Overflowing with creativity and flavor, the menu is anything but by the book
BY LORI BROWN
The Reading Room is one of the best and most unique restaurants in St. Petersburg, with its own garden which is the inspiration for the menu. Located just a short 3.5 miles from downtown, in the same parking lot as freeFall Theatre, the Reading Room is worth venturing out to dine in such a fabulous establishment.
On our visit, it was tough deciding what to order because everything sounded fantastic. We started with Our Daily Bread. This day’s bread was homemade with oatmeal, beets and wheat then served with homemade cultured butter, a little sea salt and fresh radish. Soft, flaky and delicious!
Next up was the scrumptious Winter’s Roasted Roots made with beets, parsnips, spicy nuts and pumpernickel vinaigrette. I ate my half of the plate faster than Kevin could get a bite into his mouth. It was a flavor explosion of epic proportions. The overall soft textures of the roasted root vegetables complemented the crunchiness of the nuts. This was served on top of a sweet potato puree that added a touch of creaminess to this already amazing dish.
Did someone say kimchi? I love kimchi! We could not resist trying the Jjigae, which is kimchi soup with mushrooms, tofu and pickled greens. When they serve it, they bring the broth separately and pour it in the bowl at your table. The soup broth is tangy because of the kimchi, earthy from the wild mushrooms and the pickled greens just added that extra dimension. The tofu takes on all of the flavors and provides a different mouth feel. Executive Chef and co-owner Lauren Macellaro does an exceptional job at making every dish balance, not just with flavor but also with texture and visual appeal.
Our shared entrees arrived at a nice pace. First, we had the Fish en Pappillote (cooked in parchment paper) – that night it was a Pumpkin (named due to its coloring) Swordfish with curried vegetables, black rice and saffron. Steaming the fish in parchment paper made it come out perfectly. It cut like butter with just a fork. The black rice and curried vegetables were very good, but the star of the show was definitely the Swordfish.
Our Steak entrée was a house dry-aged hanger steak cooked mid-rare and served with wheat berries, mushrooms, shallots and blue cheese. Cooking a tender hanger steak is not easy. It was cooked a perfect mid-rare, glistening with tenderness and bursting with flavor. Having no idea what a wheat berry is, we were surprised by the nutty texture and flavor when paired with the mushrooms and shallots sautéed in white wine. This entree was simply phenomenal.
We vowed to dine at the Reading Room more often because there is nothing like it anywhere in Pinellas County and it is so close to downtown. This restaurant is outstanding and completely elevates the level of dining in St Petersburg.
Reading Room 6001 Central Ave. St. Petersburg 33710 Hours: Open 5 pm Wednesday through Sunday (727) 343-0052