Aqua

The Westin Tampa Bay 7627 Courtney Campbell Causeway Tampa, FL 33607(813) 675-8700 • aquatampa.com

aqua

Located in the Westin Hotel, and on the water (as the name suggests), this restaurant manages to pack a few surprises ranging from sushi, which one might expect based on its affiliation with the H2O, all the way to flatbread, which has very little to do with water by my estimation.

The first surprise coming in the form of a California roll. And probably one of the best I’ve ever had, mostly because the crab wasn’t that canned shit. Or that fake crap either. Oh no, they go for the real deal and you can definitely taste the fingerprint of the ocean in every morsel. Along with fresh avocado, cucumber and flying fish roe.

The Tuscan flat bread was also a winner, proving to be more well balanced than one might expect, topped with artichokes, grilled onions, asparagus, and oven-dried tomatoes, all smothered in mozzarella and sauced with a bright, basil pesto.

Then the missteps waltzed in, like the brioche crusted mahi. The crust is so overpowering that I had to scrape it off, just so I could actually taste the fish. Also, the fregola couscous and spiced red pepper puree do little for the dish as well. That said, don’t miss the watercress and pumpkin salad to the side. That’s the real star on the plate. I recommend pealing off the crust and pairing up some of that salad with every bite and you’ll be a much happier camper. Or take the easy way out and just order the scallops.

The scallops where prepared in a dark, almost squid ink-like sauce, and paired up with a wonderful mound of spicy-ass Thai black rice. Me like.

We closed with a bowl of begniets, drizzled with ribbons of chocolate and dusted with confectioner’s sugar. They are nothing spectacular, but they do get by on the simple fact that they are fried dough. That said, if you are looking for more from your dessert, look elsewhere.

So I’m gonna go out on a rare, kind-hearted limb here and give it three knives, by in large due to my lowered expectations… and the fact that I had a few too many glasses of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay, which I normally don’t even like as a grape. Who knew? But deep down, I really do want to give Aqua only two knives in my heart of hearts, because of the major miss on the mahi, the unintentionally cheesy Miami Vice decor and the service, which is slim shady, calling the soy sauce that came with our sushi “teriyaki” and not knowing a single alcohol they had at the bar.

3 teeth

Advertisements

Bern’s Steakhouse

1208 S Howard Ave. Tampa, FL33606 • (813) 251-2421 • bernssteakhouse.com

Berns-Steak-House-11162011-Berns-Wine-Cellar-2

Of all the restaurants I have ever been to in my life, few can measure up to the kind of experience that this place gave me. Not that the food was really anything special. Décor, was actually quite overdone. Service was very good. But none of that is what I am talking about. It is the production that makes this place so truly one of a kind. It is like the restaurant version of the movie “Titanic.” Nothing special at its core, but impressive as the sum of its massive parts. To help you better understand, please pull up a chair, and prepare to hear about the restaurant equivalent to Disney on steroids.

First, let’s start with the dining rooms, of which there are too many to count. Each with a different theme, each the size of a small restaurant, sprawling throughout several floors of this mansion. This even includes a dessert room. Yes, an entire dining room solely dedicated to sweets. We had the bananas foster, which was really quite good. But that’s not important right now…

On to the wine list, or shall I say, an only slightly smaller version of “War and Peace.” Yes, the wine list is the largest thing you will ever see at any restaurant in the world. This is not an exaggeration.  They have bottles ranging from $30 a bottle to $100,000 and a wine cellar double the size of most houses. But that’s only the beginning, because across the street there is a hotel with the top two floors rented out, gutted and also stuffed with wine.

Then comes the kitchen. Now, I’ve been on many a kitchen tour, but to see this is akin to standing before the Grand Canyon, you simply feel small and insignificant.  Towering in the center of this football field-sized kitchen is a cylindrical lobster tank bigger than you might find at most major aquariums. Steel tables stretch out in every direction with an army of plates lined up for departure. Waiters and cooks and chefs are abuzz with their various tasks as you snake back to the meat locker where countless cuts of aged beef are stored.

If you should ever have the opportunity to dine here, please beg for the kitchen tour. You will never forget it. The meal, maybe. But never the tour.

5 teeth