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O'Bistro offers carryout with class

The sauces and specialties you carry home are prepared with the same care and artistry as when you dine in the restaurant.

By KATHY SAUNDERS

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 26, 2001


ST. PETERSBURG -- Dinner at O'Bistro restaurant is quiet, elegant, reasonably priced and very, very delicious. I haven't figured out why it's not packed every night. But that could be because a lot of people are more familiar with the restaurant's catering business.

Everything on the menu is available for carryout, says owner Sharon O'Gradney, who changed the name of the business from O'Gradney's Bistro to simply, O'Bistro, after a customer survey earlier this year.

We took O'Gradney up on her offer to package our dinner on a recent weekday evening when we didn't have a babysitter. The restaurant is child-friendly, but our 2-year-old would not appreciate the sauces and other specialties of chef Tyson Grant.

My husband phoned in our order just after 5 p.m. from his office and stopped to get the dinner on his way home. Everything was neatly packaged, still piping hot and not dripping out of the neat, handled shopping bag when we opened it about 10 minutes later.

I am hooked on O'Bistro's lobster ravioli -- and some of my friends are, too. The $23.95 dish comes with three baseball-size pillows stuffed with soft saffron lobster and served with a Champagne buerre blanc. The dish comes with pancetta, asparagus and julienne roasted bell pepper, carrots and zucchini. On top, I got three jumbo sauteed shrimp that were warm and well cooked but not rubbery. The lobster was delicious and not overpowered by the saffron or the sauce. The presentation of the take-out dinner was as beautiful as when I enjoyed the dish at the restaurant previously.

My husband wanted spice, so he ordered the chorizo crusted salmon ($15.95). The fillet came crusted with black beans and served over vegetables, grilled tomato salsa, avocado aioli and spicy sausage. The dish has just enough kick to satisfy our taste buds, while not burning the roofs of our mouths. We could still taste the salmon, too.

All of the dinners at O'Bistro come with a salad that we adore. The fresh greens are topped with roasted red peppers, sliced fennel and cheese and sprinkled with a shallot balsamic vinaigrette. O'Gradney was nice enough to prepare the same salad for me and a friend at lunch on a recent afternoon.

"The sliced fennel is what makes the dish because you think it's onion at first," said my friend.

We got a whole loaf of fresh, hot bread with our dinner and a side container of olive oil and herbs for dipping.

I thought I was too stuffed for dessert after we finished dinner, but duty called and I made room. The raspberry key lime cheesecake ($4.95) is topped with loads of white chocolate chips that added just the right texture and flavor. It was soft and delicate while still having plenty of key lime punch.

My husband, a trial lawyer, has a joke about always ordering a torte when he sees one on the menu. In this case, it was no joke, even though the legal term is spelled differently. The chocolate hazelnut torte ($5.95) was light and sweet but not too rich. It was drizzled with raspberry sauce.

O'Gradney said most of the desserts are made at the restaurant, including a honey lavender creme brulee that also was offered on the night we ordered.

The menu has been updated since O'Gradney hired Grant from the Grill at Feather Sound. One of his house specialties is the ginger-crusted rack of lamb served with honey rum braised squash, plantain potato hash and vanilla bean infused soy syrup ($24.95). I also have tried the seafood crepes with stuffed shrimp, scallops, jumbo lump crabmeat and wild mushroom sauce ($17.95) and the chargrilled filet mignon of beef with boursin-Zinfandel demi glaze, grilled marinated asparagus and roasted garlic mashed potatoes ($22.95).

O'Bistro offers a special every evening, usually fresh fish. This month, O'Gradney also plans to offer some of her chef's specialties from a new location a few blocks west of O'Bistro at Chicago Pizza. She plans to reopen that store at 7229 Central Ave. to serve four kinds of Chicago Pizza -- stuffed, pan, thin and thick crusted -- as well as a selection of pastas, sandwiches, frozen dinners and fresh breads for take-out. She said she also plans to take orders for whole dinners for four to six people for about $30.

PINELLAS TO GO

O'Bistro
6661 Central Ave.
Phone: (727) 381-1212
Hours: 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and 5 to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Closed Sundays

Consumers: Two adults

What we got: Lobster ravioli with sauteed jumbo shrimp, chorizo crusted salmon filet with grilled tomato salsa and avocado aioli, two dinner salads, a loaf of fresh bread, slice of raspberry key lime cheesecake with white chocolate chips and a slice of chocolate torte with raspberry sauce

What it cost: $54.36

Time it took: 20 minutes

Pay with: Cash and major credit cards

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