Feel Free to call me Miss Piggy because when a friend’s birthday is approaching I instantly think of one thing. It’s not the present I’ll give or the friends I’ll see. It’s not even the party that’s sure to transpire. It’s the celebration dinner. A lot has changed over the years. Not too long ago I’d be dreaming up birthday pub-crawls and late night debauchery. I guess I’m growing up (it’s about time). Present day, I offer my restaurant recommendations when they’re not requested. I also go as far as reading the menu a solid three days in advance. Yes, I am indeed a crazed food lover…but we knew that already, didn’t we?
When my food and fitness blogging friend, Megan told me we’d be celebrating her day along with her birthday twin Katie, I knew there’d be no reason to stress over the dining destination. I had recently heard rave reviews of Clearwater’s Besa Grill so when Megan picked it for their birthday bash I knew the restaurant must be noteworthy.
Walking into the delightfully dark and swanky joint, I couldn’t help but notice the bright pops of color coming from the modern lighting fixtures, bold accent walls, and fun décor. We were quickly escorted to the private party room where a long rectangular table stood surrounded by glass enclosed wine rooms. In perfect ambiance and in perfect company, we all sat down ready and ravenous for an indulgent smorgasbord of fusion fare.
I wet my whiskers with the expertly crafted, Cactus Pear Margarita. Cuestion Blanco came shaken with fresh lemon, fresh lime, and cactus pear puree. The second it was served I knew I had chosen my libation wisely. Presented in martini fashion, it was a pretty little number to admire and more importantly, swig…I mean sip. Sweet without being overly sugary, this cocktail was certainly one to remember (that is, unless you order one too many).
Soon, plates of guacamole were calling…no, screaming my name. As most of my readers know, I’m an avocado aficionado (I probably only remind you with every other blog post, right?) Besa takes pride in their various dressed-up guacamole recipes so needless to say; I was stoked. The traditional guacamole was fresh and flawlessly chunky (not a fan of the smooth stuff). Just enough lime, red onion, and cilantro, it received my sincerest approval.
The Black bean and corn guacamole was next to my palate. Texturally, it was awesome. Yet, it wasn't mind-blowing in the flavor department. I sang a different tune when I sampled the Mango guac. Oh how I fell head over heels with this sweet and savory combo. Never thought I’d enjoy fruit in the godly green stuff but Besa quickly proved me wrong. For my third sampling I went for the Goat and Bleu cheese infused guac. Wow. Definitely my favorite of the three. I’m obsessed with insanely sharp cheeses so this one had my name written all over it. The creamy mild taste of the avocado so nicely mellowed out the sharp bite from the cheeses.
Before long, we had even more avocados boasting their bright green beauty. Only this time, they were cut in half and filled with overflowing mounds of scallop ceviche. A little bit spicy and a little bit tangy, the citrus marinated scallops were tender and full of flavor. Besa must’ve known I was coming…guacamole and ceviche? Seriously two of my favorite things to gorge on…
Let the avocado obsession continue...yes, there’s more. Apparently Besa and I have a mutual agreement on the buttery green fruit. So how can you make a fresh and bright stack of caprese even more delectable? You simply add thick slices of avocado. Duh. As thrilled as I was about the avocado, the tomatoes were fighting for front and center, as they were impeccably ripe and glowing in their bold red hue. With tons of fresh mozzarella, chiffonade basil, and basil infused EVOO, I was in caprese heaven.
Presented next to the table was a stellar flatbread spread. I must admit, I think this term “flatbread” is rather silly. It’s pizza-only rectangular. Let’s just call it what it is, right? Okay, enough banter. We sampled all four of Besa’s creative concoctions and standard Les style; I’ll make you drool over them all. The Cuban Havana flatbread was first to my choppers and boy did it impress. A born and raised Tampa girl, I’m a lover of Cuban inspired cuisine. Topped with shaved ham, mojo pork, swiss chesse, applewood smoked bacon, pickles, and mustard aioli, it was meaty treat that vanished in seconds.
The Roasted Tomato flatbread was possibly the most enticing. Flaunting simplicity, it was loaded with plum tomatoes, basil, olive oil, fresh mozzarella, and a sprinkling of Parmesan. The pungent tomatoes and earthy basil were showstoppers when paired with the mild mozzarella and crispy crust. Classic and divine.
Bagels topped with lox, capers, cream cheese, and red onion is a traditional Jewish breakfast that always makes me swoon. So when I spotted the Smoked Salmon Flatbread, I was intrigued. Covered with smoked salmon, Boursin cheese, fried capers, and lemon zest, I found it interesting. Although the ingredients were all clearly of quality caliber, I can’t say I was too into salmon on ahem, pizza. Maybe just a case of personal preference…
For the final flatbread, we tasted Besa’s Chicken and Brie creation. With grilled chicken, applewood smoked bacon, Brie, red peppers, and a pretty stack of arugula on top, it was awfully alluring. Brie cheese is in my top three choice cheeses but I’m not too obsessed with chicken on pizza (or flatbreads…whatever). Yet, this combo was quite tasty. In fact, it was deemed the crowd favorite.
We were “hold your belly full” by this point. Still, the feast would continue. Then, like magic, it happened. A mountain of decadence that I thought only existed in my edible dreams was delivered. Duck nachos, in all their glory were before me. My eyes widened and without further ado, I snatched a duck and cheese thick section of the melty duck tower. Words simply cannot describe. As a duck fanatic and worshiper of nachos, I was beside myself. Heaps of moist roasted duck, black bean corn salsa, and melted Manchego were smothering the crunchy and sturdy tortilla chips. With a generous avocado crema, this dish came from some sort of calorie-ridden dreamland.
Must I even tell you that I almost made myself sick? I never, ever eat like this. Thanks a lot Megan. Just when I thought the savory “sampling” had come to a grand finale, I was sadly mistaken. Next (and last) was an array of their various Tacos. Baja Fish, Baja Shrimp, and Skirt steak tacos were all sitting proudly before our aching bellies. Since I couldn’t let them go to waste, I regretfully grabbed the Baja fish taco. Filled with crispy mild white and flaky fish, jicama-chayote salsa, Napa cabbage, cilantro, and avocado crema, they were bragging with scrumptious flavor abundance.
The shrimp tacos were filled with the same ingredients, only with tender and crispy rock shrimp. The Steak version came with roasted poblanos and onions, cilantro, cojita cheese, and crema. I could only force one bite but it was a pretty righteous bite. The sharp and crumbly cojita cheese (Think: Mexican Feta cheese) gets me every time. Oh, and roasted poblanos…well, I love those too. My only gripe is that Besa uses flour tortillas and I much prefer corn shells for both authenticity and taste/texture. I guess I'm a taco snob if there is such a thing.
We couldn’t leave without some birthday cake. That’d just be blasphemous. Out came Besa’s Seven Sins Cake. A solid foot tall, this cake was seven layers high, infused with godiva and seven different kinds of chocolate with a chilled milk shot to its side. Damn. I don’t even know what else to say. Happy Birthday Megan and Katie. I must add, there was also a Fried Banana Cheesecake and Crème Brulee Flight in the mix. God help us all.
Besa Grill aimed to please and undoubtedly succeeded in their honest efforts. A restaurant with a little something for every taste bud, they’ve certainly captured the art of fusion fare. Predominantly Mexican, Spanish, and Italian inspired dishes, it was a restaurant that’s sure to please customers both new and old. I will return to Besa sooner than later, guaranteed.