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Reviews from The SOG City Oracle
Each in our party of four ordered a different entrée. I had a taste of everything and I would be hard pressed to pick a favorite. They all were perfectly prepared and presented.
I am almost too embarrassed to admit that my bride and I have traveled thither and yon to satisfy our occasional craving for Mexican style food when there is a dandy eatery practically on our doorstep in South Tampa. Yesterday evening the Belle of Ballast Point and I crossed the threshold of the Chihuahua Mexican Grill and Restaurant at 4101 South MacDill Avenue for the first time, and we do not envision that to be our last time.
Mama's Soul Food Restaurant certainly isn't what you would call haute cuisine, but Mama's does serve well prepared, filling, and honest food at affordable prices.
The kitchen and bussers need to work on their timing. Salads were served before the appetizer bowl was cleared, and entrees were served before salads were consumed. Other than those two issues, we were pleased with our experience at Carrabba's and our comestibles. We would possibly go back if the menu were more expansive. There just wasn't that much that titillated the taste buds on this visit.
The crispy, breaded Eggplant Bonanno layered with ricotta, prosciutto, fresh basil, and topped with fresh mozzarella, basil pesto and tomato sauce was the small plate that received the most accolades.
Moving past the appetizers, the next leg of our gastronomic journey was to the happy land of entrees, and I believe my Bride landed in the happiest of happy places. The Belle requested a dish that we had heard several people simply rave about, the Asian Style Beef Stew. This was no Betty Crocker beef stew. This beef stew reminded me of a super rich version of pho with tender beef and carrots with a heavenly broth over rice vermicelli, topped with fresh herbs and served with a French baguette. Oh my, was that ever good, though I felt the noodles were a bit overcooked. A little more al dente, and this stew would have been over the top.
The oysters were perfectly shucked to preserve that delicious salty liquor and brought to mind these lines written by Hemingway, "...as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans."
The meats that were presented were savory enough, but some were raw and some were way over cooked. There was a toughness and chewiness in some of the meats that I don't remember from Texas de Brazil or Boizao, but then again, I wasn't paying $45 either. While Terra Mar did not compare with Texas de Brazil on several levels, neither of us walked out hungry. Actually, stuffed would be a better description. Our total bill, with all food and drink plus a 20% gratuity came to $88.80. For that price and the quality of service we received from the friendly staff, I could envision a return one day.
I had never tried Bibimbap before, and have long been curious about this steamed rice dish with mushrooms, carrots, daikon, bean sprouts, spinach, lettuce, beef, fried egg, and a spicy pepper sauce on the side. This was an interesting dish that was enhanced with the egg yoke mingling with the meat and vegetables.
As I mentioned earlier, it is great to see an alternative to the faux-sushi joints that seem to be sprouting like a mutant virus across our city, but it is difficult for us to get overly excited about ramen noodles. We brought some of ours home last night (we were too full to finish), along with some of that delicious broth.
Now, let's talk about my bucket. Aw, c'mon people, I mean my Maine Bucket of seafood. This was a whole Maine lobster with mussels, Ipswich clams, taters (cracker for potatoes if you have to ask), perfectly steamed corn, and other assorted veggies. Every morsel was cooked by someone who knows how to cook. There was nothing that was cooked to mush. If Safety Harbor was closer, I would go back for dinner tonight.
On our way to the table we passed by the oyster shucking station. I paused to watch the shucker shuck. The oysters looked good, but the shucking didn't. I asked if he could shuck the oysters without draining all of that delicious salty liquor. He said he could and if there was debris, he would wash it off. Oh, hell to the no! That is a sin against oyster lovers the world over. I politely asked him not to rinse the oysters.
We both went with the Thai Tuna with wasabi mashed potatoes and sauteed veggies. I requested my tuna be quickly seared with a mostly raw middle. That is just what I got and it was perfect with the semi-sweet house Thai sauce.
One of my favorite foods from the swamps and bogs is crawfish, so I chose the 1 pound serving of the best mudbugs that I can remember since a stop at Billy Goat Hill, Louisiana some years ago. I decided I needed some vegetation to go along with these freshwater crustaceans, so I added a serving of cold kale salad. The crawfish were savory and delicious, and the kale was an interesting salad with a light sesame oil dressing. Very healthful, I am sure.
I was torn between having a couple of appetizers or the Costas Seafood Feast. The feast was a combination of broiled octopus, fried smelts, and fried squid served with rice, fries or vegetable. I chose the feast because it came with the octopus and smelts and squid. There was a ton of food on that platter, but way more smelts and squid than my favorite, octopus.
For me, one of the very best plates of the evening, besides the oysters, was the duck breast with charred carrots, spiced granola, black lentils, and duck demi-glace. The duck was cooked to perfection, and the lentils were tender and loaded with flavor. I don't remember other comments, but I was in water fowl heaven.
I had the fried chicken with waffles and syrup, and a side of mashed potatoes and gravy . The mashed potatoes and gravy were very tasty. The chicken not nearly as much. I was given a choice of white or dark and I chose dark. I got four skinny little drumsticks with a thin, flavorless breading that may have sat in the fryer a little too long.
I keep hearing and reading negative comments about "chain" restaurants, but this is the second "chain" ribeye I have enjoyed (the first was at Longhorn on South Dale Mabry) that was so far superior to the $47 Malio's ribeye that was so tough and devoid of flavor that I couldn't even force myself to eat it. The $47 bone-in ribeye at Eddie V's a few weeks later still couldn't compare with Longhorn and Outback. And, how much was that Outback ribeye? How about $29! I think that was the same price as the Longhorn steak.
Now for the Wild Drunken Monkfish. This dish was not particulary wild and I am not sure where the drunken part comes in to the recipe. The heavenly hint of lobster that I was expecting did not reveal itself in this monkfish. The taste and texture were missing due to the drunken monk spending way too much time on the fire. Simply put, the fish was way over-cooked. The rice was perfect and the Asian sauce was excellent, though.
This was a grand introduction to savory Turkish delights with a basket of accompanying pita triangles. The calamari was the most tender and flavorful incarnation of this ubiquitous staple of Tampa cuisine that I can remember.
My rib eye was perfectly prepared to temperature, but the heart of the steak appeared to be devoid of the marbling that contributes to taste and tenderness. The closer I got to the bone, the better the steak. For $46 I would have expected something closer in taste and texture as the one that I swooned over at a Longhorn Steak House for half the price. Seriously!
It is rare that I can dine at a restaurant and not find at least one tiny little nit-picking thing to rag on. Fetishes is that unique venue where perfection seems to reign supreme. There were no misses and the prices were reasonable - $180 or so for two with a restaurant added 17% gratuity. We tacked on an additional 3% for excellent service.
At First Flight you will find bar seating as well as very comfortable table seating. We chose to plant our derrieres at a table. Steve, on the left in the photo, was our very knowledgeable and helpful server who guided our choices for food and wine.
One of our dining partners had the Pork Sammy...sliced BBQ pork on a bun. I had a taste and it was superb. Our other diner had the beef brisket on a bun and that was another winning selection. There are many more choices on the Soul Food Sundays menu, but alas I only have one stomach and it wouldn't hold any more food.
My rib eye was very flavorful, though a little chewy in places. It was cooked to a perfect medium rare and came with a large bowl of spinach - maybe too much spinach. I couldn't finish it all, but it was good - and, healthful.
I normally wouldn't suggest driving up to the Pasco pasture lands just for food, but Bangkok Sushi would be worth the effort. And, for me, that is saying something.
We made it, and it was worth the drive. The food was great, the service was beyond just great thanks to Omar, the people were friendly, and this was a paradise reminiscent of the old Florida rarely seen any longer. The Lodge restaurant was quaint and charming. We were greeted warmly.
We began our lunch with a couple of glasses of Prosecco to get us in the mood for food and later an inspiring exhibit. To accompany our wine we shared a Meat and Cheese Board with several varieties of meats and cheeses, marinated olives, flat bread, and fig preserves. This was an exceptional start to our Sono introduction.
I probably didn't need more food, but the little piglet in me couldn't resist the Tampa Cheese Steak sandwich with shaved rib eye, provolone, and caramelized onions on Ybor City Cuban bread. This was a delicious and very filling sandwich. It came with a choice of crispy fries or a fruit bowl that I really didn't need, but I ate it all. I should have gotten a glutton's T-shirt as a reward.
For a more authentic taste of China without the expense of long distance air travel, the China Yuan will certainly tantalize your taste buds. Dining here means a yuan well spent. Confucius only wishes he had said that.
Even professional little piglets get full eventually, and we four finally did. We split the bill down the middle and our share, with 20% gratuity, came to $196.62. Obviously, we won't be doing this on a weekly basis, but for a special occasion, the Carmel Cafe and Wine Bar is a great choice. A diner could also come away with a fatter wallet if said diner used a little restraint when ordering.
My sirloin was prepared to a perfect medium rare. Unfortunately, to the tooth, it was far removed from tender, and it was rather devoid of taste. The Maryland style crab cake was prepared with a satisfying ratio of crab meat to breading. My side of asparagus leaned towards limp as opposed to having a slight fresh crunch.
TDY's is not fancy. You will not find wood paneling and fern baskets hanging from the ceiling. What you will find is a great little neighborhood tavern situated in the heart of SOG City.
The StarShip doesn't make for a cheap date, and if you break the experience down into individual parts - food, beverages, cruise - you could probably find reasons to complain about something. On the other hand, looking at the whole of the adventure, it provided us with a most enjoyable evening.
Mad Dogs and Englishmen provided us with a great meal and a very pleasant evening. I am glad we returned. I was really pleased when we got our check. The total for the evening including food, adult beverages, and a well deserved gratuity came to a very reasonable $91.72.
Sunday The Jerk Hut has a buffet which judging by the number of people going through the line must be very popular. We took a look at the buffet, but decided to order from the menu.
I had much better luck with my Caribbean Fish Salad. The fish had been grilled to perfection with a flavorful and tangy jerk spice rub, then placed on a pile of crispy salad greens, and liberally enhanced with tropical fruits.
The veal shank was so tender that the meat actually fell from the bone and the tomato based sauce was spectacular - rich and flavorful.
I chose the grilled Florida Rock Lobster, while a bit pricey, it was perfectly grilled and delicious. For my sides, I chose the Maduros, a sauteed plantain dish, and the Aranitas, again plantains, but shredded and deep fried.
The ambiance of the Palm Court was superior to Bermuda's, but I would suggest that we had a much tastier dining experience at Bermuda's. But, what the heck...you are there anyway. Try both of them and see what you think.
The ambiance of the Palm Court was superior to Bermuda's, but I would suggest that we had a much tastier dining experience at Bermuda's. But, what the heck...you are there anyway. Try both of them and see what you think.
For our entrées my bride chose the incredibly delightful Fish and Chips while I enjoyed the Cioppino, probably the best San Fransisco fisherman's stew that I have ever tasted. It was loaded with perfectly prepared scallops, mussels, shrimp, and fish in a tasty broth with just the right amount of spice and came with a toasty bread that was vital for sopping up any remaining broth that the spoon could not accommodate.
We have dined at Crazy Buffet many times and have never been disappointed. On the rare occasions when we come across something that doesn't please our taste buds we don't have to eat it. We just go back to the buffet and choose something else. The variety and the quantity of food is just mind boggling.
Heavens to Murgatroyd! Those four, inch thick chops were the very best I have ever had in this life. Flavorful. Juicy. Tender.
I would recommend the Acropolis though I do not consider it to be authentic Greek. This restaurant does cater to the watered down taste buds of the typical American quite well I suppose.
Both of us were extremely pleased with our visit to Mykonos. And, if octopus isn't high on your list of Greek delights, Mykonos has a full menu of delicacies for the less adventurous palate.
We can recommend, without reservation, the Key West Conch Fritters with a lime mustard sauce, the "to-die-for" Fish Tacos with Baja sauce in a tortilla with onion, cabbage and salsa.
Do your taste buds and tummy a favor and Datz yourself into a stupor. We did and loved it! I don't remember the cost, but whatever it was, it was worth every shekel.
Like their predecessor with an aquatic theme, Aqua Bar and Grill was inconsistent and disappointing. I don't envision a return visit. What a shame! I really had high hopes.
The portions of fried rice and Drunken Noodles were too much for us and we did something we rarely do, and that is to ask for take-home boxes. We waddled out of Rouen Thai with boxes in hand and full bellies.
Both of us were very pleased and amazed at the quantity and quality of the food. The price point was proof that the discerning diner doesn't have to pay a freakin' fortune for good food. Just because it is expensive does not guarantee quality. That's a little factoid that appears to be lost on many restauranteurs in and around Tampa.
All four of us had to ask for take-home boxes, and dessert was pretty much out of the question. There really was a lot of food. And, all things considered, it was relatively inexpensive.
For the Belle of Ballast Point and me, this was our first visit to the Gulf Bistro. I can easily understand Sweet Polly and Underdog returning to this charming bistro. I can envision us making a return trip. The food, service, and ambiance were that good. There were several more dishes on the menu that I must try.
All four steaks were prepared as ordered: two medium and two medium rare. The ladies seemed to be pleased with their filets - crispy on the outside and loaded with flavor. The same was true with the guys and the ribeyes, although the center part of each ribeye chewed like a not-well-marbled choice as opposed to the advertized prime.
Dining at the Queen of Sheba was a very pleasant and unique experience, maybe not one you would do every day. The food is very tasty, and filling. The service may seem a little slow if you are just too important to sit back and enjoy another culture.
I know that I am an oyster snob and I am not trying to pick nits, but these oysters were not properly shucked. The heavenly liquor that the oysters should have been swimming in had been poured off.
Oh my gawd, those were the best oysters I have ever had in my whole life, and I have eaten more than my fair share over my life span so far. Salty, sweet, delicious, and perfectly shucked. The man with the oyster knife knew what he was doing and obviously respected the prize he was shucking.
I ordered the "prepared to order" paella which came out dry and way over cooked as if it was a left-over reheated in the microwave. I had asked the waiter if it was prepared in the traditional manner with a toasted rice bottom called a socarrat. He looked at me as if I just got off the banana boat. And, no it didn't have the toasted rice bottom; one of the best parts in my opinion.
The grilled grouper, salmon, scallop, and shrimp were shear perfection. The same cannot be said for the half Florida lobster tail. The meat did not remove cleanly from the shell - bits of meat stayed behind, firmly attached to the interior of the shell. That is a sign of old age or over cooking.
To see chicken feet as a selection just cemented my thought that Tampa Buffet serves truly authentic ethnic foods. The salt and pepper shrimp were superb - don't peel them, you eat head and all. But for those whose taste buds might not be so adventurous, you will find a myriad of tasty selections that we are more accustomed to seeing in buffet restaurants - fried chicken, pizza, to mention but two.
When our beers arrived we were also presented with a complimentary serving of the biggest hush puppies I had ever seen. Whoa! Those weren't hush puppies. Those hummers were boiled new potatoes with a savory dusting of Old Bay (or something similar). Those potatoes were warm and oh so good slathered with a little butter. A real pleasant surprise.
While sipping our adult beverages, we discussed whether to choose tapas or something from the grill or maybe a house specialty. There were so many excellent choices, but the tapas menu finally won us over. Each of us ordered three tapas which gave us 12 plates to share.
The Central Avenue Oyster Bar is a very attractive restaurant that reminded us a bit of a few of our favorite dining spots in New Orleans's Vieux Carré.
The Hurricane is a relatively new dining venue located on the ground floor of the Ramada Inn. It has a bright, airy, sports bar feel with a full bar and plenty of TVs scattered about. There is outdoor seating, but with a bit of a nip in the air we opted to sit inside where we were promptly seated and presented with our menus.
Somebody (me?) must have been in full gastronomic quiver mode when Sweet Polly's filet mignon prepared "Oscar style"...topped with a fried soft-shelled crab and hollandaise sauce was photographed. I converted the fuzzy picture to a classic oil painting style, and it looks pretty darn tasty.
I chose the conch, and this was an excellent choice. This spiral-shelled marine gastropod mollusk was served as thinly shaved slices of tender muscle embedded in the Diablo sauce.
Both steaks were served with really tasty, crispy French fries along with a little cup of ketchup. While the fries were good, I would have expected a bit more originality from a rather pricey restaurant. That was just a little chintzy, I think, and one of the reasons I consider the Tampa area to be close to the bottom of epicurean excellence.
In addition to good food, and a full bar, the Hula Bay Club showcases live music on a regular basis. We keep returning primarily for the food, the drinks, and the ambiance but we have enjoyed the offerings of some highly talented musicians.
Parts of Paris is a homey place situated on a quiet tree-lined street a few blocks off the main drag, coincidentally enough, called Main Street. We were warmly greeted the moment we entered the outdoor seating area...
All food, beer, and wine brought our total for the night to $152.28. We were amazed! We have had much less and paid far more at some less than stellar venues back home in Tampa. For us, The Optimist was a true bargain.
Ouzts Too is a quaint little shack just off U.S. 98 about midway between Panama City and Perry. Their menu includes smoked mullet, fried seafood baskets, pit smoked barbeque, but the star of the show (for me, anyway) are the perfectly shucked oysters. If you find yourself on that long lonely stretch of 98, do yourself a favor and stop in for a beer and a bite. Your taste buds will thank you.
I will have to agree with a lady at an adjacent table that the center of the rib was "bit chewy." That makes me think this was a choice cut instead of prime, but the fattier outer edges were perfect.
My bone-in Rib Eye was sheer perfection made all the more perfect with the addition of an unbelievably tasty peppercorn sauce. The veggies were crisp tender, but I could barely finish that steak, so the beans and carrots were mostly untouched.
Rebecca was our most charming server who catered to our every whim and deserved the better than 20% gratuity that we tacked on to our bill. We still got out there for under $60.00. We enjoyed our meal outside on the front porch. It was a beautiful evening with great food and service.
My taste buds were all a-quiver as I contemplated selections from each section. Ramsey suggested we make two choices from the small plates, and one from the LARGE FORMAT. The LARGE FORMAT, he said really emphasizes the creativity, imagination, and skills in the kitchen. We were torn. There were so many mouth watering small plates and large that piqued our interest.
The Black Palm has been around since 2005 and we cannot believe we have only just discovered for ourselves this hidden gem. There is everything from food, beverage, and staff to recommend the Black Palm.
Our total for the evening came to $144.88 with an additional 20% gratuity for Liz. There was a lot of food for the money, with more hits than misses. I'm glad that we went, but I don't envision a return.
A couple of realizations hit us as we sat in the hotel bar back in the central business district (CBD) after our dining adventure at Boucherie. One realization was, unless you live in the Carrollton District of New Orleans or have your own vehicle, you really have to want to dine at Boucherie...
For our last night in the crescent city I booked a table for the Belle of Ballast Point and myself at the historic La Petite Grocery on Magazine Street...
Few places on our travels cause my taste receptors to quiver as much as when we stumble upon a sign that advertises, Oyster Bar. Like a sailor responding to the Siren's call, I find myself being lured inside to savor a dozen or so of these gifts from the sea...
After Consuelo's Mexican Restaurant on Neptune closed many moons ago, we were left wondering where to go for some good Tex-Mex grub and killer margaritas. Someone at work (yes, I used to do some of that) suggested Miguel's on Kennedy. We went, and never returned...
With no desire to be Ireland stiff, my bride and I made our way to Ybor City yesterday evening to enjoy a pint or two and loosen up at The James Joyce Irish Pub at 1724 E. 8th Avenue (formerly the Mema's Alaskan Taco's building)...
The Oracle was pleased and surprised to receive a message the other day through Urbanspoon from The Lime. We were invited to visit this Hyde Park eatery and enjoy a meal on the house. Since they don't have roof top dining, that I am aware of anyway, I assumed this was an offer of a free meal inside of their establishment....
I watched an Anthony Bourdain re-run the other day that featured the epicurean delights of Korea - the one south of the DMZ. That program got my taste buds a-tingling, and demanding to be treated to some of those Asian delicacies...
Hidden in the nethermost regions of International Plaza sits the Renaissance Tampa Hotel and just off the hotel lobby is the Pelagia Trattoria "featuring modern Italian cuisine."...
was lunch New Year's day at The Bungalow on West Kennedy here in the Big Guava. I could wax poetic ad nauseum about the decor, but I'm about the food...
As Chef de Cuisine, Plongeur, and Marmiton in our SOG City kitchen I am always on the look-out for excuses to get out of the kitchen. Just the other day as I was pondering pulling out the pots and pans in preparation for our evening repast...
"I had left home (like all Jewish girls) in order to eat pork and take birth control pills. When I first shared an intimate evening with my husband I was swept away by the passion (so dormant inside myself) of a long and tortured existence...
Composing that opening line was as much a strain on the mind as was trying to ingest all of this John Besh creation, Choucroute Garnie Maison. My abdominal food receptor was hard pressed to pack in so much delicious food, but my buds of taste were thrilled beyond measure with that huge...
We heard Atlanta's song and we answered her siren call. We flew up to this Queen of the South for dinner this past weekend. Actually, two dinners and a lunch, but first things first....
For weeks now I have been taunted and tempted by Joe's Crab Shack with teevee commercials advertising a limited special, The Corona Beach Bake....
The Belle of Ballast Point turned another year younger yesterday. I had been advised that after a certain age women actually get younger with each passing year, and I have learned over the years not to argue...
I asked my bride out on a dinner date last night at a new eatery in South Tampa, Copperfish Seafood Grill and Oyster Bar at 1502 South Howard Avenue. Fortunately for me, she accepted and we enjoyed a simply awesome dining experience at Copperfish...
What a surprising and delicious Italian treat for not only our taste buds, but also our pocketbook - Montauro Ristorante, 2501 W. Tampa Bay Boulevard. This is a fantastic Mom and Pop kind of place with a clean, but Spartan interior....
Some months ago, my bride and I decided to "do Italian" at a South Tampa dining venue, Osteria Natalina. We had read a number of very positive reviews on Urbanspoon, and after visiting the Osteria web site, we decided to stop in for dinner. We arrived a bit after their advertised opening time but we were met by a locked door. It seems that we arrived during vacation closing, or some such...
I am just going to cut to the chase and start by saying that my dining experience last night at Malio's Prime Steakhouse was one of the worst I have ever had. And that is a crying shame, because we had dined many times over the years at Malio's on Dale Mabry before they shut down, and we enjoyed every visit...
I had intended to take my bride out to dinner and a movie last night at the Hyde Park Cobb CineBistro. I had purchased the tickets in advance, on-line, for the new Jolie flick Salt that opened on the 23rd...
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