14064220_10207281954103133_5306159182018057910_n

Morimoto Asia Tasting @ Disney Springs

Last week I had the pleasure of heading to Disney Springs for a tasting at Morimoto Asia and STK. Both restaurants are fairly new to the area and part of the new developments happening all over the shopping, restaurant, and entertainment complex.

This year both restaurants will be participating in Visit Orlando’s Magical Dining Month from August 29th, 2016 to October 2nd, 2016. Magical Dining Month features over 90 restaurants in the Orlando area with 3-course prix-fixe dinners for $33. This is a great way to try a restaurant and see if you want to go there for an anniversary or get-together without breaking the bank. Many of the restaurants are also in the higher-end category and would be costly as a regular diner. The prix-fixe choices matter – of course.

Here are my thoughts from the tasting:

Morimoto has 3 appetizer choices: miso soup + house salad, assorted dim sum, and kakuni pork buns. The soup/salad option are great for people who want a light start to their meal and offers plenty to start. Personally I was a huge fan of the kakuni pork buns. Kakuni is a Japanese braised pork dish meaning “square-simmered” – the pork belly in this bun literally melted on your tongue…it was exquisite. Personally I love pork belly, but there are still options available for those who may not be as interested.

Entree options include orange chicken, lo mein (meat or veggie), LA BBQ kalbi, and a sweet & sour branzino filet. All 4 entrees are appealing depending on your taste.

The orange chicken was clearly prepared using the more authentic orange peel tart recipe and not the American sugary orange sauce. It was very enjoyable and cooked just crispy enough. The side bok choy was incredible too – the sauce on top of it excellent. Personally I am not a huge fan of lo mein – this one was better than what I am used to – but wouldn’t be my first choice on the menu.

The LA BBQ kalbi was easily my favorite. I am picky with my Korean food after living abroad and in general whenever I eat kimchi that I can enjoy (more restaurants get it wrong than right in Florida) and as a fan of Korean BBQ – this BBQ was true to the original flavor of LA kalbi while also spicing it up for a more classy experience. The cuts of meat were great and the dish was balanced. I would probably order the LA BBQ kalbi on every visit to Morimoto if possible (or the delicious peking duck not on this special menu).

I want to say that it is very interesting how Morimoto’s restaurant features a wide variety of Asian cuisines, but represents them all well. Sometimes chefs take too much liberty when preparing Asian dishes to the point where the actual root of the food is lost – but Morimoto Asia puts their own sauces and twists on dishes while keeping the authenticity there and I really like that.

Finally there is the sweet & sour branzino filet which features a seabass. This dish was flavorful and made well – but to me not my choice when I have Korean BBQ and great a great chicken option as well. Still – the sauce and preparation of this dish were far from what you’ll normally find.

Then on to dessert! Options include the MM soda float made with Japanese Ramune soda (my favorite!), boba, mixed berries, and gelato, churro fondue, and red bean sesame balls. There dishes also really depend on your preference. The churro fondue is the safest choice of the 3 – but is by no means lacking in flavor with nutella and vanilla cream.

I have never seen Japanese soda used for a dessert before and I really thought it was original to see on it on a menu at Morimoto. In fact, most restaurants don’t even carry Japanese soda – but personally I love it and prefer it against American soda brands. The MM soda float was fun to enjoy as well – pouring the soda over the gelato and watching it bubble up. Side note: If you’re feeling an alcohol drink at Morimoto – I really recommend trying the white lily martini which is made with Calpico – an uncarbonated Japanese soft drink…it is perhaps the best martini I have ever had.

Finally, the red bean sesame balls live up to expectations – but may be an acquired taste and something people who are not used to Asian flavors may be shy against trying – which is understandable – but definitely worth trying.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on STK!

Morimoto Asia. Disney Springs Marketplace, 1600 Buena Vista Dr, Orlando, FL 32830. (407) 939-6686.

169

List of Tampa Bay Restaurant PokeStops

Without a map for Pokemon Go – plenty of people are wondering where you can find PokeStops while going out. I am going to aim to make a list here of restaurants and cafes that are PokeStops or located right by one.

Last Updated: 7/20/16

Tampa

  • Brandon/Riverview
    • Acropolis – 6108 Winthrop Main St, Riverview, FL 33578
    • Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen – 11135 Lake Brandon Village, Causeway Blvd, Tampa, FL 33511
    • Mellow Mushroom – 10959 Causeway Blvd, Brandon, FL 33511
    • World of Beer – 2878 Providence Lakes Blvd, Brandon, FL 33511
  •  Carrollwood
    • Bubba’s Sports Bar- 214 E Bearss Ave., Tampa, FL 33613
    • Cigar City Brewpub – 15491 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33624
    • O’Brien’s Irish Pub – 15435 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33618
    • Pepo’s Jr. Cafe – 3879 Northdale Blvd, Tampa, FL 33624
    • Show-Me’s Sports Bar & Grill – 12836 Henderson Rd, Tampa, FL 33625
    • Twistee Treat – 3846 W Fletcher Ave, Tampa, FL 33618
  • Downtown Tampa
    • Ginger Beard Coffee – 1208 E Kennedy Blvd #112, Tampa, FL
  • Lutz
    • Mekenita Mexican Grille and Catering – 17623 N Dale Mabry Hwy, Lutz, FL 33548
  • New Tampa
    • Liang’s Bistro – 17515 Bruce B Downs Blvd, Tampa, FL 33647
    • Starbucks – 17525 Preserve Walk Ln, Tampa, FL 33647
    • Twistee Treat – 8810 New Tampa Blvd, Tampa FL 33647
  • Oldsmar
    • Chili’s – 3701 Tampa Rd, Oldsmar, FL 34677
  • South Tampa
    • Firehouse Subs – 2227 S Dale Mabry Hwy, Tampa, FL 33629
  • Temple Terrace/USF
    • Gaspar’s Patio Bar & Grille – 8448 N 56th St, Tampa, FL 33617
    • Jerk Hut – 926 E Fowler Ave., Tampa, FL 33612
    • Lazy Brew USF (former Graffiti Junktion) – 11401 N 56th St., Temple Terrace, FL 33617
    • Persia House of Kebabs – 1441 E Fletcher Ave #123, Tampa, FL 33612
    • TacoSon – 7521 N. 56th St, Tampa, FL 33617
    • Taco Bus –  2320 E Fletcher Ave, Tampa, FL 33613
  • Town N’ Country
    • Tokyo Chinese & Japanese Restaurant – 7911 W Hillsborough Ave, Tampa, FL 33615
    • Twistee Treat – 6900 Hanley Rd, Tampa, FL 33634
    • Vallarta’s – 9212 Anderson Rd., Tampa, FL 33634
  • Wesley Chapel
    • Tijuana Flats – 27709 Florida 56, Wesley Chapel, FL 33543
  • WestShore
    • Chipotle – 309 N. Westshore Blvd, Tampa, FL 33609
    • Pelagia Trattoria –  International Plaza and Bay Street, 4200 Jim Walter Blvd, Tampa, FL 33607
    • P.F. Chang’s (lion statues outside) – 219 Westshore Plaza, Tampa, FL 33609
  • Ybor City
    • The Bad Monkey –  1717 E. 7th Ave., Tampa, FL 33605
    • Columbia Restaurant – 2117 E 7th Ave., Tampa, FL 33605
    • La Tropicana Cafe – 1822 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605
    • Tampa Bay Brewing Co. – 1600 E. 9th Ave., Tampa, FL 33605
    • Tequilas (sit near entrance) – 1613 E 7th Ave, Tampa, FL 33605

St. Petersburg

  • Downtown St. Pete
    • Pipo’s To Go – 8 – 4th St N, St. Petersburg, FL
    • Red Mesa Mercado – 1100 1st Ave N, St Petersburg FL 33705
  • Greater St. Pete
    • Tijuana Flats – 2117 66th St N, St Petersburg FL 33710
  • Pinellas Park
    • Chipotle – 3700 Park Blvd N, Pinellas Park FL 33781
    • Season’s Cafe & Bakery – 7261 US Hwy 19 N, Pinellas Park, FL 33781

Clearwater

  • Palm Harbor
    • LBC Palm Harbor – 35631 US-19, Palm Harbor, FL 34684

Have tips on locations? Send them to my e-mail CarlosEats[at]gmail[dot]com

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

My second food tour in South Korea brought me down to Jeollanam – the Southern tip of South Korea. This food tour was sponsored by Hansik – the Korean Food Foundation. My team was called The Nakji Hunterschosen by our team leader Juanita Hong. We visited a number of towns during my trip and although the trip was lots of work (we were being filmed by KBS and camera work for a documentary is much harder than I imagined…especially when most people speak a foreign language) – the trip was still a great success. I met many people in Jeollanam and learned much about Korean cuisine and culture.

We rode in a charter bus around the region. Our first day was spent at a seafood market in Mokpo.  During our visit to the market we were able to see live fish and then enjoy some fresh seafood. The restaurant used every piece of the fish during our visit and the owner mentioned that in Korean culture they do not believe in wasting food – so the parts of the fish that were not used as sashimi we used in a fish soup and then also as side dishes or banchan in Korean. The banchan were numerous and indeed Jeollanam is known for its lavish and tasty variety of banchan.

The most interesting thing I tried was a bloody clam – it was slimy and actually not as bad as I imagined, although I am unsure if I would try it again without some other kind of sauces mixed in.

The sashimi was made Korean style and tasted good, but didn’t quite melt in my mouth like I hoped it would. The seaport itself had a great view of the water and our hotel, the Muan Beach Hotel, had a beautiful beach-front view at sunset.

After we settled into our hotel, we departed to a town where a man is famous for making octopus or nakji in Korean. He brought out live nakji and together we made the nakji that is traditionally used by Koreans for funeral processions and other ceremonies. Nakji is very expensive (just one can cost at least 25,000 won or more).

The restaurant owner has cooked nakji for more than 17 years and showed us his techniques and how to make nakji soup and nakji on a stick. We also tried nakji raw – which I found to be unappetizing but some of my teammates enjoyed. I was a little disturbed by the nakji and I am sure many foreigners might feel the same way during their first encounter – but for Koreans this just another one of their delicacies and I think learning about that was an important and valuable experience.

After we finished we retired to our hotel and then woke  the next day and headed to meet a fisherman who was going to take us hunting for nakji (hence our name The Nakji Hunters). This was a true workout during a chilly day, but one of the best experiences of our trip. We headed out with our boots and raincoats into a boat that brought us to mud islands where nakji wash up in the early morning.

The fisherman (full of energy) ran around the island with us chasing behind (shovels in hand) and guided us to the small mounds where the nakji are trapped in mud. Nakji eventually escape into the water from the mud and it was essential that we work as fast as possible before they all made it back to sea.

We managed to catch nine nakji. When you step on the mounds they are trapped in, the surrounding water releases and if you dig in the middle you will find a nakji sitting in the middle of the mud. You use your hands to pick it out of the ground. The feeling of a nakji on your hand is an experience itself and I think many travelers to Korea would be interested in this. Some Koreans eat the nakji whole after discovering it, but I decided to hold-off on that, feeling adventurous enough with the blood clams the day before.

Once we left the fisherman behind we headed to a Traditional Korean Market where we visited stands and eventually sold our nakji and seafood off to local townspeople. It was a fun experience and elderly lady managed to haggle down the price of our fish to just 3,000 won! A lesson was learned: never haggle with the elderly – they are experienced.

After our experience we headed to a Korean meat shop and purchased Korean beef and mushrooms for dinner. It had to have been one of the best meals of our trip. One of the Hansik employees posted a photograph on Twitter of my huge smile as I devoured the food. The quality of the meat was superb and during my interview I noted that Westerners would love to have the experience to purchase and make their own meat in this self-cook Korean style. The meat rivaled the taste of some steakhouses I have tried in Tampa and that means a lot since Tampa is the home of Outback Steakhouse and highly esteemed Bern’s Steakhouse – as most of you readers are aware.

After dinner we headed to Boseong and retired in a traditional Korean house there right on the tea farm. We met with the employees on our film and Korea crew and had some late-night snacks while playing some Korean games before heading to bed. We awoke early the next morning to head to the Daehan Boseong Tea Plantation.

The plantation was absolutely beautiful when we awoke in the morning and headed outside. The valley was stunning and although the key blooming season for the fields is in spring and summer – the leaves were still surviving through the autumn. We walked through the field as the camera crew filmed us and discussed some of the health properties of green tea that has made it become famous through the world. You can read some more about my experience on Hansik’s website.

Our last stop was at a Boseong restaurant, Che Heom Jang, that specializes in dishes made from a patented green tea extract. The restaurant owner guided us through the process of making green tea kimchi, a dish that was excellent and unknown even to many Korean people I know in Seoul. The beauty of green tea is it neutralizes the smell that kimchi tends to acquire over time and also tastes great. We put oysters inside the kimchi to enhance the taste even further.

The two women at the restaurant also guided us through other dishes and one looked especially cool in her traditional Korean outfit called a hanbok. We made green tea rice cakes and also green tea rice balls among other dishes and enjoyed several green tea banchan including a nakji soup with green tea thrown inside. Being a huge fan of green tea since my childhood, this experience was special to me and brought me some new understanding about Korean cuisine being innovative and working hard to attempt new heights.

I felt the green tea restaurant was a fitting end to our journey and as we boarded our charter bus back to Seoul – I headed back home with a new perspective about Korean food and culture that I will carry with me as I experience many new foods in the future.

Make sure you check out our Tumblr at http://www.thenakjihunters.tumblr.com and our Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/thenakjihunters for more updates and insights on Korean food and culture and look for the KBS2 documentary to air in the near future on Korean television!🙂

Carlos Eats Miami!

I will be vacationing in Miami starting this Sunday the 31st until next Friday the 5th. Despite living in Florida since 1998, I have never been to Miami and I am excited to try all the restaurants food spots out in Miami (looking forward to checking out their food truck scene!). I will be staying on Sunny Isles Beach. If you have any recommendations on where I should eat at, leave me a comment below🙂. I have already taken down a few places from a few friends, but would love to add some more things to my list. I’ll be updating soon from Miami and look for a ton of finished posts to be heading your way very soon as well!

Photo credit: http://www.sxc.hu/profile/jovas167

Cauliflower Pizza @ Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza

During the Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza Tweetup in Carrollwood, I spotted a curious pizza that I was sadly too full to try. Fortunately, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza contacted me recently and invited me to come out and try a complimentary pie of their Cauliflower Pizza. I, of course, accepted and ventured to the Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza location in Brandon. The Brandon location has a different feel from the Carrollwood location, it feels more like a mom & pop pizza restaurant. One large room with a few televisions and various things on the wall. When I arrived a waitress helped me out right away and sat me down at the bar.

She told me I had to try their Eggplant Marino and brought it out right away. The fried eggplant was toasty and the marinara and cheese on top tasted great, the taste of the eggplant was faint but still present. A nice way to get some extra fruits in…I personally don’t normally eat eggplants because I usually find them to be bitter so I found this to be a cool way to cook it. It wasn’t long before the Cauliflower Pizza was ready and in front of me.

The Cauliflower Pizza has an interesting appearance. It looks like a cheese pizza at first glance, but if you look again you see the pieces of cauliflower spread throughout the pie. I normally associate cauliflower with soul food, so I have never imagined it in this context. It was surprisingly very pleasant. The pizza has a balance between the bread, cheese, and cauliflower that I enjoyed. Neither is overpowering and the pizza is not sloppy or greasy. As I mentioned in my other blog about Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza, their pizzas are light and won’t leave you feeling sick or painfully full afterwards. The pie is one of Anthony’s specialty pizzas and is $16.75 for a 12″ and $19.75 for a 16″ pie.

The manager mentioned they put olive oil on the bread and it certainly does add some extra flavor to the oven-roasted pizza. Cauliflower is known for preventing cancer and having a number of other health benefits and although this form might be less effective than eating one whole, it must be better than eating pepperonis and sausages. As I was live tweeting my visit, many people mentioned to me that the Cauliflower Pizza is one of their favorites and there is much to love about this pizza. Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza was secretly making me eat healthier, while still enjoying my food. I took the few pieces I couldn’t finish to a friends house and everyone devoured it and was surprised to find out there was cauliflower in the pizza they ate.

Stay tuned for an Anthony’s Coal Fired Giveaway on my next blog!

Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza

Cuisine: Italian, Pizza

Neighborhood: Brandon

Address: 1912 W. Brandon Blvd. Brandon, FL 33511

Phone Number: (813) 409-3830

Website: http://anthonyscoalfiredpizza.com/

Universal Studios Orlando: Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Three Broomsticks restaurant

In honor of the release of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II’s release, I thought I’d do a write up on my first experience with Butterbeer (read my review Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallow’s Part II here). One of the most exciting parts of visiting Universal Studios earlier this year was visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. One minute in this new land and we felt like we had left Universal Studios. Every detail was made to feel like a realistic representation of the Harry Potter franchise. You can read more about the park on my travel blog Carlos Abroad.

We really wanted to try the Butterbeer that everyone was raving about. There were stands around the park where you could line-up to buy some, but my friend suggested we visit the Three Broomsticks restaurant and avoid the lines. This strategy proved successful and within minutes we were ordering food and picking up our Butterbeer. There were two kinds of Butterbeer and I decided to go with the frozen Butterbeer (my theme park guru friend recommended it), in addition to a turkey leg combo with fry wedges.

The food was surprisingly good for theme park food and although I would have enjoyed some bbq sauce with my turkey leg, I was full within a few minutes. My friends didn’t hesitate to devour every last piece of my turkey leg I was unable to finish. The potato wedges were tasty as well. This interior of Three Broomsticks will remind you of a tavern you might find within the world of Harry Potter. There is a stairwell that seems to go up to higher floors, but it is all for show.

The frozen Butterbeer was sweet and tasty. It was sweet without being too strong. You’ll notice that almost everyone around you orders Butterbeer as well. There were elements that made me think of a butterscotch-like root beer float. It was definitely one of the most exciting parts of visiting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter and something we HAD to do before left. No questions about that. I think everyone should give it a shot.

Three Broomsticks on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Three Broomsticks

Address: 1000 Universal Studios Plaza Orlando, FL 32819

Phone Number: (407) 363-8000

Website: http://www.universalorlando.com/

5th Annual Ybor Aficionado Days Stop 2: Bernini

I have always been curious about the food at Bernini in Ybor City. The restaurant is named after Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini, of the late renaissance period (1598-1680) and founder of the Baroque art style. The exterior of the restaurant is beautiful in design and certainly makes me think Italy. During the Chevy Tapas Trail I was able to try two things from their menu. The item listed on the menu was “Sliced garlic marinated duck breast with chianti fig compote on a toasted crostini”. The duck was great, but what stole my attention was the crab and red pepper puffs with roasted corn mousseline that Bernini decided to add-on. Bernini was one of the first restaurants to open their doors and it was much appreciated as several restaurants on Chevy Tapas Trail were behind schedule and in a 3-hour trail you need all the time you can get. The attendants at the stand were helpful and explained the tapas to me. I left impressed.

The excellent cream puffs.

My plate with the duck tapa.

Bernini on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Bernini

Cuisine: Italian

Neighborhood: Ybor City

Address: 1702 E 7th Ave. Tampa, FL 33605

Phone Number: (813) 248-0099

Website: http://www.berniniofybor.com/

Go back to Yboy Aficionado Days Stop 1: Dog Bollock’s Pub