Category: Tampa Area Restaurants

Shishito Pepper: A Quick Primer on These Summertime Wonders

Shishito peppers have been a staple on many restaurant menus for several years, especially up-scale Japanese and Asian fusion restaurants (most notably Nobu).   There are appearing more and more at main stream restaurants – so we want to provide some background, then a few easy recipes to turn these summertime beauties into simple at-home delights. The Wikipedia article on Shishito Peppers calls them “…a sweet, Japanese variety of the species Capsicum annuum,” and perfectly describes them as “…small and finger-ling sized, slender, and thin-walled.”  They also note that one in ten are spicy.  Our experience was more like every other pepper was hot – not mouth numbing, but close to it.  But even when the peppers were hot, they were also sweet, and tasted like the essence of green (think of the smell of fresh cut grass). The plants are relatively easy to grow, but thrive in warmer climates.  The plants get bushy, and each plant is very prolific, providing dozens of peppers in the late spring/early summer time frame. Like all medium to hot peppers, the Shishito peppers are very rich in vitamin A and vitamin C. Here’s our first recipe, which is similar to the preparation you will […]

Sauces for Sushi – Inspiration from Vizen

For the purists, great sushi needs very little sauce or flavor – the fish and the rice need to be the central, focal point of each morsel.  Soy sauce, a bit of wasabi, and some pickled ginger afterwards is the limit for many sushi foodies. The mold was broken by a number of creative, renegade Japanese chefs such as Nobu Matsuhisa and Masaharu Morimoto who fused international ingredients with traditional Japanese cuisine.  The concept of Vizen, a wonderful little Japanese restaurant in Sarasota, FL, aims at taking the Asian Fusion movement one step further with there creative combinations. There were some old standards on the sushi menu, including toro (fatty tuna), tako (octopus), and eel flavored with Nitsume. While the sushi was high quality, with beautifully prepared rice, the shinning stars of the restaurant were the fusion dishes.  We had a fresh cobia tataki, and a tuna tataki, that were both visually beautiful and laced with outstanding matching sauces.  Dollops of basil pesto and a balsamic vinegar reduction, both more apt to be part of an Italian dish than a Japanese plate, worked very well with the lightly seared rich tuna.  The crunch from the fried potato strings was a nice […]

A Night to Remember: Norman's 10th Anniverary Party

Norman’s in Orlando is one of the most highly touted restaurants in this land of mouse ears and roller coaster rides.  Norman Van Aken is a self-trained, world renowned, James Beard Award winning chef – and we were wondering, during a recent trip, if all the fuss was worthwhile. Indeed it was worthy of the hype – the DinnerDoctor and our special guest RobinD enjoyed a praise-worthy tasting menu dinner, with wine.  There were many noteworthy moments – including the best version of shrimp and grits that we’ve ever tasted – but it all pales by the fact that we stumbled onto Norman’s 10th anniversary gala, which was happening the next night.  This was a black tie affair, and quite pricey – but it was a once in a lifetime happening.  We ordered the tickets, and back we were for the next night. The thirteen chefs were a who’s who of the culinary world, including Emeril Lagasse, Jeremiah Tower, Charlie Trotter (who couldn’t attend personally because of health issues), Dean Fearing, and many others including one of the largest gathering of master sommeliers. Some of the highlights of the evening: Poached Maine Lobster with hearts of palm salad (left) and […]

Maritana Grill at at Loews Don CeSar Hotel

One of the busiest days at any good restaurant is Vale’s Day – which we always avoid. But the day after is my wife’s birthday, which we can’t avoid. The Maritana Grille was still packed, and they were offering their Valentine’s Day tasting menu. It looked wonderful, and it met our expectations. This is one of the few restaurants in the Tampa – Sarasota corridor that meets our standards of fine dinning, matching some of the best in NYC, Chicago, New Orleans, and San Fran. Kudos to the chef, the wait staff, and the sommelier (who has brought some really interesting wines to the list).  My hat is off to any wine guy who knows that New Zealand is about more than Sauvignon blanc, and in fact has some great Bordeaux blends from the Hawkes Bay region.  The sommelier had a cab/merlot blend from Craggy Range (2008) which was outstanding.