The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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There are some restaurants where after the first bite you just know that you’re going to come back again.  That was our reaction at Zaytoun Mediterranean Grill.  When a basket of fresh baked pita is placed in front of you and steam actually pours out when you rip into it, you know life is good.

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It was so light and fluffy that I couldn’t stop eating it even though I knew there was a lot more food heading our way.  We decided to try the stuffed grape leaves.

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I’m usually the picky one about stuffed grape leaves, but I really liked these.  They were served cold and had this intense lemon flavor throughout.  The filling was rice, parsley, onions and tomatoes and it was soft and flavorful.  Loren thought the rice was a little too soft, but for me, they were perfect.   We also got a bowl of the lentil soup.

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It needed a touch of salt, but otherwise very good.  We decided to split the mixed grill platter.  It had grilled kufta, steak, chicken, rice and veggies.

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There was plenty of food for two.  The meats were all tender and full of flavor.  The beef was a little too spicy for me, but the kufta and chicken were so good.  They have a signature dessert on their menu that you order 30 minutes ahead of time.  It’s called a knafeh.

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It’s shredded dough with homemade cream served with pistachios and drizzled with an orange honey syrup.  We didn’t know what to expect.  The exterior is crunchy and there’s this smooth cream on the inside and the whole thing has this warm honey taste to it.  It was different than anything we’ve had before and with each bite, you savored all of the flavors and textures.  It wasn’t overly sweet either.  We ended up taking half of it home.  Overall, the food was excellent.  It did take some time to come out of the kitchen, but it was worth the wait.  I just wished they were located closer to where we live.  Total bill with a drink was $44.

Zaytoun Mediterranean Grill
10970 Cross Creek Blvd
Tampa, FL
813-345-2515

Zaytoun Mediterranean Grill Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Food5/5
Service4/5
Atmosphere4/5
Value4/5
4.4/5

Loren wanted a Japanese hibachi dinner for his birthday so we drove over to Kuchi Sushi & Hibachi in Tampa.  Being a Wednesday night, they only had two tables of diners and two hibachi chefs when we arrived.  The manager actually asked us if we were in a hurry because they could cook the food in the back while the two chefs were busy.  Instead we ordered some sushi to start off with and by the time the chefs were finished with the other tables, another family was seated with us so we got the full table side experience.

The soup came out first.  It was typical mushroom broth and then they brought out the sushi.

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The rainbow roll was very tasty.  It’s one of our favorite rolls whenever we get sushi since it has tuna, salmon, and a whitefish.  This was the thing that really stood out for us for the entire meal.  Next up, salad and fire.

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Our hibachi chef seemed to have the enthusiasm of a wet blanket.  He was going through the motions but really didn’t seem like he wanted to be there.  He was also really difficult to understand.  He spoke softly and fast with a thick accent so most of the “jokes” he told went right by most of the table.  I get that part of the show is to toss food for the people at the table to catch in their mouths, but when it’s very clear that you don’t want food tossed your way, I expect the chef to respect that instead of just tossing it anyway.  Loren ordered the steak & shrimp and I ordered the filet & shrimp which was a few dollars more.  There really wasn’t any noticeable difference in the meat because it and the shrimp were both overcooked.  The shrimp was kind of tough.  Loren also commented that the steak dipping sauce which is usually a tangy ginger type sauce was a lot sweeter than he’s had at other restaurants.

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The dinner came with rice, veggies, and noodles, but we’ve definitely had better hibachi dinners at other restaurants.  There was vanilla ice cream for dessert and even it was on the icy side.  I like creamy ice cream, not ice cream filled with ice crystals.

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Overall, there wasn’t anything about the experience that would make us want to go back.  Total bill with a drink was $61.

Kuchi Sushi & Hibachi
9206 Anderson Rd
Tampa, FL
813-889-7733

Click to add a blog post for Kuchi Sushi + Hibachi on Zomato

Food2/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value2/5
2.5/5
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  • Filed under: Japanese, Tampa
  • Surf Shack has become my go-to place for mac & cheese lately.  The filet with mushrooms and onions is my favorite, but the spinach, bacon & goat cheese is pretty tasty too.

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    The filet is unbelievably tender and the addition of the crunchy haystack onions on top gives the dish that little bit of texture it needs.  The pasta is perfectly cooked with a creamy Monterey jack & American cheese blend.  While I’m going the decadent route, Loren leans toward their salads.  This time he chose the chicken & walnut salad.

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    The chicken was nicely cooked and the mixture of ingredients gives you a bunch of different textures and flavors, from crunchy walnuts to tangy dried cranberries and creamy goat cheese.  Then on occasion, we feel the need for something sweet… ok, on most occasions.

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    Their brownie sundae should really be served in a big bowl because it is messy!  Vanilla ice cream, brownie pieces, chocolate sauce, caramel sauce and whipped cream.  We made a huge mess, but it was tasty.  Total bill with a drink was $30.

    Surf Shack Coastal Kitchen
    12217 West Linebaugh Ave
    Tampa, FL
    (813) 475-5916

    Click to add a blog post for Surf Shack on Zomato

    Food4/5
    Service3/5
    Atmosphere3/5
    Value3/5
    3.4/5
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  • Filed under: American, Dessert, Tampa
  • Italian Lunch


    We went over to Zerillo’s Italian Grill for lunch today.  The restaurant was pretty empty for lunchtime.  We haven’t been here for quite a while since our last experience wasn’t that great.  We started off with some garlic rolls.

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    I think these were the best part of the meal.   They were fresh out of the oven, soft and warm and very garlicy.  Good stuff.  The tomato sauce had a nice flavor to it as well.  For his lunch, Loren ordered the chicken parmesan which came with a stuffed shell and I ordered the chicken marsala which came with pasta.

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    I should have reread my last blog post about this restaurant before I ordered.  The waitress asked what kind of pasta I wanted and I said fettucine alfredo and just like last time, she never indicated that there was a $4 upcharge for it.  Either tell me what kind of pasta comes with the dish or let me know it costs more for what I ask for.  Other than that, though, both dishes were pretty good.  The chicken was tender and the sauces both had a good flavor.  There was a lot of food and we both had leftovers.  At one point Loren attempted to use the salt shaker only to discover the salt was one big clump inside the shaker.  Total bill with a drink was $27.

    Zerillo’s Italian Grill
    11653 Countryway Blvd
    Tampa, FL
    813-855-5178

    Zerillo's Italian Grill on Urbanspoon

    Food3/5
    Service2/5
    Atmosphere2/5
    Value2/5
    2.4/5

    Big Breakfast


    We were over in Tampa and stopped at the Three Coins Diner for breakfast.  They were pretty busy this morning , but luckily we got a table without a wait.  It’s not a big restaurant and looked to be filled with locals enjoying a hearty breakfast.

    Loren went for a Belgium waffle and bacon.  Wouldn’t be breakfast without bacon, right?

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    Big fresh waffle and tasty bacon, what more could a guy ask for?  I went for the pancakes, eggs and some hashbrowns.

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    The pancakes were light and fluffy, just the way pancakes should be.  There was more food on our plates than either of us could eat.  It was typical diner food, with typical diner prices.  You don’t go home hungry.  Three Coins is open 24 hours, so you can get your fill any time of day or night.  Total bill with a drink was $19.

    Three Coins Diner
    7410 N. Nebraska Ave
    Tampa, FL
    813-239-1256

    Three Coins on Urbanspoon

    Food3/5
    Service3/5
    Atmosphere3/5
    Value3/5
    3.0/5