Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Yummy House China Bistro, Tampa

One of the most delicious meals you’ll find in Tampa is at Yummy House, the aptly named China Bistro on Hillsborough Avenue a couple miles west of the Hard Rock. Coming from the melting pot of NYC I know a little bit about good Chinese food and this is the real deal. They are always crowded with lines out the door but you can make a reservation if you're a party of six or more.
The Yummy House menu includes some mouthwatering selections like our favorites: Salt & Pepper Calamari (nothing like the rings of Calamari you’ve had before) theirs is cut in long strips and coated in something like a tempura batter - the seasoning wakes up your pallet like not quite a house on fire.
The Hong Kong Style Wonton Soup is a wondrous thing – big enough to feed 4, the broth is goodness itself, the wontons are packed with shrimp and the Baby Bok Choy adds color, crunch and balance. By the way don’t embarrass yourself and ask for crispy noodles – Yummy House doesn’t carry this Chinese-Take-Out staple. The House Fried Rice is fluffy and flavorful. All the dishes are made to share. Go with four people, order one or two appetizers to share, and two or three entries to share. You’ll leave very satisfied.
Hubby particularly likes the Dim Sum menu which is served from 11am-2:30pm. It’s kind of neat to have the rolling cart stop at your table so you can pick out something well..….yummy.
Unlike the first Yummy House located on Waters, this one is quite lovely and modern. The d├ęcor is elegant and fresh with an eye towards ‘new’ China. Rich reds and deep dark woods, large photo posters of young fresh faced Chinese children lined up in their school uniforms, colorful posters of the Great Wall. I love the big round tables with the Lazy Susan, handy for spinning around the dishes to share with the other side of the table. With locations in Sarasota, Gainesville, Orlando and Ocala, Yummy House seems to be working on world domination and I can tell you they know what they’re doing.
2620 E Hillsborough Ave., Tampa, FL 33610 (813) 237-3838 Hours: Mon-Su 11am - 2:30pm Mon-Su 5pm - 9:30pm
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Monday, October 19, 2015

Kaz's Seafood Dive, Apollo Beach, FL

Come here often? Yes we do! Every couple develops a ‘rotation’ of their favorite ‘go to’ restaurants and Kaz’s Seafood Dive is definitely on ours. When the Seafood Dive moved from Sun City Center to Apollo Beach a little more than a year ago they experienced somewhat of a rebirth. The new location has a lot going for it. Apollo Beach and its surrounding communities are comprised of a young and affluent demographic so this opened the restaurant up to a whole new customer base. Many of Kaz’s Sun City Center customers followed him and remain regulars, while new faces are showing up all the time from as far away as Tampa and Sarasota.
With renewed vigor Kaz set about expanding his menu to include Daily and Weekly specials designed to take advantage of the freshest options at the fish market. The canoe standing upright near the entry serves as the “Specials” board and customers need to know when he runs out, that’s it. He uses fresh fish and that’s why it’s called a “Special”.
One of the biggest misconceptions about Kaz’s Seafood Dive is that all they serve is fried food. That couldn’t be further from the truth. Except for the BOGOs (Tuesday its Fish N Chips, Wednesday its Fried Shrimp) mostly everything on the menu can be ordered broiled or blackened.
My favorite is the big salad topped with Broiled Tilapia. The salad is always fresh and crispy and the fish is seasoned perfectly. Hubby enjoys the Shrimp PoBoy sandwich and he prefers it with broiled shrimp. The bread is fantastic and is baked on premises daily. We’ve enjoyed some wonderful “Specials” too like the Grouper Dinner, the Fish or Shrimp Tacos, and the Crab Stuffed Flounder w/Shrimp. All of it deliciously prepared.
With football season here Kaz has created some Game Day Specials to enjoy while watching your favorite teams play on one of nine big televisions. And the staff is absolutely delightful – eager to please and well trained. The restaurant also has a lovely outdoor patio and at this time of year it’s a most pleasant spot to relax and enjoy a cold beer and an appetizer or two with friends. My favorite appetizer is the Coconut Shrimp - big juicy shrimp with a crispy crust and a spicy/sweet dipping sauce - I can't resist.
If you’re looking for excitement, try stopping in on the first Thursday of the month when Kaz’s surrounding parking lot is home to the Roamin’ Oldies Car Club. There’s music and very cool cars on display and of course you can end the evening with a meal at Kaz’s Seafood Dive. I urge you to put this restaurant on your 'rotation' and hey, maybe we'll see you there soon!
Kaz’s Seafood Dive, 6190 US 41N, Apollo Beach, FL 33572 T: 813-331-3915 www.theseafooddive.com
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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Bonefish Grill, Brandon

It must be a special occasion because here I am sitting at Bonefish Grill enjoying a scrumptious meal. I’ve lived in the Tampa Bay area for eleven years during which time hubby and I have visited a myriad of restaurants. My dear husband is a bit of a food snob probably because he’s such a good cook…no, I’ll use the word chef. What’s the difference? I’m a cook. I can follow a recipe and put together a balanced meal and all the parts will be done at the same time; efficient but not very exciting. My husband is a Chef – he approaches mealtime with a lot of thought, creativity and preparation. I can never understand why when I’m just barely finishing my morning coffee he is asking me “what do you want for dinner tonight?” I DON’T CARE. But he does and really I am grateful. There have been nights when we’ve enjoyed a new dish at a restaurant and he will sit back and ruminate over how this dish is composed. Usually within a week and to my utter amazement he’ll surprise me with a faithful recreation of the dish.
So is it a special occasion? Yes indeed. Our neighbors are treating us as a thank you for watching their house while they flew north for the summer. Every year they ask us the same question - where would you like to go? And we ALWAYS say Bonefish Grill. We started with Bang Bang Shrimp and Calamari. Our waitress Wendy was delightful and regaled us with stories about her New England/Italian roots. You know that thin line that separates how much banter you want with your waiter before it becomes annoying? That did not happen – she was awesome.
I had the grilled salmon with lemon butter sauce and a side of jasmine rice and spinach – delicious. Hubby had the Sea Scallops and Shrimp in a Pan Asian sauce. And our Bostonians both selected the Rainbow Trout and declared it amazing. And these guys know their seafood.
Dessert was decadent but hey, as I said it was a special occasion. Hubby and I shared the cinnamon/sugar donuts with caramel and chocolate infusions. Our friends shared the flourless chocolate brownie with ice cream, raspberry sauce and macadamia nuts. Of course we washed it all down with a couple of glasses of vino and a cappuccino or espresso and by the end of the night you had to roll me out of there. What diet?! I’ve been to the gym every day since, trying to do penance.
We were pleased to meet the restaurant’s Guest Service Associate Robert Hayman who checked in at our table to make sure we were happy. He shared with us the exciting news that Bonefish is making some big changes. They’ve already put in new flooring, but future plans include removing the wall between the dining room and the bar, and bumping out an exterior wall to create some outdoor seating. I have a lot of respect for restaurants that don't simply rest on their laurels and keep the status quo. I’m all for evolving and following the trends as long as the food and service don’t suffer for it. I trust Bonefish will get this right as they really seem to care. Robert gave me a short tour of their newly installed kitchen and managing partner Chris Gaskin graciously showed me their new state of the art POS system that tracks your food from start to finish with great efficiency.
Whether it’s a special occasion or not, treat yourself to a dinner at the always pleasing Bonefish Grill in Brandon.
1015 Providence Rd, Brandon, FL 33511 T: 813-571-5553
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Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Ford's Garage, Brandon

For several months I drove past the former site of Bucca de Peppe and noticed signs for a Ford’s Garage coming soon. I figured it was just an auto maintenance place. I was wrong. Ford’s Garage is a restaurant franchise that boasts Prime Burgers & Craft Beers. Who doesn’t love a burger and a beer? I figured we’d try it out sooner or later. Last week our Great Escape group headed over there (it was Mike’s pick and Mike does love him some burgers). The restaurant has been open now for about 2-3 months and while I attributed the early crowds to curiosity, there’s been no waning of attention. The parking lot is always full. Kudos to them.
They get high marks for decor – they’ve pulled out all the stops when it comes to decorative touches that evoke an old time garage (a very clean one). Model T replicas both inside and out. There are cute touches like using blue rags clasped with an O ring napkin holder. The wait staff is outfitted like garage attendants. Very nice black and white prints of old timey cars and people and colorful tin signs like Val Vo Line and such - It all works. And whether you need to or not, go visit the rest room and check out their unique sink formed from an auto tire - adorable. Fords Garage doesn’t take reservations unless you’re a party of 12 or more, so our party of eight used the call ahead system which promises no more than a 45 minute wait. (Imagine if we hadn’t called ahead?!) The place is extremely noisy, not very conducive to conversation. So we were happy when they offered us the patio, but unfortunately they wanted to seat us at a high top table and that didn’t suit some of the group due to back problems. When we refused that seating it resulted in another 20 minute wait and some confusion with the staff. But finally we were seated. It was a beautiful cool evening and the patio was perfect. We enjoyed the quieter atmosphere.
As for the food, it’s a burger place so really that’s what you should order. I will say that hubby and I had been to Fords once for lunch soon after it opened and we very much enjoyed their burger. This time I chose sliders from the menu and I wasn’t so happy with them. Because they’re small they were over cooked. Oh well, lesson learned. Everyone else seemed to enjoy their burgers. Kathy ordered a Bison Burger (that’s an exotic pick) and said it was quite good.
We partook of some beers as well and Cheryl tried one called Oberon that our waitress said would be a good substitute for Blue Moon. It was close and Cheryl did like it. The list of beers they carry, both bottled and draft, is staggering. One wonders how knowledgeable the wait staff can possibly be in assisting diners with selections. Do they have to go to Beer School? Fun!
It was a Saturday night and the place was slammed. Our waitress seemed overwhelmed and frankly could have been much more attentive than she was. So what is our final lesson learned? Go for lunch during the week in a party of no more than four so you can hear each other speak. Have a burger and a beer – that’s what they specialize in after all. And you’ll enjoy it no doubt. Hubby and I met 27 years ago at a dance club in NYC called "Chevy's" that was decorated with '57 Chevy cars. So maybe I have a soft spot for automobile themed restaurants, who knows?
For the true burger lover with a taste for adventure, they offer a 10 pound ginormous burger called “Henry Ford’s Hub Cap” for $125.00. Comes with 5 pounds of fries. This serves up to 15 guests HOWEVER, if you’re a maniac and eat it all yourself within 2 hours it will be free (although you may need to spend that savings on medical bills!) Hey who’s that guy from Man Versus Food? This would be right up his alley.
www.Fordsgarageusa.com Located at: 11105 Causeway Blvd. Brandon, FL 33511 813-661-FORD (3673)(Don't forget to call ahead!)
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