DINING: Yellow Dog Café is a blue-ribbon winner

In several reviews over the past decade, we have been high in our praise of the Yellow Dog Café in Malabar – one of those rare dining spots that combines excellent food with a drop-dead view of the Indian River Lagoon.

We’ve even suggested it was worth a special trip, since this restaurant – on U.S. 1 about a half dozen miles south of Melbourne – is a considerable schlep for many of our readers.

Following our most recent visit last week, we would say the Yellow Dog is still a blue-ribbon winner, but we’re not so sure it’s special enough to warrant a 45-minute drive each way for dinner.

When we arrived last Saturday evening, our party of three was shown to a very nice table that when it’s still light out overlooks the water. Our server quickly took our order for a couple of glasses of a New Zealand sauvignon blanc.

For an appetizer, we decided to go with the tuna tataki ($10), seared rare yellowfin tuna accompanied by wasabi, ginger and a soy marinade.

Then for salads, I chose the evening’s special, smoked mozzarella with fresh tomatoes ($12), my husband went for the classic Caesar ($12) and our companion opted for the old blue spinach ($12).

The old blue was a tasty array of tender spinach leaves tossed with blueberries, blue cheese crumbs, blueberry balsamic dressing and toasted pecans. My smoked mozzarella, served with basil and a balsamic glaze, was good, but the tomatoes could have been better.

For entrées, I ordered the half rack of lamb ($30), our companion asked to have the lobster mac and cheese appetizer as an entrée, and my husband decided to try the evening’s seafood special, Peruvian sea bass ($38).

Our server said the Peruvian sea bass looked very nice, but pointed out that it is not the same as Chilean sea bass. Neither of us was familiar with Peruvian sea bass (which turns out to be sea perch), and at that point, I suggested to my husband he might want to reconsider, but he stuck with it.

My half rack of lamb, two beautiful herb-rubbed chops perfectly grilled medium rare, was finished with a luscious natural lamb jus. Our companion’s lobster mac and cheese, filled with chunks of Maine lobster, also got high marks.

My husband’s Peruvian sea bass/perch, however, did not get rave reviews. Pan-seared and served atop a bed of acorn squash and seasoned rice, it was overwhelmed by a papaya and basil salsa that made it difficult to distinguish the chunks of fish. Neither the texture nor the taste of the fish were very appealing.

For desserts (which are prepared on premises), we concluded with one of the largest profiteroles I have ever seen, and a bread pudding. The profiterole was sensational; the bread pudding, not so much.

My husband was also a bit taken aback when he requested a second glass of the sauvignon blanc, and was told they were all out of the New Zealand – would he like a wine from California?

The various glitches were no big deal individually, but this is a very upscale restaurant. Dinner for two here is not cheap, and coupled with service that was a speck too efficient (plates and glasses whisked off the table a bit prematurely), the entire experience was not one that would evoke raves.

If you haven’t visited the Yellow Dog and would like to give it a try, a better idea might be to go on a Tuesday through Sunday when it is open at noon – affording you a more modestly priced opportunity to have a very good lunch overlooking the lagoon without a lengthy drive home after dark.

I welcome your comments, and encourage you to send feedback to me at tina@verobeach32963.com.

The reviewer is a beachside resident who dines anonymously at restaurants at the expense of this newspaper.

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