Osceola Bistro, Vero Beach
Most all the restaurants in Vero Beach offer summer dining specials for early dining. We took advantage of Osceola Bistro’s summer dining menu this week . I was reluctant to order from the special menu because everything on the special menu read as ho-hum: Chicken pot pie, fried shrimp, braised pork and beans, eggplant rollatini, and meatloaf. Boring, right? But after comparing the prices of entrees on the regular menu with the summer special menu, I couldn’t bring myself to spend twice as much for dinner and made a selection from the special menu. All dinners on the special menu include salad, entrée and mini-dessert for $16.50, whereas the regular menu prices range from well over $20 to $36 (including soup or salad but not dessert).
The salad was a heaping plate of tender baby greens with your choice of dressing. My dining companion selected ranch dressing (house made) and I selected lemon thyme vinaigrette. The salad was well tossed, with the perfect amount of dressing. I much prefer a salad that has been tossed with dressing rather than one where the dressing is merely poured on top, and the kitchen had a light hand with the quantity of dressing. Both dressings were decent, but lacked a bit of flavor and needed salt. Nevertheless, the greens were absolutely fresh and the salad was made with care.
For dinner we selected the meatloaf and the fried shrimp. The meatloaf was unbelievably good, with an incredibly light texture and great flavor. It was served with a light dressing of wild mushroom gravy (no button mushrooms!), accompanied by roasted garlic mashed potatoes and green beans. Both sides were made with care; the mashed potatoes had a perfect texture – almost as if they had been prepared just for our dinner order, and a light touch with the garlic – just the right amount. The green beans were cooked perfectly and tossed lightly in butter. All perfectly seasoned, perfectly fresh, and no need to add salt at table (unlike with the salads).
The fried shrimp were Florida wild shrimp breaded in a panko coating, served with what tasted like home-made cocktail and tartar sauces. The shrimp were perfectly cooked, the breading not too heavy, but the sauces were terrific. I like a garlicky, pickly tartar and this met the bill. The cocktail sauce had a great horseradish bite. The shrimp were accompanied by what the menu called “serious slaw” and French fries. The fries were great, nicely cooked with a crisp exterior and creamy center, served hot, salted to perfection and I think there was a tiny touch of herb there that I couldn’t really identify. The slaw needed work though, it tasted like nothing more than cabbage and mayonnaise.
I don’t recall all the dessert choices – there are four or five mini desserts offered – just the desserts we opted for. Companion had the carrot cake, which was delicious with the right level of spice and sweetness, but it was served stone-cold right from the refrigerator, which dulled the flavor and caused the cream cheese icing swirl to be as hard as cold butter. The cake would benefit by being served at room temperature. I had the crème brulee, which had a luscious silken texture, visible vanilla beans, and a proper topping which shattered like glass under my spoon. The custard also had a bit of a burnt sugar flavor in addition to the vanilla beans. It was crème brulee perfection.
We had the house wine – Coastal Vineyards – at $4 a glass; the house gave a very, even overly, generous pour.
The restaurant doesn’t do these entrees justice with their boring menu descriptions. Meatloaf was perhaps the best meatloaf we’ve ever had, home or away, and everything was really well executed by the kitchen. This was comfort food taken up several levels. Service was attentive but not intrusive; multiple wait persons stopped by our table to see if we needed anything. We were well served.
We were pleasantly surprised, even a little bowled over, by the high quality of Osceola Bistro’s food. This was our second visit (previously went in January) and will definitely return soon to try some of the other items on the special menu. I’d like to see what they do with chicken pot pie and the braised pork with cannellini beans, after sampling the terrific meatloaf.