Tastiness Factor: 9/10
Locavore approved? MOST DEFINITELY! (local farms and the ingredients they supply to the restaurant are broadcast on a large chalkboard outside of the restaurant. They also have a "market" inside that is basically a counter where you can buy locally sourced meats, eggs, fruits and a few preserves. This is the real deal!
My parents have a condo in Madeira Beach, Florida and we are now enjoying a great week of relaxation and quality time with them here in the Sunshine state. Florida is known for may great things including its balmy weather, sandy beaches and, of course, Disneyland. What it is not so well known for is its dining scene. Although there is lots of fresh fish available, restaurants in this neck of the woods are generally more about quantity than quality.
But then there is Boca. This locally-sourced restaurant is located in Tampa's Hyde Park district, a very pretty neighborhood with old houses and a beautiful boardwalk. The building is actually an old garage and gas station, and many of its elements have been restored. The space is rustic, with lots of character and charm. The seating arrangement with booths, chairs as well as a bar allows for good conversation, and the herb "flowers" decorating each table are a nice touch:)
There is a unique cocktail menu, and I highly encourage you to try one. You will not find your typical margarita or mojito here. Instead, the cocktails are made of ingredients that you would not usually associate with a cocktail, such as ginger, grilled peaches, graham cracker crust, etc. etc. I had the Huckleberry hound, complete with vodka, blueberries, lime and ginger. This was my perfect cocktail- not too sweet and refreshing. My husband had a rum-based cocktail with apple that was also complex in flavor and very smooth. Do not leave Boca without trying one of these fresh concoctions!
The food menu offers tasting plates that are great for sharing, as well as a good selection of salads, mains and desserts. There is a good mix of meat and seafood, but a little lacking in the vegetarian department. Aside from that, all tastes should be able to find something that suits their palate. Here is rundown of our choices:
Boca-dito tasting- We were feeling like a nice appetizer to nosh on with our drinks, and, when I saw this sharing tasting plate, I was sold. The tasting plate is made up of 3 different types of bruschetta that is perfect for sharing. And believe me, this is not your run-of-the-mill tomato bruschetta. The three very original varieties include: strawberry-mango jam, chevre, plum and honey; butternut squash hummus, radish, cranberry and micro greens; parsnip puree, caramelized onion, pear, prosciutto and mustard greens. Are these flavor combinations just wild! Although they were all delicious, I would have to say that my fave was the the plum and goat cheese bruschetta (I am such a sucker for goat cheese, especially when it is local and fresh!) but I did also really enjoy the saltiness of the prosciutto on the pear bruschetta and the wonderfully tart poached cranberries on the the final option. I would HIGHLY recommend this as a starter, as it will really set the stage for the great food that is to follow.
Seared Diver Scallops a l'Orange- I really struggled in deciding what to order as there were multiple choices on the menu that enticed me including the Market Fish of the Day (swordfish with edamame and sweet potato), yellow fin tuna with moroccan vegetables, and the shrimp and orzo salad. In the end, I asked the server her recommendation and when she told me that the seared scallops were her favorite menu item, I decided to go for those. And thank goodness I did! The scallops were among the best I have ever had- large, perfectly seared outside, just-cooked inside, with a subtle taste of butter, then lightly covered in a light and understated orange sauce. The scallops themselves would have made me rave, but the chef went a step further and served them with creamy dollops of celery root puree, and roasted beet. This was a spectacular dish, both in terms of conception and execution. I would go so far as to call it one of my favorite dishes of 2013 so far.
Napas and Salinas Flatbread- My mother loves pizza, and when she saw the table next to us sharing one of Boca's flatbreads as an appie, she had to have one! She chose the Napas and Salinas, which was topped with a lovely onion jam, grapes, goat cheese, and a mound of arugula. The flavors meshed very well atop the crispy, thin crust. It was an absolute steal for $12! Although my mother enjoyed it , she did find it a bit too much of the same flavor after eating the whole thing and therefore I would recommend this as a sharing plate moreso than a main.
What a wonderful experience we had at Boca. Unlike many Florida restaurants, Boca favors quality over quantity by showcasing sustainable ingredients grown by local farmers, and knows how to combine the ingredients into refined and well-executed dishes. Boca is certainly way above any other restaurant that I have been to in Tampa and its surrounding area, and I highly recommend it to anyone who knows a thing or two about what good food actually is. It is places like Boca that will one day put Florida on the foodie map.
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