GrillSmith Carrollwood VIP Party on the Patio

Carlos Eats team member Jenn Nguyen visited GrillSmith in Carrollwood this Friday for their VIP event. Here is her post on the event.

Two bruschettas were served at the event: smoked salmon and portabello.  They both contained capers, basil, red onion, sun dried tomatoes and Parmesan cheese.  I personally enjoyed the smoked salmon much more.  It was fresh tasting and unlike the portobello bruschetta, the flavor weren’t drowned out by the accompaniments.  My guest favored the portobello one.  He personally enjoyed the fact that he could taste all the flavors in the bruschetta.  The toast was on the oily side even though it did add a nice depth to the hor d’oeuvre.

Basil made another appearance in the Caprese stack.  A jumbo grape tomato (surprisingly flavorful) with basil and mozzarella (nothing special).  The salty, creamy mozzarella played well with the crisp, juicy tomato.

The fourth sample was the Spicy Thai Shrimp, the restaurant’s successful take on Bonefish Grill’s Bang Bang Shrimp.  A nice crunch to the succulent shrimp with a hit of tang to cut the rich Sriracha aioli.  The Creative Loafing freelance writer who joined me at the table noted that this was her favorite item even though she did not like fried foods.

The final sample item available was the Crab and Shrimp Cake.  Since no utensils were provided, it was a little hard to eat.  Unlike the Spicy Thai Shrimp, this fried item was quite greasy.  I thought the construction of the item was a little awkward; the breading was only on the outside and it was quite heavy.  The jumbo lump crab was plentiful and flavorful.  The shrimp was unnecessary especially because the crab overpowered the delicate shrimp.  It did serve as a great textural contrast.  There was a small bit of Sriracha dolloped on top, but did nothing for the crab and shrimp cake.

The signature cocktail we tried was the Signature Strawberry Lemonade. Made with Grey Goose Vodka, I expected it to have that lemonade twang with a smooth finish. Yet, it was surprisingly sweet and floral.

Overall, a good tasting! A talented artist, Shaun Hopper, was there playing his acoustic renditions of popular songs. I thought the service could have been a little bit more efficient; there were times when I had to hunt down a server to get an hor d’oeuvre.  There were giving out samples of cocktails (a Bacardi spiced rum with Coke and Orange flavored Grey Goose with Cranberry Juice) which the crowd enjoyed. The chef even made an appearance and mingled with the crowd to answer any questions. All in all, I had a great time and a memorable experience, no doubt.
Grillsmith on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: GrillSmith

Cuisine: American, Steakhouse

Neighborhood: Carrollwood

Address: 14303 N. Dale Mabry Highway Tampa, FL 33618

Phone Number: (813) 269-1500

Website: http://www.grillsmith.com/

Bokuchoi Ramen launched – first Japanese ramen restaurant in Tampa Bay

My good friend in Tampa informed me that a ramen restaurant opened in August and she was surprised at how great it tasted.  As you know, I had some great ramen here in Seoul at Gaya-Gaya and South Korea has no short supply of ramen shops. The idea of a ramen restaurant in Tampa interests me. I hope this small operation can find its place in our great city of Tampa. I investigated and learned about the restaurant owner and his plans.

You can read the article on Creative Loafinghttp://cltampa.com/dailyloaf/archives/2011/10/11/bokuchoi-ramen-restaurateur-brings-first-japanese-ramen-restaurant-to-tampa

Check out Bokuchoi Ramen on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/BokuchoiRamen

Mema’s Alaskan Tacos closing shop, last day to visit October 14th

Mema’s Alaskan Tacos, a popular taco eatery in Ybor City that opened shop in 2004, is closing down and having their closing bash Friday, October 14th, at 4:00PM. There will be a limited menu with tacos, nachos, burritos, and beer. They will stay open until they run out of food and beer. Restaurateur Sean Godin’s grandmother, Mema, learned how to make their tacos in Alaska during the 1950s.

Mema’s Facebook page reads:

“To all of our loyal customers.I want to thank you for the good times. Our closing is an unfortunate result of many things, most of all the deadstill economy and rising prices. Rather than sacrifice quality and service, the decision was to close the doors. So, thank you Tampa, for everything.”

I personally was only able to visit Mema’s Alaskan Tacos once during my many years of living in Tampa, but the experience was a positive one. I still remember the great taste of their chorizo taco and the refried beans. For many years I remember reading the raving reviews online (over 100 on Yelp) and always being curious about the late-night taco shop in Ybor City. Mema’s Alaskan Tacos will be missed and I am sad I will not be able to have their tacos one last time  before they close shop.

Carlos Eats Korea: Headed to Jeollanam for the 18th Namdo Food Festival & Boseong Tea Farm

The Yonsei University Mentors Club is taking 30 exchange students on a trip to Jeollanam-do today. During our trip we will attend the 18th Namdo Food Festival, known to have food from over 22 cities in Jeollanam-do. I am quite excited to visit this food festival and experience an area outside of Seoul. After we visit the festival, we will head to Boseong Tea Farm (which grows over 70% of South Korea’s green tea). It should make for some great photos and I hope we have a chance to try the green tea products sold there. I will return to Boseong during my Korean food tour at the end of the month so expect lots of coverage on this location (first brought to my attention while watching the Korean drama Summer Scent).

Food! I’m there🙂

The Boseong Tea fields

Follow Carlos Eats on Twitter @carloseats for live updates (assuming I have phone service ^^).

Carlos Eats Seoul: Huku (후쿠) Sushi Take-Out (Edae)

Sushi is one of my favorite things to eat in the United States. When I arrived in Seoul, I was anticipating an endless amount of sushi due to the proximity between Korea and Japan. Unfortunately, I soon found out sushi is often over-priced and the taste of fish in Korea is frequently either frozen or spoiled. There are a numerous buffets in the area, but you get what you pay for. My discouragement was remedied when I decided to stop by a small sushi stand by Ewha Women’s University one day as I walking home to Yonsei: Huku (후쿠) Sushi Take-Out. The stand is located between Bob & Dogs and not too far from the Pharaoh Nightclub and bowling alley, you’ll notice bamboo on the outside.

The sushi chef is a Korean man from Australia. His dream has always been to have his own restaurant and now he is living his dream. We had plenty of conversations about sushi and his opinion on various aspects of Japanese food culture. He told me normally people don’t converse with him during their meal, but as a sushi enthusiast I believe the smart diner (looking for the best fish) will always sit at the sushi bar and strike up a conversation with their host.

The price of the sushi has to be one of the best aspects about Huku Sushi.  The owner keeps his prices low to cater to his dominant crowd of college women in the area. You can have either 6 pieces of nigiri (full piece of fish on top of Japanese rice) for 5,500 won or 12 pieces of nigiri for 8,000 won. Also on the menu are Nori Maki (rolls) for 3,000/3,500 won and Sanuki Udon for 3,500 won. I decided to order the 12 pieces of nigiri.  As the name of the restaurant states, all orders can be made to-go and you can call in advance to place your order. If you decide to dine-in, don’t bring more than 2 friends since there are only 3 seats in the sushi booth.

These two items are sea bass (suzuki) and flatfish (hirame) and these two fish normally are not on the menu in Florida. Both were refreshing. The chef puts a small amount of wasabi between the fish and rice and you can feel it open your nostrils. The taste of the wasabi was fresh. I only slightly dipped the rice into soy sauce, enjoying the fresh flavor of the fish. I told the chef my favorite fish was salmon (sake) and he mentioned I was in luck as the salmon was really fresh today.

The salmon was amazing, I think there are very few places where it has been this flavorful. It literally melted in my mouth. An indiviual order of salmon is 1,200 won, but someday I may just go on a salmon binge and go for just salmon. The salmon brought my meal to a whole new level.

Complimentary miso soup is provided when you order a set of fish. The miso soup was light and and had an enjoyable broth that was quite different to what I am used to (either tons of tofu or tons of onion).

The vinegared shrimp was enjoyable. Sometimes shrimp can have this over-powering taste, but this shrimp went down nicely.

The cuttlefish was enjoyable and one thing I started to really notice about the nigiri was none of the fish smelled fishy. One of the ways to tell if fish is bad is to use your nose, bad fish will almost always have a strong fishy scent. The color of the fish is another good indicator and as you can see, the colors of the fish here were still vibrant.

The octopus (tako) came with a slightly spicy sauce on top that the chef notes Koreans enjoy on their fish. Although I have an aversion to some spicy foods, this fish was excellent.

The seasoned fried tofu (inori) and the egg (dashitaki) that followed were both a nice balance to the sushi assortment and brought an enjoyable balance to the meal. I hardly ever order egg at sushi restaurants in Tampa because it normally comes out all wrong, but this egg tasted closer to what I would enjoy in San Francisco restaurants (the mecca of sushi in the United States).

The last fish I had was the eel (unagi). Eel was one of my favorites when I lived in California, but when I moved to Florida it quickly fell off my list. The fish was either bony or drenched in sauce or smeared in cream cheese in Tampa restaurants. This eel at Huku Sushi was closer to what I would have in San Francisco and hit the spot. When you taste it, you just know the place is legitimate.

Overall, I was extremely impressed with Huku Sushi Take-Out. The owner and sushi chef was welcoming and all the food was fresh and packed with mouthwatering flavor. The prices are perfect for college students and for anyone trying to dine on a budget and with take-out orders you just cannot help but consider this place to be one of the hidden foodie finds in Edae. Ewha and Yonsei University students should put this restaurant on their to-do list. I know I’ll be back.

Restaurant Name: Huku (후쿠) Sushi Take-Out

Cuisine: Japanese

Neighborhood: Edae

Address (Korean): 서대문구 대현동 37-32

Phone Number: 010-2088-0535

Carlos Eats Korea: Selected for the 1st Korean Food Tour for Foreign Foodies

When I was researching about South Korea before I traveled to study abroad I came across an interesting event: the 1st Korean Food Tour for Foreign Foodies, sponsored by The Ministry for food, Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries and the Korean Food Foundation. Applications for participants were being accepted and I was lucky enough to be chosen as a finalist to join a team of college students to be featured on this food tour.

During the first orientation I learned that I will also be on television, KBS2 (Korean Broadcasting System 2) and cameras will follow us on every step of our way through the Jeollanam-do province of South Korea. We also found out we have to plan our own trip through our province step-by-step and explain why and how we decided to pick each restaurant or location we will visit and that in the end there will be a roadmap created for future foreign visitors to South Korea looking for the best foodie destinations (I get to make a difference!). Lucky for me my South Korea travel book states “ask anyone any they’ll say the best food in South Korea can be found here [Jeolla]”.

Jeolla-do is the ancestral home of the Yi family of the Joseon family (one of the longest cultural development periods in South Korean history including the invention of the writing system called Hangul by King Se-jong) with cooking techniques handed down for centuries. Jeolla is one of the least developed areas of South Korea, which makes it a perfect place for sightseeing. Warm weather allows for large agricultural  production in the region. There is certainly much to be seen in Jeollanam-do and much to be written. Stay tuned for updates on my journey to the southwestern province of South Korea.🙂

 

Photo credit:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/briandeutsch/2270777402/

http://briandeutsch.blogspot.com/2010/10/viewing-fall-foliage-in-and-around.html