Coming to you live from my couch, still high from my gluttonous crusade on a piece of seven layer chocolate cake, I am reeling once again after a wonderful meal at Besa Grill in Clearwater. If the restaurant hadn’t already won me over during a Foodspotting brunch last Sunday, I don’t think I would have been mentally prepared for the edible seduction that unraveled before my eyes this afternoon. Oh, Besa, you are a restaurant after my heart.
I could tell you about their extremely accommodating servers, or their stylish ambiance. I could go on about the wide variety of cocktails. Hell, I could spend a few good minutes talking about their chef, whose warm and friendly demeanor complements a seriously talented and innovative culinary mind; however, I won’t because nothing in this review should compete with the beautiful, delicious food that I am about to bombard you (oh so sweetly) with... The food at Besa is American with a Latin twist, exactly how I like my men (okay, so Derren is French by descent, but you probably haven’t met his alter-ego, Jose, who serenades me with Hall & Oates songs… 100% true).
Tomorrow is Sunday, so we’ll start with brunch, so that you all have a chance to make a reservation before they close (yes, I am that confident); I was invited to this Foodspotting event by friend and fellow blogger, Megan Wood of I Run For Wine, and happily sat amongst other local Foodspotters for a spectacular meal!
You should start at their mimosa and bloody mary bar, where you can be whatever kind of alcoholic you want to… I was on antibiotics, so I was playing the role of recovering alcoholic for the day. Nonetheless, I’m pretty sure I had the prettiest drink at the table, since everyone wanted to take a picture of it. My juice look good (sassy accent recommended). Sitting next to Tracy’s savory bloody mary, my drink looks oh so innocent.
A basket of scones, cinnamon rolls, and banana bread, sprinkled generously with powdered sugar should wake you up, if the effervescent bubbles of the champagne, or the liberal sriracha in your bloody mary hasn’t already (yes, I said it, sriracha in your bloody mary).
Keeping with that theme, how about some Besa Shrimp, fried and tossed in a chipotle-agave aioli and sprinkled generously with pickled jalapenos? If it isn’t clear already, it’s seriously time to wake up, and these beautiful, succulent shrimp, with sticky sauce covering their crispy exterior are here to help you.
Even out your decadence with a seemingly simple Besa salad…. that is, until you taste this extraordinary dressing. The chef makes an addictive honey-lime cilantro vinaigrette that will have you planning a kitchen heist at the table.
The break from carby self-indulgence is short-lived, because even the strictest dieter cannot resist the vanilla bean French toast. It’s covered in a rich vanilla bean sauce, syrup, and assortment of berries. You had me at vanilla bean.
Crab cake eggs Benedict will certainly do the trick for those of you who just can’t commit to a plate of sweet overload this early in the morning. You can forget about the English muffin, Besa has cut out the middleman, and given you a plate where crab and egg can meet exclusively in a pool of delicious hollandaise. You may find it hard to pay attention to the sweet potato hash staring you in the face, but once you have a taste, you’ll have an even harder time deciding where to your put your fork next.
Last, but certainly not least, the house-cured and smoked bacon, drizzled with balsamic reduction, was made for my mouth. Thick and hearty, this bacon was the perfect compromise between meaty and crispy, just the way I like it.
Oh, and just because I think it's particularly hilarious, this is what it looks like when a bunch of foodies go to brunch together, ha!
Now that I’ve made the case for Besa brunch, it’s time to talk about lunch, and oh, what a lunch it was… I knew the food would be good, but I didn’t know that company could rival the food for the best part of a meal. It’s not often you have an opportunity to be around a group of six beautiful, talented women, so I was honored to be dining with some of my favorite, and some new, friends: Tracy of My Other City By the Bay, Jenn of The Food Patootie, Katie of Ruffles & Truffles, Theresa of She Bites, Isabel of Family Foodie, and Karol, the owner of Catrina Cocina Galeria. I am looking forward to my next foodie adventure with all of these ladies!
The table started with a round of much deserved cocktails, since we all hit a bit of traffic coming into Clearwater. I personally had to collect my brain from my car interior after my head exploded in frustration (I don’t do traffic very well). This strawberry lemon mojito certainly took the edge off, and is just one of their extensive cocktail menu creations.
No sooner had I breathed in the fresh, clean restaurant smell, was our table generously decorated with a variety of lunch offerings. We’ll start off with a bang and talk about the wonderful pork belly tostada, covered in guacamole, topped with delicious housed smoked pork belly, and drizzled in sour crème. Thank you, Besa. If there is anything that life needs more of, it’s surely pork belly.
We were also treated to two flatbreads, the Havana Cuban, covered in shaved ham, mojo pork, swiss cheese, pickles, applewood smoked bacon, and a mustard aioli, and the Grilled Chicken + Brie flatbread, which also features their yummy house smoked bacon, as well as a delicious arugula salad with balsamic reduction drizzled all over it. Both won my heart, and are perfect for this lunch menu.
The next pleasant addition to our table was these beautiful wonton cups filled with fresh tuna, cucumber, mandarin soy, and sriracha agave aioli. The amazing flavors and the fresh, perfectly seared tuna blew us all away.
A trio of guacamole never hurt anyone, so we were all happy to welcome the three decorated piles of green goodness to the table (in order, tomato, bleu cheese, and black bean/corn salad).
For the serious luncher, the Besa burger will definitely give you the hearty rush you’re after: ground angus, pepperjack cheese, house steak sauce, and crispy onion straws on a brioche bun. Try it with their wonderful yucca fries or truffle herb Parmesan fries. The two fry choices are in a battle to the death in my mind, both were so delicious. The yuccas were new and exciting, but I will never be able to turn my back on the allures of the truffle. Can I get some truffle herb Parmesan yucca fries? Compromise.
Our server also treated us to his own fresh shrimp ceviche, a treat that cooled off our palates and delighted us with its fresh, bright ingredients.
Of course, nothing could have prepared us for what came next… Dessert, and lots of it. I must have passed over into the afterlife somewhere during that ceviche, because these desserts were otherworldy. The flight of crème brulee was creamy and delicious, the sweet plantain bread pudding with dulce de leche ice cream was absolute decadence, and, drum roll please, the seven sins cake…
Honestly, I think I can end my review right here. You should not have any doubt in your mind that Besa Grill is an amazing addition to our beautiful bay foodie scene. You should definitely make the drive to Clearwater and try this amazing restaurant. Now I am going to take a long, food coma-induce nap. Thank you, Besa.