This past weekend my bride and I met up with friends for dinner at the Alésia Restaurant, 7204 Central Avenue in the South Pasadena section of St. Petersburg.
"Founded by three partners with French, Vietnamese, and Chinese upbringings, Alésia Restaurant is the culinary embodiment of these childhood influences and the eclectic mix of dishes and flavors they were naturally raised with."
We arrived at Alésia promptly at 5:30 to ensure a table. Reservations for less than five people are not accepted, so seating is on a first come, first seated basis. We secured a tiny four top next to a large window looking out to Central. Patrick, our server for the evening presented us with menus and took our drink orders.
I began my Alésia adventure with a bottle, and I do mean bottle, of Hitachino Nest Beer. This 24.3 ounce bottle of Japanese white ale poured a cloudy pale straw color with a thin layer of head. The nose had hints of wheat and yeast along with some citrus notes. This was an interesting brew, erroneously described as a rice beer, that went well with my dinner choices.
After being served our adult beverages of choice, the next order of business were appetizers that were shared amongst the four of us.
Probably the most popular of the four dishes were the Potstickers, delicious pan-fried dumplings with Chinese chives and ground pork served with soy-ginger dipping sauce.
One in our party said that the Charcuterie Platter, with prosciutto, sopressata, pâté, dry salami, olives, basil pesto, cornichons, served with toast points brought back pleasant memories of a trip to Italy.
A little less spectacular were the Shrimp Chips, light airy chips with subtle hints of shrimp. The accompanying house made, seasonal salsa with diced apple more than made up for any flavor lacking in the chips.
Not topping the charts for another dining partner was the Lobster Bisque. This creamy soup with hints of lobster was served with a toasted baguette. It was good, just not at the bisque pinnacle of greatness. Creamy soups have never titillated my taste buds, but I could actually taste the lobster so that was a plus.
Moving past the appetizers, the next leg of our gastronomic journey was to the happy land of entrees, and I believe my Bride landed in the happiest of happy places. She requested a dish that we had heard several people simply rave about, the Asian Style Beef Stew.
This was no Betty Crocker beef stew. This beef stew reminded me of a super rich version of pho with tender beef and carrots with a heavenly broth over rice vermicelli, topped with fresh herbs and served with a French baguette. Oh my, was that ever good, though I felt the noodles were a bit overcooked. A little more al dente, and this stew would have been over the top.
Another entree, the Honey Glazed Cornish Game Hen was roasted to perfection, or at least the leg I tried was tender and juicy, not dry and overcooked. The hen was presented with a side of au gratin potatoes.
The Sirloin Back Ribs, grilled pork ribs with a sweet spicy ginger glaze, served with the ubiquitous potato au gratin was another entree choice. The ribs that I tasted were tender and juicy.
I was thrilled with my Chinese Short Ribs. These incredibly tender beef ribs were soy-marinated and served with crispy house greens and savory roasted vegetables. This was an excellent fusion of seemingly disparate culinary traditions that some have referred to as Chinois, combined French and Chinese cooking.
Three in our party finished the evening with desserts: House Brownie, Bread Pudding (one with walnuts and banana, and one with chocolate chip). All were served with French vanilla bean ice cream. I am not a dessert person, but I heard that the brownie was the best of the three.
Our party split the total bill in half and our share came to $111 and some change. That included a 20% gratuity for Patrick. With all of that delicious food and our beverages, our evening at Alésia was pleasantly affordable and worth the long drive from Tampa.
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