with my dinner, but I ordered the fresh lemonade.  It had an unusual taste to it.  It was very sweet, but I’m thinking maybe it was partially sweetened with honey.  They seemed to be doing a very good take-out business though.  Total bill with a drink was $35.

Fresh Bites
11665 Countryway Blvd
Tampa, FL

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Blue Waves

When we first walked in to the Portofino Mediterranean Grill in Clearwater, we were mesmerized by the walls in the dining room.  They had a textured wave pattern and then sea blue lights shining on the waves.  It was a very pleasant and peaceful decor surrounding you.

We chose the Portofino tonight because we had a $25 coupon.  It was fairly early, around 5:30pm on a Sunday when we got there and there weren’t that many people in the restaurant. 

You can see a reflection of the walls in the bread photo:

The bread was warm and crispy and served with an herbed olive oil.  We ordered some calamari as an appetizer.

You can get it with a mild or spicy marinara sauce and I chose the mild.  The calamari was cooked well.  It had a nice crunchy coating and was tender inside. 

Our salads arrived before we were finished with our appetizer.  Since we were at a small table, it made things a bit crowded.

Loren liked the salad, but it didn’t do much for me.  It had a balsamic dressing on it that was rather tangy.  For his entree, Loren got the grouper d’capri. 

It had capers, shallots, and tomatoes in a white wine lemon butter sauce.  You could really taste the lemon in the sauce.  It was served with potato and veggies.  Our waiter didn’t mention that he could have had it with linguine (I just looked at the menu online)  when he placed the order, but that’s one of the first things Loren said when he got it is that it would have been better over pasta.

We had to laugh because both the butter and sour cream were solid as a rock. They must be stored in the back of the cooler.  I ordered the chicken marsala.

I found the marsala sauce to be really weak.   When it comes to marsala, I don’t want subtle.  Loren liked it and half of it came home as leftovers since there were two chicken breasts and I only ate one.

As more people came into the restaurant, we found the service at our table begin to dwindle.  We sat for quite a while after finishing our entrees before our waiter came back to the table to check on us. 

We decided to try the Palermitana for dessert.

It was strawberry gelato with tangerines, bananas, strawberries, a raspberry sauce and whipped cream plus some sprinkled nuts not mentioned in the description.  It was tasty.  The gelato had a wonderful rich strawberry flavor.   I liked the strawberries and bananas, but I didn’t think the tangerines went with the dish.  Loren seemed to like them though.

After our $25 coupon, the total bill was $28.  Overall, it was a pretty enjoyable meal.

Portofino Mediterranean Grill
18825 US 19 North
Clearwater, FL

Portofino Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon



We headed over to Shish Kebab Mediterranean Grill in Tampa tonight for dinner with a $25 off a $50 meal coupon from in hand.

For a Friday night, the restaurant was empty.  Just one other customer in there when we came in.   We started off with the mixed hot appetizers which included falafel, zucchini pancakes, rolled cheese pie, and potatoes.

What you can’t see in this photo is that the potatoes are crinkle cut french fries.  I had to laugh.  It was like playing a game of which one of these is not like the other.  When the waiter brought the dish, I asked what everything was and when he got to the fries, he called them “Turkish fries”.  I asked what made them “Turkish” and he said the seasoning.  All I could see was a little bit of parsley on top of them, but I guess that’s considered Turkish seasoning.  😉

The rest of the items in the sampler were pretty tasty.  The best were the zucchini pancakes.  They had a wonderful flavor and texture.  The falafel was very dense and a little dry, but had a subtle herby flavor.  I didn’t think I was going to like it, but it was pretty good dipped in the red sauce that was on the plate.  The rolled cheese pies were different.  They had a feta cheese mixture inside which gave them a very salty taste.

I ordered the beef musacca, but they didn’t have any tonight.  They were also out of iced tea.  On the recommendation of the waiter, I got the Beyti special which was ground lamb and spices in what looked like a tortilla.

I didn’t like it.  It was too spicy for me and the tortilla wrapped around the filling added nothing to the dish.  It just wasn’t a complementary texture. The rice was good though.

Loren ordered a mixed kebab with swordfish and filet. 

This was very good.  The filet was very tender and he thoroughly enjoyed the swordfish. The mashed potatoes were a bit lumpy, but at least they were actual mashed potatoes.

And since we needed to spend $50, I just had to order the triple chocolate cake.

There was definitely some goodness going on here.  The cake was a little frozen in the center, but otherwise it was quite delicious.  Thick, rich fudgey cake and filling, plus the entire plate was covered in chocolate sauce. 

After the coupon and tip, the total bill was $42.  Overall, the experience was enjoyable.  Our waiter was very nice and personable and the atmosphere was pleasant. 

Shish Kebab Mediterranean Grill
10061 W Hillsborough Ave
Tampa, FL

Shish-Kebab & Mediterranean Cuisine on Urbanspoon


We decided to try out Koz Cafe tonight.  It used to be Cafe 13, but the named changed recently.  Based on our experience, we’ll be surprised if it lasts very long. 

There were people at the bar, but no one else in the dining area.  Perhaps that should have been our first clue.  The waitress brought us some pita bread to start off with.

I thought it was ok, Loren didn’t like the flavor.  It sort of tasted like buttered toast.  We ordered the seared scallop appetizer.

This was really good.  It had spinach, mushrooms, artichokes and scallops in a sherry cream sauce.  We should have just stopped here and left happy. 

For our entrees, I ordered the steak kabobs and Loren got the Moroccan Steak Churrasco.

The  kabobs were overcooked and dry.  The onions and peppers were burnt to a crisp.  I ate the steak fries, they were ok.  I didn’t realize the marinated mushrooms were a cold side dish.  I just didn’t like them. 

Loren’s dish wasn’t much better.  The steak wasn’t very tender and he didn’t care for the mushrooms either. 

And then to add insult to injury, there was something wrong with our drinks.  We had a water and a coke and they both had a bad, funky taste.  The service wasn’t great either.  Dinner was $41 and we both left unsatisfied.  We won’t be dining here again.

Koz Cafe & Lounge
2475 McMullen Booth Rd
Clearwater, FL
(727) 797-5555

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Kuzina Mediterranean Grill in Oldsmar has now been added to the list of restaurants we won’t be going back to.  This was one of the worst dining experiences we’ve had in a while.  We ate here in January and though that visit wasn’t perfect, we chalked it up to it being a new restaurant.  Now three months later, there’s no excuse for the service and food we were served.

It started out ok.  They bring you hummus and bread.

Loren liked the hummus.  It’s very garlicy.  The bread is really good.  This time they served it warm, which was nice.  

They changed their menu quite a bit in 3 months.  The dishes we had last time weren’t even on the menu any longer.  Not that we’d have ordered them again anyway. 

We decided to try a different appetizer this time instead of ordering calamari.

We ordered the rosemary tuna kebabs.  This wasn’t great.  The tuna was overcooked and not very fresh.  If I had to guess, I’d say it had been frozen at some point.  The rosemary was a bit strong and the caper dipping sauce was very salty.

Right after our appetizer came out, our waiter brought our salads. 

You get two sides with your entree and a salad was one of the choices.  However, I probably wouldn’t have ordered the salad as one of my sides if our waiter had actually known what sides were available.  When I asked, he said a couple of things, but then later in the evening I overhead another waiter give the list of sides and it had quite a few more choices. 

The salad was ok, but came with a balsamic vinaigrette dressing which I’m not a big fan.  It also came with slices of a really strong parmesean cheese.

At this point, Loren’s drink is mostly gone and we hadn’t seen our waiter in quite a while.  Someone else cleared away the empty plates and bread basket that our waiter left on the table.

Finally our entrees arrived.  When the plates were put on the table, both Loren & I looked at each, crinkled our noses, and asked, “What’s that smell?”, and not in a good way. 

I had ordered the salmon.  At first I thought maybe it was the relish on the side of the plate, but it actually had a sweet and savory smell to it.  And then I thought perhaps it was the wild rice.  But, no, it was the salmon.  The last thing you want is for your fish to have a very distinct and unappetizing aroma.  I tried a couple of bites, and that was it.  It wasn’t fresh, it was overcooked, and was just overall bad.   The rice wasn’t all that great either.  Now that I look at the photo, the kitchen staff obviously wasn’t all that concerned with overall appearance either.  Just look at the oil smears on the side of the plate.

Loren ordered a steak with rice (again, because we didn’t know about the other side dishes).

He said the steak itself was ok, except for the very cold herbed butter on top.  Our waiter stopped by our table one time and when I asked him to refill our drinks he looked at me as though I had sprouted a second head.  I didn’t think it was an odd request seeing as our glasses had been rather empty for a while.

Now, when you leave an entire plate of food, you expect your waiter to do certain things.  One, ask if you’d like a to-go box and if you decline to perhaps ask if everything was ok.  When I said we were done, he just scooped up the plates and brought the check.  So, I didn’t even bother to mention how bad the food was since I figured I would have gotten that same blank stare.  Instead we got our check, (luckily we had a $25 off coupon), and got out of there for $22.  We won’t be going back.

And then to top it off, on the way to the car, we had to walk by one of the kitchen staff smoking out in front of the restaurant.  Obviously, they just don’t get it.  It was a bad experience all the way around.  

Kuzina Mediterranean Grill & Bar
3980 Tampa Road
Oldsmar, FL


Kuzina Mediterranean Grill and Bar on Urbanspoon