The Restaurants at My End of the Universe

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In our ongoing quest to try all sushi restaurants around, we headed over to Zen Bistro in Westchase for dinner.  Parking was a bit of a nightmare.  There are a bunch of restaurants in the same plaza and not nearly enough parking.  Note to self, don’t even try to go here on the weekend.

I had some very mixed feelings on the atmosphere in the restaurant.  The lights were dim, they had a neat looking bamboo wall and some glass enclosed Zen sand gardens in the floor that gave you vertigo to walk over them.  The temperature in the restaurant was too cold.  I was shivering through most of the meal.  What turned us off the most though was the pounding techno music playing in the background.  For a place called Zen Bistro, I would have expected something a little more soothing.

Our food took quite a while to come out, but overall the sushi was very good.  We got some salmon nigiri and a Tao roll.

I think the Tao roll was both our favorite.  It was baked scallop over snow crab with avocado, cucumber and masago.  It was a little bit spicy, but had a wonderful texture and flavor.  The salmon was very fresh and tasty too.

We also got a Rainbow Roll, a Mexican Roll, a California Roll, and a Zen Crunch Roll.

We liked them all except for the Zen Crunch roll.  That one didn’t do much for either of us.  It had yellowtail, sesame aioli, and tempura onion and was served with garlic ponzu sauce.  The tempura onion was the part that really didn’t work.  The shrimp in the Mexican roll was cooked perfectly.  You know it’s good when Loren eats some of it.  And for dessert, we had to try the Ying Yang.

It was a chocolate and vanilla mousse shooter.  The waitress said it was enough for two, but I could have eaten another one without any hesitation at all.  The chocolate was dark and rich and the vanilla and whipped cream added a nice balance to it.   Total bill including an iced tea was $52.

Zen Bistro
9620 W Linebaugh
Tampa, FL
813-792-8665

Zen Bistro on Urbanspoon

Food4/5
Service3/5
Atmosphere2/5
Value3/5
3.3/5

Not too many people in Cuban Breezes tonight.  I figured it’d be crowded since the football playoffs were tonight, but since they close at 8pm on Sunday, it makes sense that people wouldn’t want to have to leave halfway through the game.

Loren got the masitas with some ultimate black beans and a salad.

He said the pork was very tender and flavorful.  He even had a little left over for tomorrow.  I ordered the fricase de pollo with beans.

This is one of my favorite dishes here.  It’s got some wonderful flavors and textures with just a little bit of spice.  I kept telling myself to save some for tomorrow, but I ended up eating the entire thing. 

And yet, I still managed to save room for the chocolate lava cake.

Thick, rich, chocolately oozing warmth with some vanilla ice cream.  It was yummy.  We had a $10 Restaurant.com coupon, so the total bill after the coupon was $18.

Cuban Breezes
13980 W Hillsborough Ave
Tampa, FL
813-814-9939

Cuban Breezes on Urbanspoon

Food4/5
Service4/5
Atmosphere3/5
Value4/5
3.9/5
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  • Filed under: Cuban, Dessert, Oldsmar
  • I was craving some brisket, so we headed over to Brady’s Backyard BBQ in Safety Harbor for dinner, only to find out that they were out of brisket and out of riblets, which Loren had planned to order.  It’s just not the same when you go somewhere with something specific in mind for dinner and they don’t have it.

    I ended up ordering the pulled pork dinner with corn bread pudding and potato salad.

    It was pretty good.  It’s what I usually order anyway.  There were plenty of leftovers.  I really like their cornbread pudding.   Loren ordered the spare ribs with collard greens and potato salad.

    The spare ribs were really tender and had a wonderful smoky flavor to them.  They offered us a free dessert since we couldn’t get the entrees we wanted, so we got the coca-cola cake.

    It was ok, but it’s not something I’d normally order.  It’s served warm and really just doesn’t have a lot of flavor to it.  It’s not really chocolatey and it’s not really sweet either.  The frosting is sort of caramel flavored, I guess.  Total bill was $29 and though we left full, I just wasn’t satisfied. 

    Brady’s Backyard BBQ
    340 Main Street
    Safety Harbor, FL
    727-712-3727

    Brady's Backyard Grill on Urbanspoon

    Food4/5
    Service4/5
    Atmosphere3/5
    Value3/5
    3.7/5

    Blue Waves


    When we first walked in to the Portofino Mediterranean Grill in Clearwater, we were mesmerized by the walls in the dining room.  They had a textured wave pattern and then sea blue lights shining on the waves.  It was a very pleasant and peaceful decor surrounding you.

    We chose the Portofino tonight because we had a $25 Restaurant.com coupon.  It was fairly early, around 5:30pm on a Sunday when we got there and there weren’t that many people in the restaurant. 

    You can see a reflection of the walls in the bread photo:

    The bread was warm and crispy and served with an herbed olive oil.  We ordered some calamari as an appetizer.

    You can get it with a mild or spicy marinara sauce and I chose the mild.  The calamari was cooked well.  It had a nice crunchy coating and was tender inside. 

    Our salads arrived before we were finished with our appetizer.  Since we were at a small table, it made things a bit crowded.

    Loren liked the salad, but it didn’t do much for me.  It had a balsamic dressing on it that was rather tangy.  For his entree, Loren got the grouper d’capri. 

    It had capers, shallots, and tomatoes in a white wine lemon butter sauce.  You could really taste the lemon in the sauce.  It was served with potato and veggies.  Our waiter didn’t mention that he could have had it with linguine (I just looked at the menu online)  when he placed the order, but that’s one of the first things Loren said when he got it is that it would have been better over pasta.

    We had to laugh because both the butter and sour cream were solid as a rock. They must be stored in the back of the cooler.  I ordered the chicken marsala.

    I found the marsala sauce to be really weak.   When it comes to marsala, I don’t want subtle.  Loren liked it and half of it came home as leftovers since there were two chicken breasts and I only ate one.

    As more people came into the restaurant, we found the service at our table begin to dwindle.  We sat for quite a while after finishing our entrees before our waiter came back to the table to check on us. 

    We decided to try the Palermitana for dessert.

    It was strawberry gelato with tangerines, bananas, strawberries, a raspberry sauce and whipped cream plus some sprinkled nuts not mentioned in the description.  It was tasty.  The gelato had a wonderful rich strawberry flavor.   I liked the strawberries and bananas, but I didn’t think the tangerines went with the dish.  Loren seemed to like them though.

    After our $25 coupon, the total bill was $28.  Overall, it was a pretty enjoyable meal.

    Portofino Mediterranean Grill
    18825 US 19 North
    Clearwater, FL
    727-286-6234

    Portofino Mediterranean Grill on Urbanspoon

    Food4/5
    Service3/5
    Atmosphere4/5
    Value3/5
    3.6/5

    Went to Boston Cooker for dinner tonight.  Hmmm… guess what I was in the mood for?   Sure, the yeast rolls are awesome, but it’s the Ipswich clams that keep me coming back for more.

    They’re just so yummy.  Crunchy on the outside, soft and flavorful on the inside.  The batter doesn’t detract from the taste of the whole belly clams.  It’s a taste of my childhood in New England. 

    Loren got the cedar plank salmon special.

    It was on a bed of spinach with a lemon sauce on top.  He enjoyed it.  The fish was cooked just right, light and flavorful. 

    The only downside to the meal was where we were sitting.  We were in the path to the kitchen and everytime someone passed by Loren’s chair, they ended up hitting it. 

    We tried their chocolate  silk pie for dessert.

    It was ok.  Not the best I’ve had, but it finished off a yummy meal nicely.  Total bill was $46.

    Boston Cooker
    3705 Tampa Road Unit 6  
    Oldsmar, FL
    813-855-2311

    Boston Cooker on Urbanspoon

    Food4/5
    Service4/5
    Atmosphere4/5
    Value3/5
    3.9/5