After a long wait, Thai food has arrived and it is a sight to behold: Lemon owls perch on iced tea, beet roses bloom on entrees and carrot butterflies flutter everywhere.
Makes sense. The crew at Bangkok Express (Market Place West, 1704 Clearwater/Largo Road, 584-9123) has connections to Palm Harbor's Thai Nana and Tampa's Jasmine Thai, places that present Thai food with classy visual style to match the spice.
At lunch recently, my plates were conventional fare, a couple of appetizers, chicken with noodles and curried beef, but presentation was a clear step up: Vegetables that weren't artfully carved were still crisp and bright. Curry puffs ($2.95) of chicken and potato with cucumber and onions started the meal with tang. (The accompanying chicken rice soup didn't; it smacked of onion powder.)
Mine was ordered medium, which proved hot enough without the extra peppers offered.
The dinner menu covers the usual range of noodle dishes, red, green and panang curries with special Thai versions of grouper, snapper, soft-shell crab, veal and crispy duck. Dinner prices run from $5.95 to $14.95.
Tampa Bay Bouillabaisse
There's plenty stewing in our pot, even if it's hotter outside of the kitchen this week.
Set to open this week is G. Williker's Grille (3698 Gandy Blvd.; 837-6252). Vince Aumann, who had managed the place when it was D.J.'s Seafood Grille, took over and made it over _ from decor to menu. Food is moderately priced pasta, stir fries, salads, steaks and a little seafood on up to a 26-ounce porterhouse ($16.95) and lobster (market price). There's pesto and other clever touches like whiskey peppercorn on meatloaf. The other D.J.'s Seafood Grille (2920 E Busch Blvd; 933-1037) remains unchanged.
Counting the ways they fix lamb could make you hungry at Crock Pot (71701 66th St. N, Pinellas Park; 544-4100): leg of lamb lemonato, lamb with orzo or lamb with vegetables and feta in phyllo as well as in pita sandwiches. This new place's menu is broad with seafood and many Greek dishes. Chef and part-owner Stavros "Steve" Cocalides and partner Ramsey Boutros came here from Port St. Lucie. Dinner prices from $4.85 to $11.95; lunches start at $4.15.
Warning to St. Petersburg west-siders: Your culinary Richter scale may register a blip, but it's not an earthquake. Julio's (8235 46th Ave. N, St. Petersburg; 546-6287), an Italian fixture on the edge of the Jungle for 16 years, is moving to 6228 66th St. N. It won't happen until August or later, when remodeling is done. The Pereira family menu will continue the old favorites and new gourmet items introduced by their son and chef, who returned last year.