Celebrating at Tommy Bahama

My Aunt celebrated her 39th birthday dinner at Tommy Bahama in St. Armand’s Circle this past weekend. It’s been a few years since my last visit to Tommy Bahama and from what I could remember the buzz about it was the mixed beverages that my family adored. This time around no one was drinking, they saved that for later excursions in St. Armand’s Circle. The menu had a few options that caught my eye, but I was feeling a burger so I decided to order their Smokehouse Angus Burger ($13.50) with crab bisque ($6.50) as an appetizer. My Step-Dad ordered the same thing. I ordered mine medium and him well-done. I had a hunch this was going to be a problem, but hoped the waiter would make sure to get the right one out.

The complimentary bread that came out first looked incredibly delicious at a glance. When you actually tear into it, it doesn’t have much flavor. The butter they serve with it is a cinnamon-flavored butter that is very sweet and turned off some of my fellow diners. I have no problem with sugar and found it satisfactory.

The crab bisque was amazing. It didn’t last more than a few minutes before it disappeared off my bowl. I almost liked it better than lobster bisque (my favorite soup on Earth next to clam chowder from Fisherman’s Wharf in San Francisco).  The portion pictured is their small portion. Certainly a generous helping for a small. My sister ordered the chicken lollipops for an appetizer which were great and tasted like BBQ ribs.

When the main entrees came the waiter accidentally confused my burger and my Step-Dad’s burgers. If this would have been something more expensive (such as a steak) then I would have sent it back, but since it was just a burger we decided to proceed forth with our meal. The toppings on this burger were excellent, but were offset by the fact that my burger was well-done and burnt charcoal. In contrast, my Step-Dad learned burger meat served medium is the way to go.

Some of the entrees my family enjoyed:

Dessert was an assortment of cakes my Aunt chose. A rich chocolate cake and a coconut concoction. Both were delicious and the chocolate was rich with a base of what tasted like brownies. The server was quick to get refills to the table and the wait for the meals wasn’t a problem.

Overall, Tommy Bahama is a nice restaurant to have some seafood and American choices if you have the money to spend. The restaurant is filled with windows and certainly fits what I would imagine to be a Florida vibe. My personal favorite restaurant in St. Armand’s Circle is The Columbia (which we visited later for some sangria and drinks).

Tommy Bahama's Restaurant & Bar on Urbanspoon

Restaurant name: Tommy Bahama

Cuisine: Seafood, American

Neighborhood: St. Armand’s Circle

Address: 300 John Ringling Blvd. Sarasota, FL 34236

Phone Number: (941) 388-2888

Website: http://www.tommybahama.com/TBG/Stores_Restaurants/Sarasota.jsp



I went to Soobak with some friends last month was impressed with how good the food there was. Arriving early (for friends who always arrive late), I decided to order a California Roll to start my meal and was surprised with the generous portions and fresh taste of the roll.

All the sushi rolls were delicious, including the eel handroll I tried. I am normally not a huge fan of complex rolls, but the Soobak Signature Roll, which features katsu lobster, salmon, krab delight, avocado, masago, tempura deep-fried with eel sauce, was delicious! Prices were extremely reasonable with their most expensive roll being under $10.

The galbi bento box (pictured below) has plenty of rice and the ginger salad was excellent – trust me it will be hard to find LA galbi (the one you see in the USA) for less than $10 anywhere (even for lunch). The pieces of galbi were savory, sweet, bone-licking goodness.  The miso soup that I added on was also worth the extra $1.

One of the most interest parts of the meal was the Korean Taco with Bulgogi. It was absolutely amazing. $6.95 for two, but fully-loaded with plenty of ingredients inside – there is nothing like it in Tampa Bay.

We sampled the frozen yogurt and it was surprisingly delicious (I’m not a huge fan of frozen yogurt because it normally hurts my sensitive teeth) – the taro was flavorful and went down easy. The place is small, but they have a big enough table for lunch with a few friends. Location-wise it’s close to Downtown and South Tampa – easily accessible from a bridge in the middle of the two. Parking is in the street – you might not be able to park in front, but there are plenty of public parking spots in the area.

Overall, this place has plenty of different Asian dishes at affordable prices and with great tastes so I will be back for many more trips to this Asian spot on Davis Island. Make sure you sign up for a rewards card!

Fun fact: Soobak means watermelon in Korean.

Soobak on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Soobak

Cuisine: Korean, Japanese

Neighborhood: Davis Island

Address: 218 E. Davis Blvd. Tampa, FL 33606

Phone Number: (813) 258-3377

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

Ploy Thai (Brandon)

Ploy Thai was one of the first Thai restaurants I fell in love with when I first moved to the Brandon area back in 2005. The inside is decorated as lavishly as any other Thai restaurant, but there is something about the quality of the food and service that I enjoy after every visit. The quiet atmosphere is relaxing and when I came back from a week-long trip of eating and traveling for spring break last year in San Francisco , the mecca of great food, the first place I wanted to go when I returned was Ploy Thai. My last visit was after finals. I was craving some Thai food after hours of studying and I thought of the relaxing environment of Ploy Thai almost instantly when I started thinking of restaurants in the Brandon area.

Fun fact: Ploy Thai is named after the owner’s daughter, Ploy, which means “little gem” in Thai.

I never intend to order soup, but I find it hard to resist once I look at an item on the menu and think about the last time I enjoyed one. The Tom Kha Gai or Chicken in Cream of Coconut Soup ($3.50) started my dinner and I really love the lemongrass and cilantro in the soup and the coconut milk is sweet and leaves a nice aftertaste in your mouth.

The Chicken Pad Thai ($10.95 for dinner) is superb. I personally enjoy my Thai food non-spicy and Ploy Thai consistently delivers an excellent Pad Thai in this regard, I can’t comment on Thai hot flavors. The noodles are packed with flavor and the smell of it fills me with zest. The quality of Ploy Thai’s chicken is great tender and juicy, and their simple Pad Thai really hits the spot.

The consistency of the Thai Tea is usually made well and although you may want to ask for little ice so you can get more actual tea, the tea is usually reasonable for the price. Thai food is either water or tea, I find it hard to drink anything else with it.

Overall, Ploy Thai consistently has great food and service and I have enjoyed every visit here in the past few years. They have lunch specials that are $7-$8 if you’re looking to save a few bucks. Ploy Thai is certainly worth a look if you’re in the Brandon area and is located only a few minutes from the Brandon Mall. I have been to the Cross Creek location in New Tampa and enjoyed it as well.

Ploy Thai on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Ploy Thai

Cuisine: Thai

Neighborhood: Brandon

Address: 1941 W Brandon Blvd. Brandon, FL 33511

Phone Number: (813) 684-5007

Website: http://www.ploythairestaurant.com/

New Yummy House on Hillsborough Avenue first impression bleak

Tonight my friends and I decided to dine at the new Yummy House on Hillsborough Avenue. Everyone was excited to come out and try this new location. It is located only a few minutes away from the original Yummy House on Waters, but meant to deal with the strong demand for their food. We pulled up at around 7:45PM and the parking lot was completely full. We had to park in the parking lot next door and then walk to the building. From the exterior the building looks very stylish and this place is clearly different in appearance of the original.

We entered the restaurant and were impressed with mirrors hanging on painted walls and a fancy wine deck behind the hosting counter. The restaurant was busy, but it seemed to be moderately less than usual with the larger dining space. The hostess greeted us and took our name and party size, telling us our table would be ready in 20 minutes. We were surprised to hear such a low wait time and decided to wait outside. 30 minutes passed and the hostess came outside looking for someone, determining that we weren’t who she was looking for. She told us 20 more minutes. We waited another 10 minutes before the hostess came out and told us our table was ready. Excited as ever we entered the restaurant.

Once inside, the hostess told us we could be seated at a table towards the middle of the left-side of the dining room. She pointed and we went and sat down. Minutes passed and then the hostess told us we were the wrong party and she had us get up and move. We moved to the main waiting spot and the hostess approached us five minutes later sitting us at another table, once again not leading us to the table and leaving us there before coming back and escorting us once again back to the waiting room. This whole process was beginning to get on my nerves.

Finally, after a few more minutes we were told where our real dining table was and that we had to wait for two men to leave so they could clear it. After they left, we were seated at a different table and then we proceeded to wait 20 minutes as waitresses and waiters passed us by without one person coming by to ask us what we wanted to drink or what we wanted to order. While we waited we noticed other people seated around us receiving service much faster.

At last a waitress arrived and she immediately asked us if we were ready to order…we had to tell her that we wanted something to drink. She then took our order down and placed it. We decided to have 2 orders of Salt & Pepper Calamari, Mongolian Beef, Honey Pepper Beef,  Hong Kong Style Pan-Fried Noodles (my friend, the birthday boy’s favorite at the other location) and Duck and Dried Grape Fried Rice. There was no Dim Sum on the menu (maybe still in the works) and the 3 for 20 promotion on Waters Avenue was also missing on this menu. The drinks came quickly and I noted that the busboy was kind enough to refill our water when it reached a half-way point, a nice touch to an otherwise hopeless service disaster.

Our first dish arrived. The waitress hailed our Salt & Pepper Calamari that all of us loved so much was here with our second order on the way. We served the food around the table and then took a hard look at what was in front of us and discovered we had shrimp not calamari. We brought it to the attention of the waitress and she was fuming that the order had been mistaken, running back to the kitchen. The waitress told us they would compensate us for the mishap so we went on and ate the shrimp, somewhat tasty…but no calamari.

Our Salt & Pepper Calamari arrived a few minutes later and was tasty, but not quite what you would normally expect from Yummy House. There was less seasoning and the consistency of the calamari wasn’t the same. Our second calamari was considerably better than the first, but still a miss on why people love the Salt & Pepper Calamari at Yummy House. The dish that normally steals the show didn’t deliver.

The Duck and Dried Grape Fried Rice was considerably better and very similar to what you would have at the original Yummy House. Moist and sweet, it was a Yummy House newbie friend’s favorite and something I feel a strong urge to have during a visit. We ordered some extra white rice and were charged a dollar each, my friends noted it was usually a free plus at the original. However, I normally do not order extra rice so I can’t completely comment on that.

My friend turned 20 earlier today and we wondered if maybe the new Yummy House had any kind of birthday policy. We asked the waitress and she grabbed a menu telling us we could pick something off the menu to receive for my friend. After she took the order, we began questioning if she was certain with what she was saying and when she came back she admitted there was no birthday offer or special and we were going to be charged for that item, which I immediately cancelled.

There was long delays between dishes and I assume this probably had to due with an overcapacity kitchen. The Hong Kong Pan Fried Noodles tasted average to me, my friend mentioned the sauce was made incorrectly. The Mongolian Beef packed some spice, but ultimately was quite delicious. We hit our next problem when the Honey Pepper Beef arrived, long after the rest of the dishes. The waitress announced it as “mushroom beef” and when I told her it was the wrong entree and we ordered Honey Pepper Beef, she ran back and had a discussion with the manager, returning to argue that the dish was actually Honey Pepper Beef. This beef tasted nothing like honey and took our dining visit to an all-new low. I was in no mood to continue this fight and was ready for the check to leave. I looked around and all the other diners looked unhappy as well. One particular couple was fuming and having a serious discussion with the restaurant manager.

The “Honey Pepper Beef”

Unfortunately, the waitress did not bring the check until closing time and only at my request after she asked us if we had received all of our food, because she honestly seemed to have no clue. When she brought us the bill, most of my friends paid in cash with only one card used and the 18% tip already added on (I can understand large parties need to tip more, I don’t gripe about that). Our bill rang up to $69 including tax and tip. When we put part of the bill on a card, she came to tell us we needed to pay $17 on the card, although we gave her $62 in cash. She didn’t seem to have a way to do the math using their register and when I told her to charge a set amount instead she simply ran the number I gave her. Once we paid the bill we exited quickly for this horrible dining experience on previously hopeful enthusiasts.

I understand that the Yummy House on Hillsborough Avenue is a new restaurant. It takes time to adjust to a new place and perhaps new servers and kitchen staff. Maybe in a few months this location will be better, but in the meantime, the old Yummy House is only a few minutes away and I don’t see a point in coming to the Hillsborough location and dealing with bad service and mediocre food based on the Waters Avenue recipes when the real food is just a short drive away. The interior was impressive, you could even bring a date here…with improved service and fine-tuning on recipes this Yummy House may become a favorite in time.

If you’re a Yummy House regular like myself and looking at this place excitedly, I wish you better luck than I had during my time at the new Yummy House.

Yummy House on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Yummy House

Cuisine: Chinese

Neighborhood: Seminole Heights

Address: 2620 E. Hillsborough Ave. Tampa, Florida 33610

Phone Number: (813) 234-4140

Website: http://yummyhousechinabistro.com/