Thomas Miller – Food Blogger / Restaurant Critic for Vero Vine
My next tasting experience takes me down beachside to a restaurant that has been on my list to review for quite some time now, Citrus Grillhouse. I’ve heard many great things about this place from several different sources, and almost all of the reviews that I’ve read online were very positive. My neighbor and friend, Eden Colonna who guest blogged for us earlier this year, worked for them over the summer and told me how fantastic this place was, so I was excited to finally get my chance to review them.
After analyzing more than 5 million reviews of more than 20,000 restaurants across the country, Open Table chose Citrus Grillhouse as one of the Top 100 Al Fresco dining restaurants in the country in 2016. They highlighted restaurants that have stunning views, feature local cuisine, and overall fantastic outdoor dining experiences. Owner Chef Scott Varricchio said that being from a small town such as Vero, and to be recognized by this big player in the restaurant industry, was a very big deal to him and his staff. Only 13 restaurants in Florida received this recognition, and Citrus Grillhouse was the only restaurant on the Treasure Coast to receive this honor.
Located next to Humiston Park on Easter Lily Lane, they share a parking lot with the park and Nino’s Cafe which is just a few steps west from their entrance. We arrived on a Tuesday night shortly before 5:00 pm and had no trouble finding a parking spot. As we walked up to the restaurant, there were several parties waiting outside for dinner service to start. After checking in with the host, Will McKinnon the General Manager, welcomed us and we were shown to our table. The restaurant interior was very nice, contemporary in design and very comfortable. Tables and half booths lined the wall and there was a bar for those that like to sit and have a drink. There is also an outdoor patio for those that would like to dine with an ocean view. Chef Varricchio made an appearance to give us an overview of our evening. All of the dishes that were presented to us were “tasting” size due to the number of dishes he had planned for us to try, so we would hopefully not be too full by the end of the experience.
Now on to the food! Let’s jump right in and see what I had to eat!
Crab Wrap – The wrap was made with hydroponic Bibb lettuce, a lemon/jalapeno aioli, jumbo lump crab meat, minced red onion and mango. The lettuce was extremely fresh and of exceptional quality. The jumbo lump crab meat was sweet and tender, the aioli added a creaminess with a hint of jalapeno, the mango and red onion provided some additional sweetness and nice texture variation.
Parmesan Flan with Chilled Sweet Pea Soup – The flan was simply made with eggs, cream and parmesan cheese and the pea soup was made from petite peas, chicken stock, salt, pepper, and sugar. The flan was light and very delicate. It had a hint of parmesan, not overwhelming at all like I thought it might be. The pea soup brought back childhood memories and was very creamy and smooth. It was finished with a little bit of EVOO to add an additional flavor component.
Compressed Yogurt & Whole Grain Salad – A smear of “compressed” yogurt was first put on the plate, then a wild rice, barley, quinoa, buckwheat, dried apricots, raisins, golden raisins, cranberry whole grain salad was spooned over the top. It was finished with a fig & vanilla balsamic and EVOO dressing was drizzled over the top, with a light sprinkling of sea salt to complete the dish. The “compressed” yogurt is when they press it to remove all of the water in it, making it more like the texture of cream cheese. The yogurt was very smooth and creamy, the whole grain salad had a lot of different flavors and textures going on, and the fig & vanilla balsamic dressing was tangy and sweet.
Salmon Gravlox – House cured Norwegian salmon rolled into a rose, sitting atop of a Paniese (chickpea pancake), topped with crème fraiche. The plate was garnished with mustard oil, salmon roe and tobiko (flying fish roe). The salmon was of impeccable quality and had one of the smoothest textures I have experienced to date with any gravlox dish I have tasted. The chickpea pancake had a dense bread like texture but was still easy to cut with a fork. The mustard oil definitely had a bright flavor and the fish roe was very fresh.
Cipriani Tagliolini Truffled Pasta – Made with Cipriani Tagliolini pasta, mixed with Moliterno cheese from Sardinia, a truffled gouda from Holland, a truffled butter from Italy, and garnished with fresh shaved Perigord black truffles. Chef told us this was a time sensitive dish due to the fact as it cooled down, the cheeses would start to solidify and have a firmer less desirable texture. The pasta was cooked a perfect al dente, the cheeses were wonderfully rich, and the shaved truffle added a nice earthy flavor.
Pan Roasted MS-7 Wagyu Strip Steak – The steak was simply seasoned with salt and pepper and pan roasted with a little bit of olive oil. The side dish was white beech, brown beech, oyster, and Maitake mushrooms sautéed in-house made ponzu butter. The steak was cooked to a perfect medium and was very tender, salty, fatty, and definitely had a very rich beefy flavor. See the image and explanation below for more details about this Wagyu beef.
Most people in the US have heard of a type of beef from Japan called Kobe. It’s a particular Wagyu breed named Tajima-Gyu and is raised in Kobe, Japan. It is only available to 9 restaurants certified to carry it in the US and its some of the best quality beef found anywhere on the planet. With such a high demand for this type and quality of beef, other regions in Japan have started raising cattle using these same strict standards as the Kobe region does in raising cattle to meet consumer demand. Chef Varricchio from time to time has an opportunity to purchase some Japanese Wagyu beef. As you can see from the certificate above, this breeder also takes their beef as seriously as the Kobe beef producers do and keep strict records on their animals. So what makes this type of beef so special? The intense marbling of fat throughout the muscle that gives it that rich flavor, while also being very tender. While it’s expensive, I highly recommend you try it at least once and experience it for yourself.
U10 Seared Sea Scallops served over Grilled Cabbage – These scallops were pan seared and served over grilled Napa cabbage with a creamy ginger lime sauce, and topped with micro greens as the garnish. The scallops were perfectly cooked, the cabbage still had some crunch to it and a slight grilled flavor. The cream sauce was smooth and had a brightness to it from the citrus and ginger.
Starting from the left to the right:
Classic Key Lime Pie with Lime Crema
Dark Chocolate Ganache Cake, caramel, feuillitine, and topped with bacon and sea salt
Vanilla Macadamia Cheese Cake, topped with a vanilla Chantilly cream
Citrus Scented Chocolate Cake, topped with chocolate ice cream and a strawberry coulis
All of the desserts were in-house made and were fantastic. It was definitely a nice way to round out an unforgettable meal.
To say I was impressed would definitely be an understatement. Chef Varricchio has a way to take simple, fresh ingredients and work his magic with them. These are some of the most creative and flavorful dishes that I have seen or experienced yet in Vero. From the location, the ocean views, the simplicity of the ingredients, yet elevated flavor and artistically plated dishes, this is one dining experience I won’t soon forget.
Have you tried Citrus Grillhouse? What has your experience been with them? Sound off in the comments below and let me know your thoughts, or feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions or comments.
Atmosphere – 5 Forks
Service – 5 Forks
Food – 5 Forks
Rating Scale Legend:
1 to 5 Forks – 1 Bad to 5 Excellent