CLOSED: The Bridge – Ponte Vedra Beach
::Tastecasting is not an unbiased restaurant review. If you are unfamiliar with Tastecasting, please learn more at “What Is Tastecasting?”::
NOTE: THE BRIDGE CLOSED IN NOVEMBER 2011
Five of the Tastecasting members were recently treated to an evening out at The Bridge in Ponte Vedra Beach.
It’s not the easiest place to find on the First Coast, but if you’re willing to seek it out, you will be justly rewarded.
The first thing that strikes a diner at The Bridge is the real estate. Beyond being a beautiful restaurant situated in a waterfront location, it also has a very large dining room - but without the pesky feeling of eating in a warehouse (I’m looking in your direction, P.F. Chang’s). There is plenty of elbow room at The Bridge. The kitchen and display cases are a welcoming sight, with the chefs and fresh fish openly available for viewing. When I entered, I was hit by the delectable scent of what seemed to be a cinnamon sugared dessert, but was actually a special potpourri brew concocted by our chef, John Cakmis.
Our hostess seated us and we began with a lovely bread basket, sourced from the famous and always-awesome French Pantry. I had a glass (okay, two glasses) of the White Sangria with white peaches, nectarines, peaches, apples, oranges in a blend of pinot grigio, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and brandy. YUM!
The bread was a lovely way to begin – chewy and crispy with a great olive oil and herb blend.
We soon moved on to our salad and appetizer selections.
First we were offered the Avocado and Lump Crabmeat Salad.
This was a beautiful presentation of jumbo lump crab meat blended with a basil mayonnaise filling a perfect avocado seated on gorgeously ripe tomatoes and red onions then finished with balsamic vinaigrette. ($15)
Next, we enjoyed a Fried Oyster BLT Salad.
Tender greens were topped with spicy Caesar dressing, excellent bacon and tomato with crispy oysters nestled on top. This was very tasty! It was not on the menu the evening we were there, please ask your server about availability.
Next came the Crawfish Spring Rolls ($9).
These were not quite what I was expecting because they are made with wonton wrappers rather than spring roll wrappers, but the filling was delicious and the Asian sauce was a great accompaniment.
Soon we were treated to one of my favorite dishes of the evening – Cajun Bayou Gumbo (cup $6 – bowl $9 – entree $12).
This gumbo far exceeded my expectations. I grew up in Pensacola, eating gumbo out of giant vats on propane burners in the backyards of guys with names like Boudreaux Thibodeaux. I know gumbo and this is IT, my friends. Fresh shrimp, crawfish tails, okra (not slimy!), gumbo file and spicy sausage come together to make some of the finest gumbo I’ve had on this side of the Apalachicola River.
Check out these Gumbo Goodies:
It is, as we say in my neck of the woods, “Slap ‘Yo Mama Good.”
Soon it was time to experience the entrees Chef Cakmis had to offer.
Greek Lamb Chops with mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley ($27) looked especially inviting.
The lamb chops were perfectly cooked! The Greek marinade gave great seasoning to beautiful cuts of meat. Excellent!
Next, we sampled “Athena Chicken Pasta” ($17).
This is tender chunks of chicken breast sauteed with artichoke hearts, sun dried tomatoes, basil and garlic in a white wine and lemon sauce then served over linguini and topped with feta cheese. This would be a great dish for those who might not be interested in seafood. I thought it was a very pretty presentation as well.
Next up were the Scallops Beurre Blanc. (Ask your server about availability and pricing)
These are jumbo Diver Sea scallops which are pan seared and topped with a buerre blanc, served with sauteed spinach. It just doesn’t get any prettier than that, does it?
Our next dish was another chef’s choice which doesn’t appear on the regular menu, Grey Grouper Eleni.
This would be a great time to mention the passion Chef John Cakmis has for his fish. Each selection is diver-shot and as fresh as you can get it. This grouper had been swimming very, very recently. It was served with red potatoes and a veggie and shrimp topping.
I have saved the best of the entree dishes for last. This is Snapper New Orleans (ask your server about availability and pricing).
This snapper was among the best fish I have ever had. It is a beautiful filet of red snapper topped with jumbo lump crab meat in a lemon butter sauce with a veggie medley. This dish is listed with grouper on the menu (“Grouper New Orleans”) but Chef Cakmis assured us that he can make this to order if the market allows. ASK FOR IT. If there is no other dish you ever try from The Bridge, try the Snapper New Orleans. It is simply beyond delicious.
After all of that, it was hard to believe I could taste anything else, but our gracious hostess, Jill Gustafson-Cakmis brought out her bread pudding and I could not resist.
This is what bread pudding is all about – homemade sweet goodness with a crunch of pecans and a Jack Daniels sauce to set it all off. Not too sweet, not too mushy, just a beautiful slice of delicious dessert heaven. This is a house specialty and is typically on offer, ask your server for availablity.
The Tastecasting crew had a lovely evening at The Bridge. I will be returning with friends and family for a long time to come. It is well worth the drive from Jacksonville. My suggested menu is the Oyster BLT salad, gumbo and Snapper New Orleans with Bread Pudding for dessert. I’m always partial to restaurants that show a personal love toward their food and their customers and The Bridge has both in abundance.
You can visit The Bridge at 377 South Roscoe Blvd. in Ponte Vedra Beach, under the Palm Valley Intracoastal Bridge. Check out their website at www.bridgewaterfrontbistro.com or give them a call at (904) 285-1154.
Special thanks to Jill Gustafson-Cakmis, Chef John Cakmis and the entire staff of The Bridge for a lovely evening and a wonderful meal!
photos copyright © 2009 by jodi a. kasten • all rights reserved