The Tides taking turn for the better

Written by Sheila O'Meara 5/20/2000

Appearing in the Vero Beach Press Journal

The Tides is the new kid in town and it's getting off to a great start.

Two ambitious young women have taken over the previous home of Camelia's and left few things unchanged.

Chef Leanne Kelleher renovated the kitchen from stem to stern and puts her sparkling new equipment to good use. She and partner Marylise Alfalia have spruced up the hitherto dreary inside with bright paint, new carpeting and well-spaced tables.

Outside, there is now a small patio lined with tiki torches and cloth-covered tables and a wine bar with cozy high tops. As soon as the landscaping fills in a little (you know it's the growing season and it won't take long), diners will be sequestered behind a glossy hedge of awabuki and sheltered from a less than thrilling view of Cardinal Drive.

This is, after all, Florida, where you can eat outside most of the year and where it amazes us that so few restaurants avail themselves of that opportunity. It's not just tourists who like to dine al fresco, we year-rounders like it, too.

When we dined here recently, it was a perfect evening for eating out, one of those "no temperature" nights with a touch of a breeze and no noticeable insects. (Even folks who are ordinarily beset by airborne beasties were comfortable. )

Our waiter related the specials with enough but not too many details and left us to peruse the menu while he went for our wine. The menu has enough variety without being huge and the dishes show imagination without pretension.

There are a few presentations with ingredients stacked a little too high for our taste, but the combinations are tasty and not freaky; the elements are all recognizable as food we have bought at a grocery store, not esoterica to be special- ordered from California or beyond.

A perfect example: grilled portobello mushroom "BLT." The bacon is really Parma pancetta, the lettuce is wilted spinach and the tomatoes are sun-dried. The plate is painted with a gorgonzola cream and a delicious balsamic vinaigrette. This is an appetizer with style but without going over the edge to "trendy."

The homemade soup the day we were at The Tides was seafood and andouille gumbo. Spicy and nice with just a touch of okra. The andouille was firm and not greasy, with just enough kick to get your attention. The Caesar salad attempted, without much success, to improve on the classic with the addition of asiago cheese and smoked bacon. But who could expect everything to be perfect the first month?

Entrees we sampled included the "inside out chicken saltimbocca," a tasty variation on the traditional veal dish and served over mushrooms in Marsala wine, reasonably priced at $15.

The peppercorn-crusted fillet mignon is the highest-priced item on the menu at $25 and combines some wonderful flavors. The arrangement on the plate is a bit daunting, however, with crisp fried onions and gorgonzola cheese topping the steak that's perched on smoked bacon and onion confit and nestled next to a mound of garlic mashed potatoes.

The veal scallopine special was outstanding, deliciously crisp in a coating of Japanese and Italian bread crumbs. A revisionist cordon bleu with prosciutto and cheese, it was presented over wilted bitter greens and with a balsamic vinaigrette. (Oh, yes, mashed potatoes loomed high once more.) We finished up with cappuccino since we had no room for our beloved tiramisu. We'll remember to pace ourselves when we go back. And that will be soon. Very soon.

Sheila O'Meara is an independent, free-lance restaurant reviewer who dines at the expense of the Press Journal. She dines anonymously in order to receive the same treatment any diner would encounter. The review is based on one visit. She is the former managing editor of The Cook's Magazine, Good Food, and European Travel & Life magazines.

Food: ****
Service: ****
Atmosphere: ****

Excellent: *****
Very good: ****
Good: ***
Fair: **
Poor: *

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