Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Green Erth Bistro

1520 Hendricks Avenue, 32207

There has been a movement in the restaurant industry that has made its’ way into Jacksonville and beyond.  It is a movement that is loved by many: the chef, the farmer, the foodie.  It is the Farm to Fork movement.  A movement defined simply as food produced locally as natural or organic as possible without the use of GMOs or hormones.

Green Erth Bistro is making its push to be in that market under the Persian cuisine banner.  Not yet fully Farm to Fork, they utilize natural and organic ingredients whenever possible.  They even pride themselves on offering a plethora of vegan and vegetarian dishes, but they do not restrict themselves to these dietary restrictions alone.  The Bistro, as they like to refer to themselves as, is tucked into one of the many strips you see in the San Marco area of town.  There is not much to distinguish it from the surrounding areas as the façade on the whole strip has no definition between businesses.  What helps it to stand out is its maroon canvas overhang leading into the patio with the simple text of Green Erth Bistro in white.  It is a quant place with a large community table in the middle as well as several smaller tables skirting the main room for a more private dining experience.  My diner with me tonight is Shelly and we decide on the community table in hopes of discourse during the main course.

After a brief moment our server takes our drink order and gives us time to peruse the menu.  They offer a wide selection of organic and local beers, though Intuition People’s Pale Ale was the only local beer on tap.  They also offer a variety of specialty teas and waters as well as some unique drinks of the vegan/vegetarian and eastern Mediterranean variety.  An order of water and tea reveal drinks are served in a plastic cup, but it is a plastic cup made of recycled materials, fitting with the theme of the restaurant.

We decide to start off with the two daily special soups:  Vegan Tamarind and Coconut Soup and Vegetarian Barley Ash.

Vegan Tamarind and Coconut Soup, $?
It is a hearty soup with a scent not far off from the familiar sweet potato dishes of the South.  The flavor?  Flat.  It was a lentil based soup with hints of sweetness from the tamarind, but this soup offered nothing more than filler.  The texture was grainy, and the flavors barely reminded you of what you ordered.  This was completely different than the broth like soup we expected, but I am not sure that even that would have salvaged it.

Vegetarian Barley Ash, $? 
No this dish does not contain any amount of remnants of a burnt piece of wood.  Ash is a consistency between soup and stew, a “stoup” if you like that terminology.  Loaded with lentils, beans and peas of all sorts, this soup is heavily accented with cilantro and finished with a touch of yogurt.   It needed a little brightness - in all actuality, all it needed was to not sit in a steam well all day which allowed the flavors and brightness drop since it was finished being prepared before lunch.

Hummus Plate, diced tomato, olive, fresh basil, $4.50. 
Being a staple, it was a must to see how they perform on a basic such as hummus.  Overall a good dish, the hummus was smooth and not over powered by any one flavor.  The pita served with it was warm and slightly toasted and had the added health benefit of flax seed.  The downfall of this dish comes with the olives.  I mean we are talking about the eastern Mediterranean, an area of the world known for the harvesting of this fruit and its many varietals and curing procedures and The Bistro chooses to use canned sliced black olives.  Nothing short of the olive you would see from the cheap chain pizza delivery guys.

Kabob Assortment: Tofu and Veggie, $5, Koobideh, $4, Jujeh, $5, saffron basmati rice. 
Large pieces of bright, fresh vegetables skewered and grilled over open flame.  The tofu is seasoned with sumac and nothing else, not even salt.  An ingredient that is essentially a blank canvas of the culinary world and they sprinkle it with a single spice, not very freshly ground, and nothing else.  The vegetables seasoned with nothing at all.  Very disappointed with these, textures are there but with no flavor it became a huge let down.  Koobideh, ground meat seasoned and skewered, can be very difficult to achieve.  Getting the meat to hang onto the skewer can turn into disaster if you do not know what you are doing.  Make the mince wrong and it can be too loose to keep on the skewer.  Not loose enough and you cannot spread it out evenly creating uneven cooking.  It is obvious these guys know what they are doing; it was a near perfect skewer of perfectly cooked and seasoned beef.  Jujeh, saffron marinated chicken, was beautifully cooked breast of chicken with a bright yellow hue from the chicken.  A little seasoning could have carried this to a whole other level, but was good eats none the less.  They prepare the saffron and basmati rice in a somewhat unique manner.  With saffron being the most expensive spice in the world, instead of making large batches and over utilizing or stretching out the saffron, they make plain basmati rice and a smaller batch of saffron rice.  It also allows for a nicer presentation instead of the bland display of nothing but rice on a plate.  Though plenty of these items were in need of seasoning, all the kebabs and rice were cooked perfectly.

At first, we debated dessert, and then we heard about Persian ice cream.  So we had to try it and, of course, Baklava.

Persian Ice Cream, pistachios, $4.50. 
Ice cream, the French concoction of frozen custard that has been bought into by many ethnicities has seen as many flavors, takes on a unique perspective in the Persian eye.  Saffron and lavender accent the dessert in a way that is a bit awkward.  With the first few bites I felt as if I was being attacked by the various scents found in the candle, lotion and perfume isles of the local department store all at once.  That taste of the musky aura associated with an elderly woman fills the mouth and mind.  After you make it past those first few bites it becomes something much more real, a light creamy floral custard whose scent gently floats into you sinuses.  The pistachio flavor is pretty much lost in the lavender but add a very nice regional texture to the dish.

Bakalava, $3. 
Very traditional, very familiar, well done.

When it comes to the food, Green Erth Bistro has more hits than misses, and this usually leads to a recommendation for dining here.  But, we received horrid service.  It was not that the server was rude or impatient; it was that she seemed to not care she had guests.  At multiple times throughout the meal, she would walk from the rear of the restaurant and see us sitting there and realize she had either not talked to us in a while to see if we needed anything, or our order taken, or that she had said she was going to bring us plates so that we could eat the entrée.  Though it seems she may have attempted to rectify her mistakes by giving us the soups on the house, they are still misses that turn any meal, even one of the best ones, into the one you do never want to experience again.

I still love the choice of food they choose to serve and their most of their techniques of serving it, but with the thought of getting the same service mean I am less likely to give them repeat business.

Green Erth Bistro on Urbanspoon


  1. Wish you would post more often, love your reviews.

    1. I have been extremely busy with work. Fortunately, I should be back to a more steady schedule. In fact another should be coming before the end of next week.