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Reviews

THE Tampa Taco Bus

The Taco Bus in Tampa is like a landmark…people are always there and it has over 500 ratings on Urbanspoon and 80 Yelp reviews, which is a huge number for this city. Foursquare shows check-ins even into the wee hours of the morning. A 24-hour taco truck is a godsend to this city where restaurants start to close up shop around 10pm on weekends. They have a great menu with a variety of choices and ingredients; several beverages as well, there is nothing that someone cannot love about the Taco Bus.

If the Taco Bus was in California, it would be just another taco truck…but it has successfully done correctly what I have often pondered was missing in Tampa: authentic tasting Mexican food. Anyone who is from California or some other state heavily populated with Mexican people knows that the majority of the places in Tampa or Florida that claim to be “Mexican” restaurants are actually using canned beans, pre-made rice, and no actual Mexican ingredients.

Everything from the cheese to the seasoning on the meat at the Taco Bus tastes like real Mexican food, and although the style is slightly different from what I’m used to in Northern California, Taco Bus still makes an authentic meal that I can actually enjoy. Their Carne Asada tastes great and I have tried their tacos, burritos, and recently I finally gave their quesadillas a shot. I wasn’t disappointed.

My friends burrito. I like my burritos with Carne Asada and some refried beans/sour cream.

The quesadilla ($4.99) was pressed perfectly to be crunchy and with all the ingredients warmed to the right temperature.

The inside of my quesadilla looked amazing. Plenty of cheese, tomatoes, chicken, and onions.

I also get their horchata on every visit. Although their horchata tastes a little different then how I prefer it, it still tastes great and you get a ton of horchata for just a few bucks. Usually the food comes out quick and although lines get long they move pretty quickly. There is plenty of space inside and outside to eat as well. I am in love with the Taco Bus and would totally wear one of their t-shirts if I had more money.

They are opening a Taco Bus out in St. Petersburg and now all I can do is hope they bring one out to Brandon!

Taco Bus on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Taco Bus

Cuisine: Mexican

Address: 913 E. Hillsborough Ave, Tampa FL 33604

Neighborhood: Seminole Heights

Phone Number: (813)232-5889

Website: http://tampatacobus.com/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/The-Taco-Bus/151303904885189

Twitter: @TacoBusTampa

Categories
Reviews

Origami Sushi for Jason’s Birthday

I dined at Origami Sushi on Waters Avenue for my friends birthday a weeks back. The place has a great ambiance, it was so dark that we couldn’t read the menu correctly until they turned up the lights a little bit…plenty of couples were in the restaurant. The restaurant had plenty of space so our party could have its own area in the back. The hosts and waitresses were very attentive and helpful with whatever we needed to have a great birthday dinner. One thing I noticed was that there was a picture for every sushi roll on the menu so you knew what a roll such as their Halloween Roll would look like, not many restaurants will go that far and it was a great idea that I wish more restaurants would practice.

Follow the cut for my review 🙂

Categories
Reviews

Izziban Sushi (Orlando)

I have a friend who is a sushi guru. He eats sushi every single week, multiple times a week and one of his favorite places is Izziban Sushi. After hearing about it for the longest time, I finally had a chance to come to Izziban Sushi after the Orlando Japan Festival. My time at Izziban was memorable and quite a delicious food encounter!

We showed up just in time for their Happy Hour Special (5-7PM) and were able to have sushi rolls for $3.99 and appetizers as well! The dumplings (pictured above) were quite appetizing. But what was REALLY AMAZING was…

Their cream cheese (crab rangoons) were just the BEST I have EVER had hitting my taste buds without being to creamy but just right…they were quickly devoured by my friends and I and this is when I decided Izziban was a pretty awesome place. If an appetizer can make a place then that is quite a feat in itself. If only someplace closer to home had these…

The atmosphere at Izziban was nice, though quiet. A pretty big restaurant with plenty of seating both a tables, booths, and a sushi bar. The televisions there were playing K-Pop videos and I found out later that the place is actually owned by Korean people and that Izziban has an excellent Korean food menu as well. One thing I noticed while looking around the restaurant was that they had “irrashaimase” or いらっしぁいませ (Japanese for “welcome” frequently said at Japanese businesses when you enter) written in hiragana in the front, I love it when restaurants go that extra mile.

One of my good friends and I.

All the rolls were appetizing and didn’t need much soy sauce added to them, I think Izziban’s sushi gives you way more than your moneys worth during this early bird special.  Service was average, although the waiter could have been a little more attentive to our table.The place was slow customer-wise (probably because it was a Sunday), but still with prices like this and quality like this I would be here everyday if I lived in Orlando. I really liked their Golden California Roll and the masago tasted great.

We couldn’t resist trying some of their Tempura Ice Cream. It was pretty tasty, but couldn’t match-up to the excellent Tempura Ice Cream my friends and I eat at Dragonfly Sushi. Overall, Izziban Sushi had some excellent sushi, appetizers, and dessert all at affordable prices and any opportunity I have to return here will be utilized.  Until we meet again Izziban…

Izziban Sushi on Urbanspoon

Restaurant name: Izziban Sushi

Cuisine: Japanese, Korean

Address: 1700 W Sand Lake Rd Ste D124 Orlando, FL 32809

Phone Number: (407) 850-5088

Website: http://www.izzibansushioforlando.net/

Categories
Reviews

USF Dining Guide

Hungry by USF and wondering where to eat? Then check out my Dining Guide! A list of some of my favorite restaurants within a few miles of the University of South Florida Tampa Campus. Don’t waste money at disappointing restaurants again. Enjoy!

http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dailyloaf/2010/10/22/dining-guide-university-area-eats/

Categories
Reviews

Sa Ri One for Priscilla’s Birthday

My good friend Priscilla decided to have her birthday dinner at Sa Ri One, a popular Korean restaurant in town, and in my opinion one of the best choices in the Tampa Bay area. The menu has lots of different choices at average prices. I tried Galbi-tang for the first time during this visit.

This appetizer was delicious =)

Seafood Pancake!

Bibimbap!

The beef bulgogi is so good here…I think it is my favorite place to have bulgogi in town. Lunch box (Sa Ri One’s fast food version) has my 2nd favorite.

I’ve never had this one…future blog post? 🙂

Sa Ri One gives a few side dishes with their meals.

Sweet-tasting Korean alcohol.

When I first got the Galbi Tang I was a little afraid to try it because it was boiling hot. Once I finally had some I found myself really intrigued with the taste of it. It has a plentiful amount of black pepper in it, which opened up my nostrils completely. The egg inside was great as were the vegetables they put as well. There was some bone from the galbi, but when I finally got to the Galbi meat…that was truly the best part. Completely tender and full of flavor. I wish there was more in there, but it was still great and extremely filling. It was truly impossible to finish this soup and the price was cheaper than ordering regular Korean BBQ. Another successful Korean food adventure.

A close up view…you can see some of the pepper.

Happy Birthday Priscilla =)

Until next time Sa Ri One.

Sa Ri One Korean on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Sa Ri One

Address: 3940 W Cypress St. Tampa, FL 33607

Phone Number: (813) 874-2911

Categories
Restaurant News Reviews

Sa Ri One Lunch Box: New Korean To-Go by USF

Note: Sa Ri One Lunch Box has closed down.

About 3 weeks ago Sa Ri One, one of my favorite Korean restaurants in Tampa, opened a new branch called Sa Ri One Lunch Box out by USF. Tuesday my friends and I dined at the original Sa Ri One on Cypress St. (more on that in my next blog). Curious about how this location matches up I decided to grab some dinner at Lunch Box the next night.

Driving down 56th Street it’s really easy to miss Lunch Box. There is a ton of construction around and the plaza you find the little Korean place in is not the best area. However, the location is great in relation to USF and Temple Terrace residents having access to it. One of the employees there told me one of the reasons they opened a new branch was because they wanted to make it easier for people, who normally have to go all the way to Cypress Street by South Dale Mabry, to enjoy a good Korean meal.

Lunch Box is exactly what it sounds like, they have lunch and dinner portions of popular Korean food. You won’t be able to purchase Korean soups, enjoy lots of sides, or specialty items because the concept of Lunch Box is a to-go concept. You come in and select an order from the list of combos, such as Galbi, Bulgogi, Bibimbop, and Kimbob. A few minutes after ordering you have a to-go box in your hand full of vegetables, dumplings, rice, and your choice of meat.

An employee there hinted that they are working on some new concepts and that a snow ice cream will be coming soon to their location.

The place itself is clean and will hopefully keep the modern look it currently has. They also offer wi-fi, which is nice for iPod Touch and laptop users like myself. I decided to try their bulgogi beef since I didn’t order it the night before at the original location (almost all my friends did though).

The bulgogi was excellent. I think it maybe slightly better at the original since it’s on that hot pan when it comes out, but they still served it to me right it was cooked right. There was plenty of flavor, seasoning, and vegetables on it…it did not dry out. The vegetables and dumplings were a nice addition and the white rice (they also have fried rice) made me feel full. The price was affordable only around $9 as well (with a soda can).

Overall, I really like this little spot and will be making many trips back whenever I get the craving for Korean food and am in the USF/Temple Terrace area.

Sa Ri One Lunch Box on Urbanspoon

Name: Sa Ri One Lunch Box

Address: 8892 N. 56th St Temple Terrace, FL 33617

Phone Number: 813-984-2800

Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/sa-ri-one-lunch-box-tampa

Categories
Reviews

Samurai Blue after David Choi Concert

Five friends and I stopped by Samurai Blue after having a good time at the David Choi concert. It was around 11:30pm so the place wasn’t busy. We were seated promptly. It took about thirty minutes to get through putting in our orders because the waitress kept going into the back…after that it took about twenty more minutes to get some water. We ordered a variety of rolls on their menu, I ordered an Endless Summer Roll ($8.50), Salmon Roll ($4.25), and California Roll ($4.95).

The sushi finally came about thirty minutes later. The waitress disappeared before we could inquire about soy sauce and it took a frustrating wait until she decided to re-appear for us to finally get our soy sauce. I found this to spoil my meal a little, because my fresh sushi was just sitting there while the waitress was missing and the restaurant was by no means busy. If the sushi didn’t taste so good it would have been a real issue because the waitress charges us gratuity at 18% for having a party of 6.

Samurai Blue’s Hawaiian Roll ($9.50) (coconut shrimp, cream cheese, asparagus and cucumber, inside out with mango and avocadoes, topped with macadarnia nuts) was delicious! The combination sounds weird but it actually is one of those things that tastes great. It’s sweet and savory.

The Samurai Roll ($8.50) (I might be wrong about the name) is an excellent roll, especially with the dip it comes with and the presentation of this roll is pretty awesome. I don’t think I have seen sushi presented this nicely before.

My California Roll and Salmon Roll both tasted fresh and were better than average. The masago tasted great and the rolls didn’t taste too salty.

The Endless Summer Roll (tempura banana, grilled eel, inside out with avocadoes on top) was fantastic. Each part of the roll has its own distinct taste and doesn’t overpower each other when you’re tasted the roll. The sauce goes great with it as well.

The Tiger Eye Roll ($8.50) (salmon, crab, avocado and smelt roe, wrapped with squid, then baked) was my favorite of the night. It has a totally different look to it and tastes great.

Overall, the sushi at Samurai Blue was great and really saved this meal because service was sub-par at best. I would come back to try some of the sushi chefs sushi, but maybe next time I’ll sit at the sushi bar and tip them instead. There are some great, creative rolls here though so Samurai Blue is worth a try.

Samurai Blue at Centro Ybor on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Samurai Blue

Address: 1600 E. 8th Avenue, #C208 Tampa, Florida 33605

Phone #: 813-242-6688

Website: http://www.samuraiblue.com/sb/

Foursquare: http://foursquare.com/venue/354435

Yelp: http://www.yelp.com/biz/samurai-blue-sushi-and-sake-bar-tampa-2

Categories
Food Tours

Carlos Eats Sushi Tour

It’s time for a new challenge. I want to try sushi restaurant in Tampa that I haven’t visited yet. There are a ton. So I’m going to make a list of places I have not tried yet and am interested in trying.

  • Origami Sushi
  • Soho Sushi
  • Tomo Sushi
  • Yokohama Japanese Restaurant (Brandon)
  • Ginza Japanese Steakhouse
  • Sakana Sushi
  • Zen Bistro Bar & Grill

Feel free to recommend me some spots.

Categories
Reviews

Samurai Sushi (Samurai Japanese Cuisine)

My most recent review is about Samurai Sushi, a small Japanese restaurant in Riverview that has fresh sushi for cheap prices. This is one place I high-recommend you check out. The menu is diverse, service is great, and there’s so much to say about it, a short summary will not do the place justice so please check out my review on Examiner at: http://www.examiner.com/asian-restaurants-in-tampa-bay/samurai-sushi-affordable-and-flavorful-sushi-review

Categories
Reviews

Taste Cafe Bloggers Dinner

Taste Cafe hosted a bloggers dinner last week for local food critics and reviewers in the Tampa Bay area. The dinner was provided free of charge and was meant to be a tasting of various dishes on their menu. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner choices were served to us. In addition, the smooth saxophone sounds of John Hughes complemented a pleasant evening of tasting. Each dish was served with an explanation of the dish provided by the owners.

Robin’s South African Breakfast, a brunch item consisting of a mixture of onions, tomatoes, and bacon with eggs had an interesting taste to it, but did not really speak to my taste buds. The Crustless Quiche was palatable, but a little salty. The Original Spinach and Provolone was superb and after devouring it, I found myself wanting more. I normally dislike spinach, but this mixture really went well together.

The pumpkin curry soup had some tanginess to it. The curry flavoring brought a different twist than what I was expecting. The pumpkin taste was there, but a little weak for my liking, perhaps overpowered by the curry taste. I think the soup would be better if it were a little sweeter as well. The taste was still pretty good though and I did enjoy eating it. I am a big fan of anything pumpkin related from pumpkin lattes to pumpkin pie and pumpkins are one of the main reasons I love the fall season.

The 3 spreads and a stuffed mushroom.

The hummus, tabouli, and eggplant spread tapas were all enjoyable. My favorite was the eggplant spread. I normally detest eggplants, but the spread had a sweet taste that hit my taste buds just right. The tabouli spread was my second favorite spread, covered in onions (my favorite vegetable) and having a lemony taste to it…if you do not like onions then it really is not for you. My least favorite spread, the hummus spread, was still enjoyable but did not really have anything that screamed out to me about it. One of the reasons the hummus spread was not as enjoyable to me was because I prefer moist spreads over dry spreads.

Medi Veggie Sandwich

Le Cheekon Sandwich

The stuffed mushroom was my least favorite thing I tried. I normally like blue cheese, but the dry tart taste in the mushrooms did not appeal to me at all. The blue cheese really overpowered any mushroom taste there. The Le Cheekon sandwich, my favorite tasting from the evening, included chicken, pineapple, brie, and honey butter, all pressed together. The pineapple gave the sandwich a sweet Hawaiian taste to it and I found the chicken to be juicy and flavorful, really satisfying to my taste buds. The vegetarian option, the Medi Veggie sandwich, was enjoyable, but did not spark my interest in the same way the Le Cheekon sandwich did.

The main dinner entree was curry chicken served over brown rice. Almost tasting a little Hispanic with a touch of curry spice, this entree was enjoyable down to the last piece of rice. They gave us a few condiments to experiment in taste with it, but I found the entree to be flavorful enough on its own. Although the curry chicken does taste good, I would still order a side with it if I was having it as my only choice, because it lacks a few central tastes to a complete meal, in my opinion.

Despite being completely stuffed, dessert came and we were presented with two desserts: Dark Chocolate Mascarpone Pie and Carrot Cupcakes. The chocolate in the Marscarpone Pie cupcake was sweet, without going over the limit and becoming too sweet. The texture underneath was smooth and really enjoyable, a balanced chocolate choice. The carrot cupcake was pleasant, but a little dry. The cafe con leche they served with the cupcakes was a little bitter, and I would probably have some milk instead with these desserts.

Overall, there was a number of different things served to us and these dishes could appeal to people with many different taste buds. Attention was placed on flavor and I would say many of the choices were flavors different from your typical expectations when having these options, a pleasant surprise indeed. Taste Cafe’s idea to have a bloggers dinner says something about them, they want people to know about the food they have, even if critics or reviewers have opinions that may not be what they want and that is a bold thing to do. Their diverse menu, interesting flavors, and hospitality will bring me back there again in the future.

Taste on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Taste Cafe

Address: 500 Main Street, Suite E, Safety Harbor, FL. 34695

Phone Number: (727)723-1116

Website: http://tastesafetyharbor.com/


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