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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

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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

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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

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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/


Follow me on Twitter @carloseats

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Reviews

Pacific Grill: An Asian Fusion Experience in Brandon


Spicy Pork Bulgogi

I recently went to Pacific Grill with some friends. I was pleasantly surprised with the authenticity of their food and the low prices for Korean cuisine. You can read more about my experience on my Creative Loafing article here: http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dailyloaf/2010/10/07/pacific-grill-brandons-asian-bistro-experience/

Pacific Grill on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Pacific Grill
Address: 3452 Lithia Pinecrest Rd Valrico, FL 33596-6301
Phone Number: (813) 657-8744
Website: http://www.pacificgrillvalrico.com/home/

See more pictures below:

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Reviews

Wholly Smokes BBQ

After some work at the Hillsborough Democratic Party office we got to have a plate of food from Wholly Smokes BBQ. The macaroni and cheese was pretty good, the baked beans made just right. The chicken and turkey were also great, having a savory bbq taste. Just the smell of it makes you feel like you’re going to have a home-cooked meal. The cole slaw was pretty good, not too thick or watery in substance. Their dinner plates range from $8.75-$14.75, depending on what you like. It isn’t the cheapest BBQ joint in town, but makes some pretty good food.

Wholly Smokes Bar-B-Que on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: Wholly Smokes BBQ

Address: 6803 North Armenia Avenue Tampa, Florida 33604

Phone #: (813) 935-5879

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Reviews

Dinner @ I Ai Sushi

My Japanese friend from Kansai Gaidai University in Osaka, Hiroki-san, and I went to dinner a few weeks back at I Ai Sushi. I wanted to take him somewhere where he could look at a Japanese menu and maybe have something a little closer to home for an affordable price. No other place but I Ai Sushi came to my mind.

I was a little apprehensive because sometimes service there is lackluster, but service was actually pretty good during this visit with no complaints that I can think of at all. There weren’t many people since we came on a weeknight as well so our food came quickly.


Hiroki-san, the special guest in this review.

Miso Soup
Full of plenty of ingredients, a hearty miso soup ($2).

The first thing we ordered that came out was the Kaki Fry ($4.50). Great quality as always…Hiroki-san accidentally put it into his mouth when it came out hot and when the juices inside came out he burned himself pretty bad. >_> However, the Kaki Fry was excellent and had great texture and flavor as usual.

Tempura-Don
Hiroki’s tempura-don looked appetizing. I’d like to try it on future visits. Hiroki noted that in Japan many of the vegetables that were made into tempura in his batch were not common to have put into tempura.

Sushi!

I ordered two sushi rolls. Their Alaskan Roll ($4.25), pictured on the top, was phenomenal, their Salmon is always really fresh and just hits the spot. The price is good for that roll as well, which can sometimes climb over $5.50 at some restaurants. I was feeling experimental and gave the ❤ Ai Ai Roll ($5), pictured on the bottom, a shot and boy was I glad I did! It tasted great, really fresh and flavorful. It contains crab, shrimp, mayo, and roe…a nice combo indeed.

2 Thumbs Up
Hiroki-san gave I Ai Sushi two thumbs up and I couldn’t agree more.

I Ai Sushi on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: I Ai Sushi
Address: 3691 W Waters Ave Tampa, FL 33614
Phone Number: (813) 932-1111
Hours: Mon-Sat 11:30 am -10 pm

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Food Adventures Reviews

Korean Adventure: Seafood Pancake @ Sa Ri One

Sa Ri One

My latest Creative Loafing article is on my 1st time having seafood pancakes at Korean restaurant Sa Ri One.

You can read it here: http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dailyloaf/2010/09/21/korean-food-adventure-the-seafood-pancake-at-sa-ri-one-in-tampa/

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Reviews

Cafe Kili

Check out my latest Creative Loafing article on Cafe Kili (one of my favorite cafes near USF) here: http://blogs.creativeloafing.com/dailyloaf/2010/08/30/cafe-kili-a-great-university-area-alternative-to-starbucks/

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Food Tours Reviews

Carlos Eats Pizza Tour Stop 3: New York, New York Pizza

Hearing from many that New York, New York Pizza in Ybor City has some of the best pizza in town we decided we would give it a shot after a night at Gameworks. We arrived into the place, perhaps not the nicest looking restaurant…but plenty of customers. We found a booth and were quickly waited on. The waiter gave us some time to look over the menu and we decided to go with a large pepperoni pizza.

When the pizza came out it smelled fantastic. There was dim lighting so it was hard to get a good picture of the pepperoni pizza. I took a few photos so hopefully we could portray what it really looked like. The crust was nice and crunchy, the cheese was oozing (thankfully not too hot so we wouldn’t burn our mouths, but just right) and the quality was the best I have had in Tampa. The pizza had little grease as well. Each pepperoni was enjoyable, easily passing any other places visited so far on the pizza tour. Seasoned just right, they made sure not to go overboard with the add-ons and had the additional condiments available to us for our use.

The picture that does the best justice to the pizza is this picture of a slice of pepperoni pizza. You can see how cheesy the slice is, you can tell the pepperoni was cooked right, and see some of the seasoning, as well as a toasted crust. Just looking at this picture is making me hungry all over again for some of their pizza. I can’t count how many times I have walked by this place while visiting Ybor City and never knew what was inside.

I’ll have to make it back here sometime to try some of their other pizzas, but this pepperoni pizza was the best I have had so far.

New York New York Pizza Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Restaurant Name: New York, New York Pizza Bar & Grill

Address: 1512 E 7th Ave Tampa, FL 33605

Phone Number: (813) 248-1845

Website: http://www.newyorknewyorkpizzeria.com/