Wednesday, May 22, 2013

New island-flavored rice bowls blow into Bahama Breeze

I'm a sucker for Floribbean cuisine. I grew up on it living here in Central Florida. For those of you who don't know what Floribbean is all about, just think a cross between southern-style cooking and tropical flavors found throughout the Caribbean. It's a fusion of flavors with a complex medley of spices, with an emphasis on seafood and poultry. Throw in a splash of fruit juices (especially citrus) and Florida's got a unique cuisine all her own, and one that not a lot of people recognize.

While they may call it "Caribbean," Bahama Breeze offers a menu that features a lot of what I would describe as Floribbean, and I'm a big fan. I recently stopped into their Altamonte Springs location to try the new Rice Bowls and taste a few other recent additions to the menu. The new Rice Bowls feature fresh island flavors ranging from savory to sweet to spicy, and are available on both the lunch and dinner menu, and can be ordered in advance as part of the restaurant's "To-Go" menu.

I love the atmosphere at Bahama Breeze. It's casual, yet a bit sophisticated, and the patio can't be beat for relaxing with a tropical drink or two. But I'm not here (only) to drink, but to sample the new rice bowls.

Six are offered: Shrimp Creole, Carnitas, West Indies Chicken Curry, Chipotle Beef, Vegetarian Asian Tofu and Asian Chicken and Vegetable.

I chose to try the Carnitas Rice Bowl ($12.49) with slow-roasted pork, sautéed with chorizo sausage, fresh corn, sweet plantains and garbanzo beans in a cumin-citrus sauce served over yellow rice; with mega portions served in an over-sized bowl.

A fusion of tropical flavors and ingredients? Check. Complex blend of spices? Check. Sounds "Floribbean" to me, and it was delicious.

My dining companion chose to sample the Chipotle Beef Rice Bowl ($13.99) with sautéed beef sirloin, fresh corn and black beans in chipotle sauce served over basmati rice and cheese; topped with sour cream, fresh salsa and ripe avocado. The portion was just as big, the flavors just as complex, and the taste just as delicious -- at least from the compliments voiced and the nibble or two I enjoyed.

We also enjoyed an appetizer of Firecracker Shrimp ($9.49). The buttermilk-battered, crispy fried shrimp, served with a spicy red pepper dipping sauce, were very nice.

It's not a trip to the Bahamas, or to Bahama Breeze for that matter, without an order of Conch Fritters ($5.79). If there's a better place to order these in Central Florida, will someone please let me know?

And of course we had cocktails. I have to admit that I've tried just about every tropical drink and frozen concoction out there, but I've never tried a Zombie -- until now. The Zombie cocktail was created by Don the Beachcomber, and "it's the ultimate 1950's Tiki drink" according to the drink menu. Deceptively fruity, this cocktail combines Myers's Dark, Barbancourt and Bacardi Select Rums and DeKuyper Peach Schnapps. Wow. Run for your lives! Oh, and I loved the zombie swizzle stick. I kept it.

With 12 Florida locations, there's a Bahama Breeze Island Grille near you. Go get you some Floribbean.

Bahama Breeze Island Grille on Urbanspoon

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