Mediterranean Shish-Kebab Restaurant

It took a bit of convincing to get the kiddos in the door at St. Augustine’s Mediterranean Shish-Kebab Restaurant. They really wanted burgers but I was too tired to drive to GAS and, honestly, it was late and I wanted our food 10 minutes ago. I remembered tales of a Mediterranean Restaurant with an Indian buffet (buffet = no waiting!) … two minutes later we were pulling in. Four more minutes later I’d convinced everyone it wouldn’t be spicy and they could enjoy the taste adventure. We went inside.

We were ushered to our table- the only table in the room where the buffet was set up, how convenient!! Bright walls and clean floors gave a good first impression. Fabric tablecloths covered with paper were fine with us- I passed out pens and my kiddos happily started drawing and playing tic-tac-toe. That’s what paper on tables is for, right?

Points for paper over the fabric tablecloths so the kiddos could draw!!

I ordered baba ghannouj for a starter. Smoky eggplant, the zing of garlic and a flood of memories hit me with the first bite. It’s so close to the way my Giddo & Sitto made their baba ghannouj! I honestly didn’t expect it to be so good- great start to dinner!

Lauren and Georgia Anne decided to share a lamb gyro. When our server asked if they wanted the “salad” with it, I said no since we’d already had a salad course… turns out he meant lettuce and tomato. Oops. But the girls didn’t complain about their lamb-bread-and-french-fries dinner. I found the meat to be a little dry and suggested dipping it in the yogurt, mint and garlic sauce (tzatziki sauce), which was delish.

The most surprising thing about this restaurant to me is their Indian buffet. It varies daily, features many locally sourced ingredients. There are 4-6 choices daily including both meat and vegetarian options. The dishes I sampled had the customary “kick” of Indian food and were too spicy for most of my kiddos but I enjoyed the variety- this is one cuisine I don’t prepare at home but never tire of!

I had just written and photographed an assignment on Indian food in Jacksonville the week before our visit, so I was excited to compare the dishes. Everything I had was better at Mediterranean Shish-Kebab Restaurant.

My favorite was the simple rice dessert, kheer, which was noticeably thicker and more flavorful.

Kheer was the dessert available from the Indian buffet.

Like most Americans, I’m a “Heinz 57″ when it comes to family heritage. One great-great-great-great grandmother was ordered via mail from Ireland during the potato famine. A great-great-great grandpa was Cherokee Indian… or Blackfoot, depending on which relative is telling the story. Many of the European-roots stories have been lost over time but my Lebanese-Catholic heritage is clear and I have the passion for food, love of hospitality and protection of my family to prove it. Sharing plates at St. Augustine’s Mediterranean Shish Kabob Restaurant tasted and felt comfortable- I’m looking forward to returning for both the Arabic and unique Indian dishes!

Mediterranean Shish-Kebab Restaurant
2180 US Highway 1 S
(904) 460-2846

Mediterranean Shish-Kebab Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Bistro de Leon’s Pineapple Carpaccio with Tarragon Syrup

Every meal I’ve had at Bistro de Leon has been delightful. From perfectly prepared filet to flaky fresh fish to sides of whipped potatoes that I wished were bottomless, each dish leaves no doubt that Chef Poinard knows how to cook! This passion for food is “in his blood”; Chef Jean-Stephane Poinard is a 5th generation chef.

After a satisfying meal, a light dessert is the perfect way to end the evening. Prepare this tarragon-infused pineapple ahead of time then top with ice cream for a quick but refined dessert.

PINEAPPLE CARPACCIO with Tarragon Syrup

1 Fresh Pineapple – cored and sliced very thin

½ pound Fresh Tarragon Leaves

1 lb. granulated sugar

1 quart water

Vanilla Ice Cream OR Pineapple Sorbet

Directions:

  • Slowly melt the sugar in water until syrupy. Add tarragon leaves to the hot syrup until syrup has cooled
  • Arrange the pineapple rings on a large platter and pour tarragon syrup (with leaves) over pineapple. Save  ½ C syrup for serving
  • Let dish infuse flavors in the refrigerator for a few hours
  • If you save the pineapple leaves, garnish the dish with them and place a scoop of vanilla ice cream (OR pineapple sorbet) the center!

Living in Florida, my herbs are often flowering (the heat causes them to bolt)… this dessert is gorgeous with a tarragon flower topping the ice cream! I typically remove it before eating.