TARPON SPRINGS — A community gets known for something. Say, sponges, souvlaki and Greek salad with a scoop of potato salad hidden craftily in its midst. If you want to do something totally different, do you stand out or are you just swimming against the stream? Tracey Swade and Bobby Clark were clearly considering the tide's pull when they opened their restaurant in July. It's called Currents, a sophisticated New American seafood concept that is already effortlessly slicing through the waters.
Both owners are veterans, having worked together years ago at Sea Grill in Palm Harbor, with many restaurant jobs between them in the ensuing years. The space they've chosen for their new venture has a pedigree of sorts. In recent years it has been Martini's Jazz Club, Bridie Gannon's Irish Pub and Manzoni's Ristorante Italiano, which lived just longer than a mayfly. But before that, its bar was part of the set for the filming of the 1953 Robert Wagner sponge drama, Beneath the 12-Mile Reef.
It has history, this place, but Swade has wisely chosen to start afresh, all Reef-obilia kept out of sight and its clean, fresh decor the result of months of hard labor (Swade says she spent six weeks in the ladies' room scraping old paint). They laid tile and installed new casings at the big picture windows that flank two sides. Pale fawn walls, rich brown brocade booths and a glorious long wooden bar (the one Wagner ponied up to years ago) give the dining room a spare, contemporary feel.
The menu follows suit beautifully. The talent in the kitchen is Clark's son, Shane, 19, a recent graduate of Jacobson Culinary Arts Academy at Tarpon Springs High School. This guy learned his lessons well. He makes pretty, balanced food: A seared fillet of salmon ($16.50) comes perched on a scoop of blue cheese mashed potatoes and is surrounded by a hash of sauteed spinach, roasted corn and velvety lengths of shiitake. Lovely. Pinwheels of chicken roulade ($11.80) came rolled around a filling of spinach, oil-cured tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. He has since deconstructed the dish a bit, but it's still attractive.
The local community has embraced young Shane's efforts. Even early weeknights are fairly busy affairs, with big parties sharing bottles of wine from the short, midpriced list of familiar names or having a little predinner cocktail before getting down to business.
The best appetizers are the prosciutto-wrapped shrimp ($9) paired with spicy lengths of gingery pineapple (but I'd encourage Shane to devein those shrimp pre-prosciutto wrap), or a paper-thin plate of carpaccio slices ($9) with strewn capers, red onion and tasty shaved asiago, a bit of horseradish cream adding excitement. Entrees come with salad, the Caesar a $2 upgrade with a textbook dressing dragged down a little by too many floppy outer leaves of romaine. The wedge salad ($6) is a better effort, an icy, crisp hunk of iceberg accessorized with a creamy, blue cheesy red wine vinaigrette, tomato, red onion and big lengths of good-quality bacon. No wonder this retro salad seems to be enjoying a protracted revival.
Mashed potatoes feature on a number of the entrees, a little oversalted on a couple of visits but tasty, especially when accompanying a moist, flavorful meat loaf ($9.90) with a surprising gloss of hoisin barbecue sauce.
Prices seem just right for these times, fair-minded given the quality of the ingredients and preparations. In fact, a light, airy housemade cheesecake ($5.50), crustless and with a just-right drizzle of raspberry coulis, beat outs desserts double the price for one of my favorite meal-enders in recent memory.
In a sea of Greek restaurants, Currents provides Tarpon Springs with a stimulating dining option that's off to a swimming start.
Laura Reiley can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 892-2293. Her blog is at blogs.tampabay.com/dining. Reiley dines anonymously and unannounced. The Times pays all expenses. Advertising has nothing to do with selection for review or the assessment.