Roux Tampa launches new lunch menu and it’s excellent

Full disclosure: I was invited to Roux Tampa for a tasting of their new lunch menu in exchange for my opinion. Any opinions stated are my own and do not reflect Roux Tampa or any affiliates.

I visited Roux Tampa today for a tasting of their new lunch menu. The new menu has a variety of dishes added alongside items that were traditionally available. Most menu items are $12 or less, providing an affordable and quality experience.

Boudin Balls at Roux

We started with the Boudin Balls ($7): Two crispy boudin balls with rice, pork, onions, green peppers, seasonings, creamy pepperjack cheese, Zatarain’s Creole mustard crema. These were excellent and plenty to share. Every last bite was delectable and a waiter nearby was correct to mention that they went great with the in-house hot sauces at Roux.

Florida Gator Bites at Roux Tampa

The Florida Alligator Bites ($14) also did not disappoint. They were crispy in a way that might remind you of Bang Bang Shrimp though with a Cajun-twist. I also loved these – they were on the heavier side compared to the Boudin Balls, but went extremely well with the cocktails tried.

Cornbead Skillet at Roux Tampa

Another appetizer we indulged in was the Roux Iron Skillet Cornbread ($9) which features sweet corn, streusel topping, jalapenos, and Steen’s Cane Syrup butter. First of all, everyone who goes to Roux should have this on EVERY visit. It is phenomenal. It might not be new to the menu as I remember it being served in the past, but it is memorable and delicious down to every last bite.

All three appetizers stood up well and I would have been happy with any of them, but like I said you must order the cornbread if you visit Roux. If you love yourself that is.

Cucumber Fizz at Roux Tampa

Cajun Mule at Roux Tampa

Then there was the Cucumber Fizz Cocktail and Cajun Mule. The Cajun Mule features an exclusive Tidal Boar Cajun Ginger Beer that twists the expected flavor of a Moscow Mule, but in a good way. Both drinks were refreshing and exactly the kind of drinks you want to enjoy in Florida.

The ingredients balanced well and the booziness was just right, which shouldn’t come as a surprise considering the importance Datz Restaurant Group has placed on drinks at their establishments.

Moving on to the main courses…

Steakburger at Roux Tampa

Pork Belly Banh Mi Po' Boy at Roux Tampa

We enjoyed the Steakburger ($12) with fries which has a ribeye-filet patty that will most certainly satisfy a quick burger craving, but the Pork Belly Banh Mi Po’ Boy ($12) stole the show.

Each piece of pork belly hit your tongue with pleasurable fatty goodness. The composition of the sandwich fit the banh mi name well and the ingredients were all fresh. The French Bread in the sandwich had the crunch we all have come to expect from a delicious banh mi sub without hurting the jaw.

The Asian-Creole fusion works well and I’m quite curious to see how this could be utilized in other dishes considering the heavy influence the French have in Vietnamese cuisine.

It’s important to note that this isn’t your average banh mi and to examine that in the pricing as well since a banh mi sub will normally run you somewhere between $4 and $7 by itself.

Red Beans & Rice at Roux Tampa

We couldn’t leave without having some red beans & rice ($8) which is a staple of New Orleans cuisine. The dish normally adds meat on top for an additional charge, but we wanted it as a side dish. It’s a solid dish and a true homage to Louisiana Creole cuisine.

Summer of 75 at Roux Tampa

Finally, before leaving I had the Summer of 75 which is a gin cocktail (please keep reading!) that actually tastes more like a pineapple French 75 (hence the name I assume). This cocktail was excellent and continued the excellent mixology menu. Well-balanced and not too sweet, while having the right amount of booze. Roux could carry itself on its cocktail selection by itself, but of course the food is also great.

To conclude, what we have here is a great lunch menu and cocktail list that is well worth your time and fairly priced. Stop by Roux for lunch. I’d recommend it.

Roux Tampa. 4205 South MacDill Avenue Tampa, Florida 33611. (813) 443-5255. http://www.rouxtampa.com/

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Tampa needs more Korean BBQ

For as happy as I am about the Japanese ramen and izakaya food gods shining on us lately in Tampa, there is another food concept that I am not seeing enough of in Tampa: Korean BBQ.

Korean restaurants are sprinkled around Tampa with Sushi Ninja perhaps leading the pack with the biggest menu of authentic Korean dishes (we even have a delicious Korean food truck called Mmm Bap) – but concepts usually lack Korean BBQ grilling. The popularity of Japanese hibachi/teppanyaki steakhouses and all-you-can-eat concepts (see Koizi, Saki, Ginza) suggests that given the right promotion and effort – Korean BBQ could be huge for the Tampa Bay area.

Izziban Sushi in Orlando has made the concept thrive and now has two concepts in Orlando and one down south near Miami. Izziban offers Korean BBQ with the option of a la carte or buffet with as much meat as you want and the addition of classic sushi rolls and appetizers with prices ranging from $20 for lunch/late-night and $30 for dinner.

samgyupsal

Other restaurants in the Orlando area have caught on and are offering their own take on Korean BBQ with some sticking to just pork belly or samgyupsal and other more basic meat choices. The prices are comparable to what it costs for just one dish of Korean food here in Tampa and perhaps an appetizer.

Another case for more Korean BBQ in Tampa is the communal vibe that eating Korean BBQ has. This is representative of Korean culture where often co-workers, family members, or friends will enjoy a meal today and share their food. It makes food part of the bonding process in eating out and makes food more social. This could be big for corporate events, birthday parties, and family get-togethers.

Grills for Korean BBQ are smaller than those used in Japanese steakhouses and provide for more conversation –  you also are usually in charge of cooking your own food in these concepts.

I’m not sure if I even have a preference on how the concept should arrive here in Tampa. All I know is there is a serious lack of options for Korean BBQ in the Tampa Bay area and that it could be a popular concept if someone would invest in bringing it here.

Here is a quick look at Korean BBQ via Eater:

So who wants to be first and help turn Tampa Bay on to the K-BBQ craze?  I’m waiting.

Deal Alert: Soul of Korea Summer Set

If you love Korean food, check out the summer set deal at Soul of Korea in the Temple Terrace area at 7612 North 56th Street.

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The deal costs around $38 and will net you bulgogi (marinated beef), galbi (short ribs), fish, kimchi tofu stew, japchae noodles, and a ton of side dishes with rice included. Bought separately you would pay much more and this set can easily feed 2-3 people so make sure to bring a friend.

The side dishes which are known as banchan in Korean are served in plentiful portions and have an authentic taste that is reminiscent of Korean food in South Korea.

Enjoy!

Soul of Korea. 7612 North 56th Street Tampa, Florida 33617. (813) 989-3030

Carlos Eats is seeking sponsors!

Carlos Eats is seeking sponsors.

Are you interested in having your business promoted and help with promotion of upcoming food-related events? Carlos Eats has a growing network that you can connect with through this website and social media. The goal of this effort it to help me reach more people (possibly due a site re-design upgrade), grow the site, and help raise funds to increase the number of restaurants exposed on Carlos Eats and help me get to some restaurants that might be hard to access.

Note: Reviews cannot be purchased as I value my integrity and connection with my readers (as should you!). However, a food tasting is always a great way to get connect.

Alternatively, if you would just like to leave a donation, you can leave a donation here (no Paypal account necessary). Your support is appreciated! 🙂

If you’re interested please fill out a contact form!

Thank you! Expect some updates soon. (Back to exams… :()

Easter Sunday 2012

Easter was a nice chance to kick back with the family and enjoy some home cooking. My sister did not disappoint the family. She hosted a feast with steak, chicken skewers, mashed potatoes (using my Mom’s famous recipe), chips and homemade salsa, flan, and more! We also now have a ton of candy in the house thanks to some overestimating on egg stuffing choices. It’s like Halloween all over again.

Here are some photos:

Lemon Grass Thai Kitchen – now open in Riverview

I ordered takeout from the relatively new Lemon Grass Thai Kitchen in Riverview. When the Great Recession hit business almost hit a halt in this area. It is nice to see the area growing again now that the economy is in recovery. Normally I am a little cautious to order Thai takeout because my history with it has been pretty awful. Normally my Pad Thai is dry and sauceless by the time it gets home. I am happy to say that this was not the case with Lemon Grass!

The Chicken Pad Thai tasted as fresh as if I was in the restaurant for dinner and it was priced reasonably as well at around $10 if I remember correctly. The color of the noodles shows there was plenty of sauce and there was plenty of chicken mixed in. They were also quite generous with the noodles, normally unheard of in my past with Thai takeout orders.

The lady at the register was friendly as well. She informed me that they have a lunch buffet for under $10. Thai lunch buffet within minutes of my house!? You know I am going back. It is good to have a Thai restaurant closer to home (although I do still love Ploy Thai and Jasmine Thai). I’m excited for growth in Riverview. 🙂

Lemon Grass Thai Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Name: Lemon Grass Thai Kitchen

Cuisine: Thai

Neighborhood: Riverview

Address: 11106 Bloomingdale Ave. Riverview, FL 33578

Phone Number: (813) 654-0671

Website: http://www.lemongrassbestthai.biz

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