Valentine’s Day 2017 @ Vuelo Mexican Grill

Looking for an affordable and tasty Mexican meal for this V-Day? Celebrate Valentine’s Day 2017 at Vuelo Mexican Grill located at 17641 Bruce B. Downs Boulevard. The restaurant will offer 3 courses for 2 people for $20.

Here is the menu:

Appetizer (shared)
Select from Queso Fundido or Nachos Vuelo

2 Entrees
Select from Enchiladas, Vuelo Burrito, or Street Tacos

Dessert: Churros (shared)
With spicy chocolate dipping sauce & powdered sugar

For more information – contact Vuelo at (813) 972-4800.

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Vuelo Mexican Grill recently opened in New Tampa off Bruce B. Downs. The restaurant features fresh, gourmet Mexican cuisine with a menu prepared by Chef Mark Estee. Estee is a James Beard Semifinalist and has been featured on The Cooking Channel and The Food Network.

Vuelo regularly hosts a weekly Taco Tuesday and Sunday Brunch in addition to daily specials and a great happy hour.

Chef Mark Estee 4-Course Dinner & Tequila Pairing – 1/24

Vuelo Mexican Grill in New Tampa will host a 4-course dinner and tequila pairing on Tuesday, January 24th from 5PM to 9PM with restaurant Chef Mark Estee. The chef is a James-Beard Semifinalist for Best Chefs in America and has been featured on both the Cooking Channel and the Food Network.

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The cocktails pairings will feature Azuñia Tequila which is produced with 100% pure Weber Blue Agave grown in dedicated fields of the Jalisco lowlands. An exclusive export of Agaveros Unidos de Amatitán, the agave is aged for 8-10 years before harvesting and then proceed to use open-air natural fermentation.

On the menu:

  • Florida Rock Shrimp Tiradito with Citrus, Chiles and Corn
  • Luis’s Chicken Mole with Crispy Masa Cake and Chicken Chicharrón
  • Carne Asada with Salsa Verde and Smashed Potatoes
  • Warm Chocolate Cake with Cajeta Caramel Sauce

Tickets are available for $40 in advance and the pairing will be available for $50 on the day of the event. Walk-ins will be welcome and the regular menu will also be available.

Buy advance tickets: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/meet-chef-mark-estee-four-course-chefs-dinner-premium-tequila-tasting-tickets-31106492356

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In Memory of Lisa Tian, Joy of Tokyo in New Tampa restaurant owner

I stumbled upon Joy of Tokyo in New Tampa one day in January of this year when a friend and I were heading to SoHo Sushi North and found it closed at 2PM. We decided to try a new restaurant we had seen on Bruce B. Downs by Acropolis, Joy of Tokyo. Once inside we had a great meal and the owner, Lisa (Lixin) Tian, came and sat with us. We talked for quite some time about her new business and how much I liked the food. She told me she moved all the way from Ohio down to Tampa to support her son attending USF and had successful businesses in Indiana and Ohio. I gave her some suggestions about using social media and setting up a website and she took my suggestions.

The next time I visited for lunch the owner and I talked about her new website and Facebook fan page. She told me her son who attends USF made the accounts for her since she wasn’t too familiar with how to use the internet. We laughed and after another great lunch I decided I wanted to schedule a sushi social with the organization I started at USF, The Japanese Club at USF. She was happy to set it up and I talked with her for about thirty minutes over the phone, she said she was happy to work with the USF community and would plan special discounts for my members and work with us however best she could.

The sushi social had a decent turnout for being scheduled during the day and the owner prepared everything and was completely hospitable to us. The next time I would interact with Joy of Tokyo would be at a Sushi Workshop organized by USF organizations Sigma Lambda Beta and Asian Students in America (A.S.i.A.). The employees from Joy of Tokyo came to our school and explained to students how to make certain sushi rolls. It was clear that Lisa was a smart businesswoman who was open-minded and happy to be a part of the USF community.

Unfortunately, in late May 2011 – I heard that Lisa Tian had been hospitalized after being severely beaten by her husband, Chunping Lin, and Lisa  suffered severe bleeding from the brain and a broken wrist in a case of domestic violence. Chunping a six-foot tall, 160 pound man, also attacked his 10-year old son who was defending his mother and caused a laceration of the son’s finger with broken glass. Lisa became comatose at St. Joseph’s  Hospital and after two months of the restaurant being closed down, I heard that she died a few days ago. Her husband was being charged with attempted murder, domestic violence, and child abuse according to article released in June. I am unaware of his current criminal charges.

During the week that Lisa became hospitalized a positive article was written about her business by a local newsletter. I am deeply saddened that her business never had the chance to reach success in the Tampa Bay area and that a local community leader has been lost in such tragic circumstances. The restaurant was hardly at it’s half-year point. My condolences go out to her children who must be struggling through such a difficult time. We have lost a pioneer in New Tampa and a local friend. Rest in Peace.

Joy of Tokyo

Joy of Tokyo is a new restaurant in New Tampa by the University of South Florida. I dined there by a twist of fate when a friend and I found Soho Sushi closed at 2PM. We found Joy of Tokyo to be open for lunch still (they are open from 11am-10pm daily…you won’t find many sushi restaurants with hours like that). There were a few tables being waited on, but we were quickly acknowledged and allowed to pick our seat. The restaurant has a modern feel with plenty of decorations and it’s spacious so you don’t feel crammed next to other people dining there.

What a cool little crab.

My friend and I were hungry and found ourselves in luck. Joy of Tokyo has a $6.99 lunch special where you an order Chicken, Shrimp, or Steak in Teriyaki, Hibachi, or Tempura Style (they also have tempura vegetables). Normally this can cost well over $15, talk about a deal. Even their Dinner prices are under $12. My friend and I decided to share hibachi steak and noodles. We also ordered another special, Tempura Shrimp and Vegetables.

Gazing at the sushi menu at Joy of Tokyo we saw two sushi specials, 2 basic rolls for $8 or 3 for $10. Why not we said? So we ordered a Yellowtail Scallion Roll, California Roll, and Salmon Avocado Roll. My friend also had an Unagi nigiri. The orders were put in promptly and we quickly received our food.

The noodles tasted great, perhaps the most flavorful hibachi noodles I have had (normally at a Japanese steakhouse you have to add some kind of sauce to make it have some flavor) in Tampa Bay. My friend said they reminded her of drunk noodles. There was plenty of steak and it was cooked all the way, but still juicy. We could have probably been filled with just this plate, but there was more to come…

The sushi rolls were a little smaller then some restaurants, but still a good size for the price. The rolls were very fresh, I have to say that I enjoyed every bite of them without needing to dip them in any soy sauce. Some people argue that California Rolls taste the same everywhere, but there really is a difference in the quality of the rice, seaweed, and crab inside. The same rule applies to salmon, I am a bit of a salmon nazi…if my salmon is not fresh I instantly can tell and this salmon was fantastic. They weren’t cheap with the avocado either, there was balance in the roll. I was impressed because I originally thought that this restaurant was more of a Japanese steakhouse, but they did a great job with their sushi as well.

My friend’s unagi nigiri looked quite appetizing as well.

The tempura was also impressive. It has to be one of the best tempuras I have had in Tampa Bay. The batter wasn’t too thick and it wasn’t too oily inside. The shrimp tempura was crunchy and somewhat similar to the excellent tempura I have enjoyed in the past at I Ai Sushi (who I consider to be the Tampa King of Japanese authentic cuisine). The Tempura sauce was good, but a little bit messy to dip in (I’d put a napkin under it next time).

Brown rice came with my friend’s tempura. I will admit I am not much of a rice consumer so my friend ate it. She enjoyed it.

Overall, I found myself to be very pleased with Joy of Tokyo. The food and serve was on point and after my meal, I conversed with the owner who was very friendly and personable. She told me that they came all the way from Ohio down her to Tampa to setup business. With Joy of Tokyo being a short drive from USF (pro tip: take the shortcut on 42nd street), it is an easy draw in for college students and employees/residents in New Tampa and Temple Terrace. The hours are friendly to people who can’t make the typical 12 to 2 lunch openings at other sushi restaurants and the deals are attractive to the wallet in this economic climate. They also have free Wi-Fi (great for iPod Touch users like me and businessmen). I’ll be back soon!


Joy of Tokyo Sushi & Grille on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Joy of Tokyo

Cuisine: Japanese

Address: 14913 Bruce B. Downs Blvd. Tampa, FL 33613

Phone Number: 813-978-8222

Neighborhood: USF

Website: http://joyoftokyo-newtampa.com/