A single roasted pearl onion with explosive flavor was the eye opener to our experience at Rococo. A single bite with that much taste showed the care and expertise of the kitchen with each delicious ingredient. A pearl onion to rival the "Girl with the Pearl Earring." My daughter and I had circled downtown St. Pete in the driving rain looking for dinner. Parking was at a premium and the long waits at some establishments were interminable. (The Mill, Brick & Mortar, Station House). We wanted a fine cocktail and food and we wanted it now. As the designated driver, my darling patient (ahem) child was getting increasingly irritated as I told her to turn left here and "trust me" one more time.
We were greeted warmly. Olivia gasped when she saw the dining room. "Simply stunning" were her words. It is singularly dramatic in decor and that defines baroque. The deep charcoal grey walls, red chandeliers, sconces, vibrant art and white upholstered chairs are striking. The upholstered banquettes were inviting. We did NOT have a reservation and the hostess was able to seat us before the bartender could complete our drink order. She with her favorite dirty martini with blue cheese stuffed olives and I with the Cucumber Fresca (tequila, muddled cucumber, mint and a splash of sparkle). We were seated in a comfortable room with vaulted ceilings that evoked a wine barrel. Glass window displays would rival Macy's with fabulous representative prime champagnes in various sizes from magnum to rehoboam. Talk about wish list! My girl said before we even ordered that if she were to get married, this would be her choice for the rehearsal dinner, We did raise her well. After all life is a matter of taste.
Our waiter, Dan, explained the many special items for the evening. Fresh East coast and West coast oysters on the half shell, available in any increment, the featured salad, fish and steak cuts not on the regular menu. He explained the ala carte service and menu selections. Grass fed and corn fed beef are available including the elusive bone-in filet.
My mini-me ordered the goat cheese pie and I chose the foie gras pain perdu. Her pie arrived with a deeply colored crispy crust and what I would describe as a goat cheese cake filling with a side of arugula and poached pears dressed most simply with a fig dressing. Mini-me swooned, as did I with the creamy dense tart savory pie. My torchon of foie gras was gently pan seared and served on top of a Grand Marnier toast of eggy brioche and sprinkled with salted hazelnuts, a drizzle of pomegranate balsamic enriching this delicacy. The floral note of the Grand Marnier and pomegranate stilled the slight mineral taste to the foie gras. The crisp hazelnut provided the perfect contrast in texture. Small as it should be with a power packed punch to the palate.
We could NOT pass up sharing a bowl of the corn lobster bisque. A personal Kryptonite for mother and daughter. The kitchen kindly split a portion of this warm bisque. It was quite generous. We laughed because we each dared the other to pick up the bowl and lick it. It was that good. It was intensely deeply lobsterly with undertones of sherry, mushroom and corn. One of the best that we have tried.
Service was quite competent and Dan was very apologetic at the slow pace for our entrees, we didn't mind the leisurely pace because we were so comfortable. We had a lovely bottle of Duck Decoy to sip and savor while we waited for the kitchen to catch up. Olivia ordered the 12 oz. Roasted Prime rib with au jus and horseradish cream. It was a perfect medium rare and the cut was lovely. The bite I had was seasoned perfectly with enough salt to enhance the beefiness. Sauce was not necessary. Now this is where that pearl onion entered the picture. She had two picture perfect roasted baby carrots and three pearl onions as garnish. I got a single onion and the deep caramelized flavor epitomized the simplest garnish done well. I ordered the wild wood grilled salmon with kale, boar bacon (!!!!) and lemon oil, medium rare. It was sublime. Rococo might have singularly converted me to kale. Naturally because we ALWAYS over order, we had a family style serving of creamed spinach and chef made potato coins (shreds of russet potatoes and herbs, a fat flat crispy tater tot). Olivia had been to Ruth Chris' Steak house last week and raved over their creamed spinach. Hand's down she said Rococo was better. RC can't come close to the Rococo version. It was incredibly creamy and cheesy. It ain't easy being green, but this was spectacular. The crispy "tots" were yummy. We brought most of each home. (I made a spinach omelette with tots for my hard working girl for breakfast).
Now at this point after packing up our to-go boxes, Dan cruelly (just kidding) suggested dessert. WTH, why not? In for a penny, in for a pound. My petite chou chose the chocolate peanut butter tower. It was flippin fantastic. The peanut butter mousse and graham cracker base was enrobed in dark chocolate and garnished with fresh barely sweet whipped cream. I picked the apple bread pudding which was a masterful representation of yummy. I was served a warm slab of moist apple brioche, caramel sauce and creme anglaise. As we sat back and sighed with pleasure, we topped off our meal with a snifter of Grand Marnier and Disaronno on the rocks respectively.
When an independent restaurant demonstrates extreme care in the minute details of a meal and you are prepared to wait for perfection, I highly recommend Rococo as a fine dining destination. Stylish, chic and delicious.
The manager was most gracious as we were leaving. He made sure we didn't melt in the rain. Please support the independent restaurants and when you want to pull out all the stops, visit and enjoy the romance of Rococo. $$$$ yes, but worth every restorative moment. Photo borrowed from website. My apologies for the lack of pictures, my camera ended up in a puddle earlier in the day.