Last night was the Launch Party for Dine Tampa Bay’s Restaurant Week, which takes place from August 3 through August 17. More than twice as many Tampa Bay Area restaurants will be offering prix-fixe menus compared to last year’s event, so I was really pleased to see more restaurants involved, and it was a great venue at the A La Carte Pavilion !
This was a chef’s opportunity to “whet your palate” and entice the “foodie crowd” to make “their restaurant” stand out , offering “samples” from their menu, or unique items NOT on the menu. I would have liked EVERY sample to come from the Restaurant Week menus, because they might have swayed me to add a few more restaurants to my “already reserved” list. Restaurant Week is a great opportunity for chefs to “step outside the box” and create a unique menu, not just selections from the regular menu. That’s MY opinion, for what it’s worth.
To be “fair”, I focused on the Restaurants who were offering “entrees”, not “desserts”, because I think that should be the focus of any restaurant, so my “hits” and “misses” are about the “food” not the “finale”, because if the food isn’t great, I won’t stay for the finale!
Here are my “winners” and “losers” from what I sampled last night:
Roy’s …The “Korean Short Ribs” over white polenta “knocked it out of the park”! Not on their regular menu, the smoked and slowly braised tidbits, in beef stock, with mirepoix were topped with a Ginger Scallion Sauce, along with a Spicy Red “Kochu Jong”. Fabulous! The chef has promised me a “special meal” to blog about, so I am holding him to that! Last year, Roy’s was one of my “misses”, so they stepped up to the plate this year!
Chart House…On my “hit” list for the second year, the Chart House served up a spicy Tuna Tartare with Plantain Chips. It was perfect! I know the Chart House from my college years in Rhode Island. The Tampa Chart House combines great food, with a great view.
Aqua…I love Aqua…from the “cool” decor to the water view and unique food, it is always a great dining experience. ! They made the “hit list” with an amazing Braised Lamb over Faro with Sweet Potato! Very interesting melange of flavors! It was superb!
Terra Sur…New to me, but no longer, this South American restaurant in Carrolwood turned out one of the tastiest dishes of the evening. It was my last stop on the “foodie trail”, before dessert, and I got the last of the “Corvedito Andino” with Aji Panca sauce, roughly translated into slow-cooked lamb with a spicy sauce. If you like spicy, and unique, this is the restaurant for you! Loved it!
Bon Appetit…This little gem was serving up Ahi Tuna on Cucumber Slices with a Wasabe sauce along, with a “mini” Bloody Mary with Shrimp and just enough “zing”…great presentation and absolutely delicious!
Seasons 52… One of my favorites, they were serving four of their signature desserts: Blueberry Cheesecake, German Chocolate Cake, Key Lime Pie and Pecan Pie. I am putting them on the “hit” list, not so much for their signature desserts, but their “Restaurant Week” menu is the same as last year, and it is a “killer” menu, so put be sure to make it one of your stops during Restaurant Week. And, yes, for the staff at Season’s 52 who worked the party last night, I’m the blonde who scooped up the tray of ALL four desserts for our table to sample…great move on my part!
Flemings…My Award for “The Biggest Loser” of the evening goes to….ta da…Flemings! Known for their Steaks, they were serving Bruschetta! Are you kidding me? A “Prime” Steakhouse who considers itself “upscale dining” is serving chopped tomatoes on crostini to “wow the crowd”??? Bad move. Why bother? The lousy bruschetta, combined with my last bad dining experience at Fleming’s takes it “off” my Restaurant list for a very long time.
Grillsmith…Serving up the same dish as last year, where it was a “winnner”, their Lemon Feta Chicken arrived this year tasting like school cafeteria food! Yuck. Flavorless, with no sign of feta, lemon, or any salt, or flavor…it was a “loser”.
Be sure to make reservations for Restaurant Week! I already have four reservations and am working on a few more! Check out the menus and make your plans early. I guarantee the best places will be booked very soon! The “prix fixe” menus are $25, $35 or $45 per person for 3, or more, courses!
If you “spot me” in any of the Featured Restaurants during Restaurant Week, please stop by my table and say “hi”. I’ll be blogging on my all of my dining experiences all along the way!
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