When it’s your sweetheart’s birthday, the choice of restaurants takes on special consideration. While you can go to one of their favorite places, it’s sometimes nice to celebrate somewhere new. Which is just what Mart wanted to do on his birthday, a few days ago.
St. Armand’s Circle, and the new Greek restaurant, Blu Kouzina, were at the top of his list, and, I’m happy to say, eating there was a gift we both enjoyed! The food and atmosphere were nostimo. (That’s delicious . . . in Greek!)
Blu Kouzina is located on Boulevard of the Presidents, which is the road off the circle that takes you to Long Boat Key. There’s a lovely front patio, and a chic interior dining room with an open kitchen. With sliding doors that can enclose the patio in case of rain or hot/cool temperature, there isn’t a bad seat in the house.
We took a seat in view of the kitchen, and soon found the owner, Effie, waiting on us, offering a nice wine list and a loaf of fresh-from-the-oven, irresistable hot bread.
Since it was Mart’s birthday, I wanted to treat him to the entire Blu Kouzina experience, appetizer, entrée and dessert, so I should have avoided the bread. One word for that idea . . . impossible. You can see the loaves coming from the oven, with the dining room filling with the unmistakable aroma of fresh,hot bread. Forget all about willpower. . . I’m digging in!
Mart’s family is originally from Estonia, so fresh fish; like whole sardines, smelts and fish roe, were part of his diet growing up. This is the kind of food that takes him back to eating in “mom’s kitchen,” so imagine his delight when Effie presented an array of the day’s fresh catch.
The smallest fish on the platter is also one of Mart’s favorites. So we placed an order for some of Blu Kouzina’s lightly floured, flash fried smelts. Smelts are a fine-boned fish that, when cooked correctly, can be eaten whole. Mart says his family ate fried smelts like Americans eat popcorn. It’s a crunchy snack with crispy skin and a slightly salty flavor that’s pretty much addictive. A quick squeeze of lemon was all this appetizer needed to disappear from the plate.
Before I share what Mart’s birthday dinner was, I’ll confess that I went with lamb after seeing an order of lamb chops pass our table shortly after we first sat down. The presentation alone was enough to seal the deal for me.
My entrée consisted of four lamb chops, a serving of perfectly grilled vegetables and a side of fries. The seasoning on the lamb was absolutely ideal, the char offered equal perfection of dark, seasoned meat on the outside and a pink, medium rare center. There was no need to add salt, or any kind of sauce or jelly to Blu Kouzina’s lamb. I did notice that as my plate came out, several other diners glanced over and asked their server for “whatever she’s having.” Cool!
Now, to one of the most beautiful photos we’ve ever taken for a SarasotaFoodies post; Mart’s entrée of Red Mullet. Served on a cutting board with lightly grilled veggie skewers and fries, the fish was moist and flakey, easily slipping off the bone with the slightest pull from his fork and knife. “This is almost more than I can finish,” he said. (Told you not to eat all that bread! But hey . . . it’s your birthday!)
A birthday celebration is never complete without dessert, and when in a Greek restaurant, the dessert most everyone will be drawn to is baklava. That being said, it would be a shame to wait for a special celebration to enjoy this sweet, nutty confection.
A nice glass of dessert wine, and a shared order of baklava, and Mart announced that his birthday meal was just perfect. He was able to enjoy some of the flavors and fish courses he’d grown up with, while taking in beautiful St. Armand’s Circle, which is always a pleasure.
Rain or shine, birthday, anniversary or just the desire to enjoy a nicely prepared plate, platter or cutting board of Greek food, there’s no reason for you to be just sitting there, reading this blog. Grab a friend, family member or significant other and head over to Sarasota’s newest taste of the Greek Isles. Opa!