When a regular dining companion reports hearing of a not-to-be missed restaurant in Tarpon Springs, I am intrigued. “What’s it called?” I ask. “I think my client said, ‘Raisins’” is the reply. I go straight to Google, but no luck. “Double-check the name, will you?” A return call reports, laughingly… “it’s called Currants.” But a quick check reveals, it’s currents (water), not currants (fruit).
No matter. Currents, indeed, is not-to-be missed. First of all, it’s away from the sponge docks on a welcoming corner of Tarpon Avenue with a charming small-town feel. It’s an intimate place with ample windows, a gallery of local art on the walls, and tables that wrap a long handsome bar in a warm embrace. There’s an early bird menu, a very happy hour and, on Fridays, even live music. The servers are chatty, in an upbeat and welcoming way; it’s the the kind of place I’m sure, for regulars, where everybody knows your name.
And the food is just as down home. Everything I’ve eaten here I’d easily welcome again. Why? Because the chef handpicks the freshest seafood and produce daily and every dish is then made to order with impeccable technique — as it should be.
They have a fun selection of specialty cocktails and there’s a varied selection of wines by the glass. The appetizers have our table buzzing. The Brie and apple salsa flatbread is wonderful and, incidentally, one of my Best of the Bay (BOTB) picks on p. 48. The crust is both crisp and chewy, and the luscious cheese and crunchy fruit are joined by tangy Dijon cream and delicious smoky bacon crumbles. Then, the absolutely scrumptious escargot in brandy, shallot cream sauce makes you want to lick your dish. I even convinced a skeptical tablemate to give it a try and made a happy convert.
The beef carpaccio is also right on the mark; wafer-thin, impeccably fresh red beef is presented with golden toasts, briny capers, minced red onions, and piquant horseradish cream. Carpaccio is another dish that often makes diners shy away; I urge you to try it, and I’m willing to bet you’ll like it. There’s a reason these dishes endure, even if they never show up on the menus at, say, Chili’s or Applebee’s; here you can break out of your shell and open your eyes to some beautiful classics. On a good, but less exalted note, the carrot-ginger soup is full-flavored with the punch of ginger in sync with the sweet earthy carrots.
The entrees are straightforward, with simple fresh garnishes of rice or potatoes, and sautéed vegetables. But they are all just right; the vegetable flavors are bright, and perfectly al dente. The juicy marinated pork tenderloin comes with rustic mashed potatoes and an outstanding jalapeño goat cheese creamed corn — so downright delicious and so popular it can be ordered as a side dish on its own.
A char-grilled salmon fillet is juicy, with a lovely honey Jack Daniels glaze that adds sweetness but lets the fish shine, and a bracing touch of lime adds acidity that puts the whole dish in balance. The garnish is perfect, smoky, fresh-grilled pencil-thin baby asparagus.
The moist, flavorful meat loaf shines with a spicy-sweet BBQ sauce, mashed potatoes, and a sautéed green and yellow squash julienne that is so fresh and flavorful, you’d swear it traveled straight from the garden to your plate with only a brief detour. And I guess that’s the point. All the food has such pure, bright flavors that you wonder why the simple food at every restaurant doesn’t taste like this.
The grouper, for example, tastes like it stopped swimming just long enough to join red and yellow peppers in a white wine cream sauce, and then jump onto a plate with rice and mushrooms and the same delicious, fresh squash sauté. Currents’ young chefs find great ingredients and prepare them in such a way that they sing the tune they were born to sing, intervening just enough to let them shine.
The desserts are created with equal care; I liked the fine key lime pie with berry coulis, but I flipped over the special bacon maple bread pudding with whipped cream, another BOTB pick. The custard is sweet and creamy, but the bread holds its shape and body, and the maple and crunchy, smoky bacon kick it up a notch to a memory that lingers long after the car ride home.
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