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Sunday, February 10, 2013

Columbia Restaurant: St. Armands Circle, Sarasota, FL

What Works/What Doesn’t

Columbia Restaurant: St. Armands Circle,  Sarasota, FL


Outstanding food. Many items on the menu.
We ate Cuban Black Bean Soup Frijoles Negros prepared exactly like our grandmother, Carmen Hernandez, did. Served over a bed of white rice and topped with diced raw Spanish onions. 100% vegetarian. Excellent! 

Black Bean Soup
The Original Cuban Sandwich. A Tampa treasure! The “Mixto,” as it was known in the beginning, was created in the 1890’s for the cigar workers as they walked to and from work…. Very, very good (had to ask for an extra slice of tomato for this large sandwich though. See picture)

Grouper “Jimmy” A boneless fillet of Gulf of Mexico Red Grouper, seasoned, grilled and topped with fresh lump blue crabmeat, drizzled with lemon butter sauce. Served with “Good Rice” and Asparagus. The fish was done just right and the crab was wonderful. The good rice was very good indeed. Two of the 3 Asparagus stalks were done perfectly. Great mix of flavors.

Mahi Mahi “Varadero” Grilled boneless fillet of Mahi Mahi crusted with  ground crispy green plantain chips, topped with a citrus butter sauce and fresh lump blue crab meat. Served with yellow rice and vegetables. Melted in your mouth! The plantains were sweet.

Cuban Sandwich
Dessert: Flan We think our Flan is the best we have ever tasted. One taste and we think you will agree. The recipe dates back to 1935 when the Columbia opened Tampa’s first “Conditioned Air” dining room, the Don Quixote. Our grandmother and great grandmother, Carmen Hernandez, helped the Columbia gain national fame with her great recipes, especially her Flan. Spanish caramel egg custard,prepared the old-fashioned way….  Awesome. Sweet. Melted on your tongue.

Drinks: Mojito Since the Columbia opened its doors, people have enjoyed this flavorful and refreshing beverage made tableside by the pitcher with Don Casimiro Classic Silver Rum,hierbabuena (mint) and fresh lime juice. “One sip takes us back to Havana in 1958 when we tasted our first mojito.” Well made. Great taste. One of the best Mojito’s I’ve ever had.

I had the Chacho Manhattan (see comments below) but was unfamiliar with the bourbon used. The waiter did not know anything about the bourbon, but did ask the bartender to pour a small sample for me to try neat.

Cafe con Leche Espresso Cuban coffee with steamed milk. Excellent. Hot. Unfortunately they served this in a regular coffee cup instead of an espresso cup. Don’t know why. Spoiled the experience a bit.

Flan and Cubano esspresso
Service: The first time we were there for lunch we were seated right away. Very attentive. We had to wait 20 minutes to  be seated for dinner. It was not an excessive wait considering how  busy they were.

Good location. Lots of great shops in the area.


Service: When we went for dinner the waiter did not know food or drinks menu very well. He was not a good ambassador for the restaurant.

Drinks: Chacho Manhattan: The Classic Manhattan with a twist. Small batch Chacho Bourbon, a dash of guava syrup, sweet vermouth and bitters. Stirred and poured over ice, garnished with lemon and orange zest. NO flavor. Did not mix guava syrup well.

Bottomline?  This restaurant was excellent overall. A few minor cons that could be easily fixed. I would definitely go back there again and recommend my friends to go there as well.

Maino ratings: 4+ out of 5 Ms   MMMM’s

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