Restaurant critic discovers new delights in well-known hangouts in Jacksonville

May was a good month for food and it felt good to be back on the road and supporting local institutions after a challenging year.

tavern

The kale Caesar in the San Marco tavern is served with bacon, croutons, egg and parmesan.

I started the month my husband and I met another couple for a double date at Taverna San Marco. As a branch I tried the kale Caesar (instead of my beloved antipasti salad): crunchy kale, a hard-boiled egg, croutons, bacon and anchovies (hold the red onion!) Topped with parmesan. This turned out to be a delicious mix of crispy and salty. Dinner consisted of the seasonal ravioli, filled with asparagus, peas, mushrooms and truffles – delicious!

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Blue bamboo

Blue Bamboo has new dig in Mandarin.  On your next visit, try the short ribs and broccoli starter.

Chef Dennis Chan’s new Blue Bamboo Canton Bistro in Mandarin attracted my mom and me to happy hour and dinner. The previous location on the Southside was replaced with a larger room where we enjoyed $ 5 starters on small plates before succumbing to wok noodles and steak and an order for short ribs with broccoli. Both were excellent. The mood on Monday evening was calm, but with a larger room I plan to crowd on the weekend (and for cooking classes).

Sake House

The Annie roll (top right) and the Volcano roll (bottom right) are favorites at Sake House San Marco.

A friend and I met outside at the Sake House in San Marco over copious sushi rolls. The tried and tested Annie roll with almond flakes and the warm Volcano roll with mussels and crabs were our favorites.

Sorrento

The Chilean sea bass main course with potatoes and Brussels sprouts was a perfect Mother's Day dinner in Sorrento.

Sorrento Italian, which recently changed hands, was our destination for Mother’s Day dinner. The calamari and mussel starters were easy to share and therefore devoured quickly. Kudos to the sauce for dipping too. My husband ordered the grouper piccata, and I went with the dish of the day: a perfectly cooked piece of Chilean sea bass with a citrus beurre blanc sauce, potato cubes, Brussels sprouts, and lots of garlic. Spectacular!

Poke Bowl and Tutem Tea

Salted cheese foam on mango tea?  It's way better than it sounds at Tutem Tea.

A craving for poke brought me to the fast-casual pokebowl in Riverside. In contrast to some other spots, the advantage here is that almost everything is included in one set price. My half rice, half spring mix base was laden with salmon and all of the fixins – including a precious load: avocado. An added bonus is that Tutem Tea is within walking distance, and its mango drink, with a layer of salted cheese foam (trust me!) And chewy tapioca-based boba pearls, is a desirable after-the-sack dessert drink.

The boss

The portions at El Jefe Tex Mex in Murray Hill were generous enough for Caron to save half of her quesadillas, charro beans, and rice for dinner the next night.

My husband and I enjoyed a Sunday evening at Murray Hill in the local Tex-Mex town of El Jefe. We shared jalapeno garnished queso, guacamole and hot fries and homemade salsa to start. Full of this trifecta, I managed to save half of my fajita vegetable quesadillas, rice, and charro beans for dinner the next night. Win win! And did I mention the house margaritas? Don’t skip these.

Moon River and V Pizza

Moon River in Murray Hill is one of the few places you can find slices of pizza for dinner.

Pizza rounded off the month: first slices and a Greek salad in the eclectic Moon River in Murray Hill. Many seating areas don’t offer slice pizza at dinner so this is always a bonus. And the Greek dressing is the stuff salad dreams are made of. A game night with friends welcomed plenty of boxes of V takeaway pizza – I never get tired of fluffy wood-fired pizza with a winged side.

V Pizza has a distinctive wood taste.

Caron Streibich is an avid food lover who reviews restaurants in the “Life” section every two weeks. Follow her culinary adventures at facebook.com/caroneats and #caroneats on Instagram.

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