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

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Renzo’s Gourmet on Kennedy Celebrates 2 Year Anniversary Sept 28-Oct 1

Renzo’s Gourmet, an Argentinean steakhouse in Tampa, is hosting their 2 year anniversary event from now until Saturday. They will have a free wine tasting with Malbec, Carmenere, and Torrontes wines for visitors and free hors d’ oeuvres. You guys know I love free stuff! This is a great opportunity to go check out the food and wine menu there. Two Carlos Eats team members visited a tasting at Renzo’s Gourmet a few weeks ago and really enjoyed the food and atmosphere there (post coming soon!) and plan on making a trip back before the anniversary promotion ends. Photographing and filming of the event is allowed, the event is open to the public, and no RSVP is necessary.

Restaurant Name: Renzo’s Gourmet

Cuisine: Argentinean

Neighborhood: South Tampa

Address: 3644 W. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, FL 33609

Phone Number: (813) 870-3606

Website: http://www.renzosgourmet.com/

Tampa’s First Food Truck Rally

This guest blog was written by a friend of mine Dena Pham. She blogs on her food blog Dena Loves Food in Tampa. As many of you know, I am currently studying abroad in South Korea and I really appreciate her writing up a post for my readers on a very important food event in Tampa. If you like what you see, like her blog on Facebook! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dena-Loves-Food/181586071852396. Stay tuned for more Tampa blogs as many are being finalized at the moment and don’t forget to checkout The Taco Bus Wednesday on Man Vs. Food. 🙂

Food trucks have been on the rise lately, especially with Food Network’s show called The Great Food Truck Race. Tampa may be a bit behind with the new “In” but we are catching up pretty fast. Last Saturday, Tampa had their first Food Truck Rally and it went a little too well! Sponsored by 352 Media Group and Tasting Tampa, they were only expecting 1,000 people, but shockingly around 5,000 were able to experience the first food truck rally in Tampa.

Food trucks have been popular for quite some time, but what makes these new food trucks so different is that they serve legitimate food. You can get your dessert, snacks, gourmet meals and more at a reasonable price now from these food trucks. Everyday they park in a different location all around town and update their fans via Facebook, Twitter and other online media outlets.

There was around 10 different food trucks and vendors that attended the food truck rally. They all served different food for any and all taste buds. From Tex-Mex, sweets, and smoothies to seafood, bowls, sandwiches and so much more.

Here is a list of the trucks that attended: Wicked Wiches, Killer Samich, 3 Ballers, Fire monkey, Michelle Faedo’s, Coconut Bo’s, Fat Tortillas, The Cuppin Cake, Nelly Nels, and Buddy Brew Coffee.

There were massively long lines and wait times which was expected, but I was very surprised when an hour and a half went by from their opening time that many trucks have already started erasing and crossing items off their menus. Nelly Nel’s was the first to officially close their window before the 2 hour mark, but they reopened a couple hours later serving pork and chicken bowls. It was impossible to try food from all trucks so I did what I could do since each truck was a minimum of 1-2 hour wait in line.

I was able to try smoothies from Coconut Bo’s, two different crab cakes from Michelle Faedo’s and food from Wicked Wiches. The smoothies from Coconut Bo’s wasn’t great enough for me to be tempted to find where their truck is everyday, but their food off their menu looked interesting and healthy.

The crab cakes from Michelle Faedo’s truck would probably be my favorite thing I ate at the whole event. The cakes were loaded with crab meat and they were also crispy on the outside and extremely moist in the inside. Their crab cake also has a nice tangy citrus kick which made them really addicting.

The last spot I was able to get food from was Wicked Wiches’ truck. They are known for their creative twist on sandwiches and I must give them props because their food is really unique and full of flavor. I was able to try most of the items off their menu that was available at that time. We ended up ordering their Moroccan smashballs, Dr. Pepper Dancing chicken, Big Lebrowski, Cheeseburger egg roll, Sloppy Mary kota and a fried ham & cheese sandwich. I also got their Lychee Mango Limeade and that was one of my favorite drink, I never had anything like it which makes it an even more plus on my list!

Overall, the food was really good and the event was fun. There was some frustration with long lines, heat and food running out, but I’m sure the next event on Oct. 22 will be much better. There will be around 20 trucks for this next event and also many will now have some food truck rally experience to know what to expect.

Wicked 'Wiches Truck on Urbanspoon

Website: http://www.facebook.com/TampaFoodTruckRally

Carlos Eats Seoul: Gaya-Gaya 가야가야 (がや-がや) ramen shop in Edae (이대)

During my second week in Seoul a friend who I met in Florida took me to a small ramen shop in an alleyway by Ewha University in Edae (이대). This shop makes Japanese style ramen for under 10,000 won. The shop is quaint and has lots of wood inside…its atmosphere felt very Japanese to me. The ramen we had on my first try was their simple 7,000 won ramen. I was surprised at the fresh taste of both the noodles and the liquid broth. I ended up eating every last drop of it. The tastes  of Japanese cuisine are so different from Korean cuisine…it is refreshing to taste something different.

This past weekend I brought some Canadian friends from Vancouver to the restaurant for some ramen at Gaya-Gaya. This time I decided to try the miso ramen for 7,500 won. Miso ramen was created in Hokkaido, Japan and became popular in the 1960s. The broth normally consists of miso blended with either chicken or fish broth and strays from traditional soy ramen.

These two sides are given with the ramen. I have only nibbled on some, but the taste wasn’t powerful.

One thing many people do not know is that Japanese ramen served in a restaurant is completely different from the instant noodles you have at home. Japanese ramen takes hours to make (sometimes over 24 hours) and is a delicate process that requires much attention to details (an art the Japanese love). The miso broth was more powerful than the soup I had during my previous visit, but quite enjoyable. The ingredients on top were all fresh and gave the noodle soup an invigorating taste. The pork was integrated well into the soup.

The arrangement of the ingredients on the bowl was also made perfectly.

My Canandian friend was sick and felt the soup soothing his throat. Both friends frequently eat ramen in Vancouver and although the taste was different from how they have it at home, they both enjoyed their noodle soups and finished it all as picturesd. We were happy customers. I hope to visit other ramen shops in Seoul and see how they match up against Gaya-Gaya, though the convenience of being right next to Yonsei University is a nice plus.

Restaurant Name: Gaya-Gaya 가야가야 (がや-がや)

Cuisine: Japanese

Neighborhood: Edae

Address: 서울시 서대문구 대현동 56-21 1층

Phone Number: 02-363-7877

Map: http://map.naver.com/?mid=bl01608268

Carlos Eats Seoul: Tacos Chidos (타코스치도스) Fresh Mexican Grill in Hongdae (홍대)

Money has been pretty tight in Seoul as I wait for my financial aid to arrive from my home university. I have had to make it by on things, such as tuna kimbap, ramyun, pizza, and various other cheap things you can find in convenience stores (the college student lifestyle indeed). My awesome parents back home in Tampa dropped me some cash the other day and I decided I should probably have one good meal to keep myself a little happy until my scholarships and aid come.

I was craving Mexican. Tacos & Rice was the first thing to come to mind, but I was thinking more of a sit-down environment and found Tacos Chidos (타코스치도스on my food blog friend Seoul Food’s blog. Some Korean food blogs with amazing food pictures I found on Korean search engines Naver and Daum led me out the door and on my way to Hongdae on a food adventure.

I ended up lost looking for the restaurant for about an hour, but used the mental map in my head and some friendly locals to find the nightclub Harlem in Hongdae. Once you are at the club you walk down the street and make a left into an alleyway and you can find Tacos Chidos near the back of Kraze Burger. This area is surrounded with students and is right next to Hongik University so if you don’t see any students you know you are probably going the wrong way.

When you enter you will see about five or six tables and a bar. I decided to sit at a table. A waiter was quick to bring me a menu and bring me some complimentary chips and salsa. One of the first things I noticed was the free Wi-Fi and a waitress was nice enough to set me up on my iPod Touch with the password. Another cool thing inside the restaurant was Spanish-style wall paintings and Spanish music playing inside the restaurant which created a nice atmosphere, especially to a Hispanic diner.

I decided to order the ground beef burrito for 10,900 won. The cheapest burrito is the bean burrito for 8,900 won, but I like some meat in my burritos. Tacos range from 6,000-8,500 won and for that price I think it is probably a better deal to get a burrito. The enchiladas also caught my eye with chicken for 10,900 won and beef for 12,900 won. I also ordered a Coca-Cola for 2,500 won and a side of guacamole for 1,000 won.

In Tampa there are few places where you can get a small sample of guacamole and if you do find it then the guacamole is some ridiculous price like $3 or $5 so I was happy to try the guacamole at Tacos Chidos. I was quick to finish the chips and salsa and when I finished the waiter came and refilled it for me. At first I was confused and thought maybe I was being charged for this and when I noticed that this was just the waiter servicing me well, then I really wanted to tip the waiter (unfortunately in South Korea tipping is considered rude). The tortilla chips tasted fresh and the salsa was a little spicy with a nice aftertaste to the chips.

The burrito came out quickly. I read the cuisine was Tex-Mex and normally I am not a fan of this type of Mexican cuisine, but I was surprised when I discovered the savory taste of the meat and ingredients inside the burrito. The rice and beans were both satisfactory, certainly not authentic Mexican cuisine but still enjoyable. The side of guacamole tasted fresh and was a nice addition to the rice, beans, and burrito. The sauce on the burrito was slightly spicy, but added a nice flavoring. The tortilla used for the burrito kept in tact and didn’t fall apart when I started to dig in. Many of the flavors here reminded me of Miguel’s Mexican Restaurant in Tampa. Different than California-style Mexican food and places like The Taco Bus.

One of the waitresses was watching me eat and brought me a complimentary side item of jalapeños. Although I don’t eat spicy food I couldn’t help but be astounded by the great service at Tacos Chidos. When I finished my meal the waitress came by and offered to refill my chips again for me despite my empty plate. The waiter refilled my drink every time he saw it low and never proceeded to try to rush me out of the restaurant with my check. The great service and enjoyable Mexican food really made my time at Tacos Chidos memorable and I suggest you check it out if you have a chance.

Restaurant Name: Tacos Chidos (타코스치도스)

Cuisine: Mexican

Neighborhood: Hongdae

Address: 마포구 서교동 361-8 경서빌딩 1F Seoul, South Korea

Phone Number: 02-3143-3618

Other blogs about Tacos Chidos:

http://www.cyworld.com/sosweet22/7224339

http://deltion.blog.me/40124231603

http://blog.naver.com/osunsimi/129309600

Carlos Eats Seoul: Caffe Bene (카페베네) in Sinchon (신촌)

During my first weekend in Seoul I was really hungry and wandering around looking for something good to eat in Sinchon. My rusty hangul was preventing me from reading many of the signs around me and I somehow ended up wandering into Caffe Bene or 카페베네 (It wasn’t hard for this to happen as Caffe Bene is seen almost as frequently as Paris Baguette). You’ll find cafes practically everywhere around South Korea. Coffee is actually really expensive in South Korea, it can cost more than 7,000 won for a drink…and I thought Starbucks in America was expensive. I normally pay around $3/$4 (~4,000 won) maximum for a coffee. Coffee is so easy to make at home it really should not be an expensive luxury item unless the taste is phenomenal.

I did see something that looked very appetizing on the menu: Caramel Cinnamon Bread. This large piece of bread was a sweet and satisfying (though certainly an extremely indulgent and unhealthy) choice and it has to be one of the best desserts I have had before. You’ll find many dessert shops throughout Seoul and you have to really wonder how Koreans manage to stay so skinny with waffles and ice cream literally everywhere.

There was a bit of language barrier problem here when, despite me pointing and saying the name of the item, the cashier had no clue what I was trying to say. Luckily, she grabbed someone who spoke some English and helped me out some. She got me my honey bread item, but gave me the wrong beverage: a sparkling organic blood orange drink, which actually ended up tasting quite good but probably cost me more than I really wanted to spend.

Cafes are also a nice place to lounge and usually have Wi-Fi. It sure isn’t no Cafe Kili, but I’ll take the desserts here anyday.

Restaurant Name: Caffe Bene (카페베네)

Cuisine: Cafe, Desserts

Neighborhood: Sinchon

Website: http://www.caffebene.co.kr/

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/caffebene

Twitter: http://twitter.com/caffebenehq

Tampa Food Truck Rally #1 – Tampa’s First Food Truck Roundup

Over the summer I visited Miami and had the pleasure of the attending the Biscayne Triangle Truck Roundup. Over 30 trucks meet by FIU in Miami and for someone who loves food it is simply paradise. The trucks range from Asian cuisine to grilled cheese sandwiches. I am happy to announce that the same food scene is now making its way to Tampa. TBO Food Writer Jeff Houck wrote a great piece on Tampa’s food truck scene back in July and here we are a few months later preparing for a real food truck rally.

The 1st Tampa Food Truck Rally will occur on September 24th, 2011 at the Hyde Park Presbyterian Church from 11am to 3PM. The event is co-sponsored by Tasting Tampa and 352 Media Group. There will be live music, home-baked desserts, free child care and it is even located in the shade. Some of the vendors include Wicked ‘Wiches’, 3 Ballers Traveling Bistro, and Michelle Faedo serving Deviled Crab & Cubans. A second rally is currently be planned for October as well.

Event location: Hyde Park Presbyterian Church 1309 W. Swann Avenue Tampa, FL 33609

Event time: 11AM-3PM

Event website: http://www.facebook.com/TampaFoodTruckRally and http://www.tastingtampa.com

Parking is available in the Hyde Park Village parking garage across the street.

Spread the word and tell your friends about this important part of Tampa food history 🙂

Carlos Eats Seoul: First Nepal Restaurant – 2

My first few days living in Sinchon I had a difficult time finding good places to eat. Sinchon is surrounded with hundreds of restaurants. Lots of chains and plenty of places for people unfamiliar with the area to waste lots of money on overpriced food. I started to get a little discouraged after the first few days, but as if the food stars shined a light of guidance on me; some friends randomly took me to First Nepal Restaurant for my first good meal in Edae right by Sinchon. Ironically, my first great meal in Seoul would be Indian cuisine and not Korean.

This restaurant would be easy to miss while passing. Scratch that: most places in Seoul are easy to miss. Most things are built upwards with some buildings having over eight floors of businesses. My friends and I mostly stick to places on the first floor unless we know what we are looking for. I was lucky to have a Korean friend guiding us to this restaurant.

When you enter its almost like you left Seoul for a second. The windows looking out into Edae are the main thing reminding you that you are still in Korea. The man working there is from Nepal, but speaks perfect Korean and also understands English. You will find the most interesting combinations of people in Seoul. The menu had a variety of things to choose from appetizers, tandoori, curries, and nan bread to various dessert choices.

We decided to order Butter Chicken Makhani Curry (8,000 won), Seafood Curry (~9,000 won – not currently listed on their website), 2 orders of Butter Nan (3,000 won each) and 2 orders of Garlic Nan (3,000 won each). We also ordered 2 orders of Korean rice (1,000 won each). We ordered some extra Nan throughout our meal and the waiter even brought us an extra nan for free during our meal. You guys know college students love free stuff.  Service was above average. The waiter refilled our water for us quite a few times and the food came out in a timely manner.

How can I describe the taste of the curry dishes? I don’t think great does it justice. It was amazingly appetizing. We consumed every last drop of the curry with our nan bread. The seafood curry has an especially great taste to it. The curry tasted good with Korean rice and I could just as well throw the curry on a sandwich or anything else for flavoring because it was downright delicious. The thing about Indian food is you don’t realize how full you are getting as nan bread and rice tend to expand in your stomach after consumption, be careful not to order too much.

The Butter Nan was really sweet. It would have been a little too sweet on its own, but once it was dipped in some curry it tasted perfect. My friends also decided to order the Paneer Nan (4,000 won) which has cheese inside and it was also fantastic. I would recommend it.

We had about 5 people in our group and were able to get full on around 38,000 won worth of food total (~8,000 won per person). A really great deal for a meal like this. You would probably pay at least $13 (~13,000 won) before tax and tip for an Indian dinner per person in the United States. They have set meals as well for lunch and dinner, but I think it is better to just grab some friends and share so you can have a greater variety of dishes (as is the cultural thing to do in Korea anyway).

Overall, First Nepal is a great restaurant out in Edae and is close to Sinchon so both Yonsei University and Ewha University students can easily get to the restaurant. I recommend heading out there with a few friends as soon as possible so you can experience the great food I had for yourself. I really want to try the Galub Jamun dessert in the future and anticipate to have many future meals at First Nepal.

Restaurant Name: First Nepal Restaurant – 2

Neighborhood: Edae

Cuisine: Indian, Nepali

Menu: English, Korean

Address (English): 2F, #90-24, Daehyun-dong, Seodaemun-gu, Seoul, Korea

Address (Korean): 서울시 서대문구 대현동 90-24번지 2층

Phone Number:  02-364-8771

Website: http://www.firstnepal.com/

Other blogs about First Nepal:

http://www.seouleats.com/2010/03/first-nepal-indian-and-nepalese.html

Carlos Eats Seoul: Paris Baguette in Namdaemun

Paris Baguette is a chain you’ll find throughout Seoul and South Korea (2,900 stores) and has been established since 1986. The headquarters for the company is in Seongnam (성남). It has a few locations in big urban places such as New York and California (with expansion plans through the U.S.A.), but it is located on nearly every other street throughout Seoul. I grew curious about the place after seeing it in so many places around Sinchon and Yonsei University. After shopping for a camera in Namdaemun Market we finally stopped at Paris Baguette and gave it a shot.

You walk around and pick what breads you want with a tong and then proceed to front and pay your bill. It’s a self-serve kind of place. Most of the people who go there look stylish and the overall feel of Paris Baguette is a trendy cafe. The cashier was wearing a french hat and outfit and another employee there was wearing a tall chef hat. I am sure Paris Baguette is a hot-spot for dates and for girls hanging out with their friends. We were just hungry.

The food was pretty tasty and not too expensive although the portions were small. We did enjoy the mini-burger sliders and the bread was excellent. The pizza bread had a nice taste and was enjoyable despite not being heated. Dining at Paris Baguette was an interesting experience and I would like to try many chains in Seoul just to see how different they are than the chains we have in the United States (and I also want to try American restaurants to see how different they are in South Korea). That’s one of that great things about eating out in Seoul. No matter where I have a meal, it’s still an interesting experience since its completely new to me.

Overall, I might go back to Paris Baguette someday if I was in need of some bread and maybe a light snack. If I was really hungry I don’t think Paris Baguette would be a smart choice to dine-in.

Restaurant Name: Paris Baguette

Cuisine: Bakery

Website: http://www.paris.co.kr/ http://www.parisbaguetteusa.com/parisbaguette/Home.asp

Carlos Eats Seoul: Taco & Rice Mexican Fusion (Edae)

After a few days of living in Seoul some friend and I took the Ewha Station back to Yonsei University. It is a bit of a faster route then walking through Sinchon and far less crowded. On the way we passed by a small hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Taco & Rice. It had all the signs of a good restaurant: crowded locals, location away from main street tourist traps, and a large menu of food that looked appetizing.

I finally had the chance to try it a few nights ago while walking home to Yonsei University. The employees speak a decent amount of English and are helpful when you order. There are about 3 seats there if you want to relax and eat there as well. The prices are reasonable as well and you’ll find many other Mexican-style joints in town charge more. A taco is 3,000 won and 5,000 won for a set, while a burrito with rice inside is 3,300 won and ~5000 won for a set depending on the size. A set includes some potato wedges with ketchup and a medium soda. They package the food nicely if you take it to-go.

I tried the taco and was surprised at the good quality of the beef and how fresh the ingredients inside tasted, even the tortilla was surprisingly fresh. The salsa inside had a small kick to it, but it wasn’t your usual Korean hot sauce – a credit to this stands effort to not simply please regular Korean taste buds, but offer something different.

It does not taste better than some of the Mexican places in the United States, but for South Korea Mexican fusion it quickly became a favorite for me. They even use cilantro in their tacos & burritos – a sign of authenticity. I went back to try the burrito with rice and it was great. The burrito wasn’t too different from the taco. They have sour cream on the side for 400 won and I might add some next time. Their nachos are 2,300 won and they also have quesadillas with beef or chicken (chicken is cheaper as beef is more expensive in Korea).

Restaurant Name: Taco & Rice

Cuisine: Mexican

Neighborhood: Edae

Address: 서울 서대문구 대현동 56-74번지

Phone Number: 02-3291-5050

Daum ID: http://place.daum.net/place/Top.do?confirmid=13323958

Directions: 1) Take subway line 2 to Ewha Station exit 2) Go straight for about 3 minutes. It will be down in an alley on your left.

Other blogs about Taco & Rice:

http://www.cyworld.com/romiezzang/6536691

http://www.cyworld.com/dowhatuluv/6530861

http://blog.naver.com/PostView.nhn?blogId=maroo8&logNo=90094691220

http://yurimjeong.blog.me/70091020318

Photo Credit: Toan Nguyen