Make Plans Way in Advance

Once upon a time, there were two bold young fellows named Frank Chivas and Tom Pritchard. Frank grew up among commercial fisherman and worked in seafood restaurants while Tom, who loved mucking about in kitchens, opened his own restaurant in Majorca. During their journeys, one of the young men (no one knows which) saved a magic fish and was rewarded with a handful of beans. Years later, the two came together in Tampa Bay. "Perhaps these beans are magic," said the one. "Let us plant them and see."

So they planted one of the beans on Indian Shores, and lo and behold, a splendid seafood restaurant named Salt Rock Grill sprang up, already packed with eager customers. "You run the kitchen," said Frank, "and I'll manage the rest!"

"OK!" cried Tom. And soon, Salt Rock Grill was one of the most popular restaurants in Tampa Bay. After a while, the men decided to plant another of the magic beans, this time in Clearwater. As they watched anxiously, a small sprout broke through the sandy ground and began to grow. "What do you think it will be?" asked Tom. "No telling!" yelled Frank. But soon, before them, stood a splendid new restaurant named Island Way Grill. "Let's go inside and see what it's like!" urged Tom.

Inside, they found a beautiful restaurant overlooking a marina, with cool, wooden floors, stone walls, and big, glass-walled wine cellars, so people could look inside and see the bottles. There was a long bar where people could gather before dinner, and a raw bar, where men cracked open fresh oysters, a fine little sushi bar with plenty of fresh tuna and octopus on display, and a dandy wood-fire grill, where people could see and smell lobsters and steaks being put to the flame. There were two big dining rooms and a splendid outdoor deck, where boaters could dock their craft during dinner. The deck had its own bar, big comfortable chairs and portable air-conditioners that tricked people into thinking it was a cool day when it was really in the 90s.

"This is wonderful!" Frank exclaimed. "Let's see what the menu is like!" So the partners grabbed a menu and began tasting all sorts of good things, such as fresh Vietnamese king crab rolls ($7.95) with paper-thin rice papers, shreds of king crab, noodles, slivers of carrots and fresh herbs, like cilantro, and a spicy ginger-lime dipping sauce. They had delicious pot stickers ($5.95) filled with a mixture of pork and shrimp, which, after being cooked in a wok, were given a moment on the grill to dry the surface of the little pasta pillows and give them a good, smoky flavor. These were served with a dipping sauce made both sweet and sharp with plum sauce and cilantro. An order of sugar prawns ($7.95) — four big, moist shrimp done on the grill with a sweet glaze and served atop a slice of grilled fresh pineapple. They also tried the sushi bar, and were delighted with the flavor of very fresh fish rolled into rice and seaweed, especially the Clearwater roll ($5.25) with fried grouper, scallions and mayo.

Soon, Frank and Tom made their way to the entrees. They delighted in the flavor, texture and aroma of the fresh seafood, particularly a daily special of salmon, briefly seared over an open fire to give it a good smoky flavor and a deliciously crisp crust over the thin layer of fat. Tom said he's never eaten anything so good! It was served with a good mix of stir-fried veggies, including red and green peppers, green and yellow squash, carrots, snow peas, red onions, scallions and baby portobello mushrooms, and included fresh bread, and a very tasty house salad.

Frank was astounded that they could serve this on the early menu (4-5:30 p.m.) for $9.95, but figured the magic beans knew what they were doing. His own favorite was the citrus seared scallops ($9.95 early menu, $16.95 after 6 p.m.) fresh, plump scallops, grilled on skewers with a mild sweet-sour glaze and served atop noodles dressed with a delicious, mildly tart lime dressing for a wonderful flavor combination. He also approved of the Javanese pork tenderloin ($13.95) a fine, juicy cut of meat, sliced thick, marinated in garlic, lime and rice wine, cooked and finished on the grill before being served with tasty, mildly sharp wasabi mashed potatoes. He tried it with a side of grilled asparagus — 12 spears of young, sweet asparagus, with the woody flavor of the fire, a bitter orange dressing and a sprinkle of shaved asiago cheese — ($5.95) and proclaimed it good. Throughout their feasting, they ordered from a well-selected and affordable wine list. Finally, sitting back and patting their tummies, Frank and Tom mused, "You know, we really gotta send that magic fish a Thank You card."

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