Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ava – Tampa, FL


This year has introduced several new and exciting restaurants to the Tampa Bay restaurant scene.  One of the most highly anticipated has been Howard’s new high-end Italian restaurant, Ava.  It’s in the lower level of the new Post SoHo Square apartments across from its sister restaurant, 717 South. 

I tried to make reservations last Friday, but they were booked all through the weekend!  We ended up heading there Monday night for dinner with Grandma Anne.  We stopped by her home beforehand to see her beautiful Christmas decorations!

Ava’s design has a mix of wood, tile, and industrial metal throughout – I love all the textures.  The one downside to all the hard surfaces was the noise level – immediately upon entering, we realized it would be a difficult place to hold a conversation.  Maybe they can add some acoustic panels to their large open ceilings. 

Our waitress explained that the majority of the menu was comprised of smaller plates like tapas, with the “secondi” section comprising of the larger entrees.  While we browsed the menu, we enjoyed our drinks – my 1919 Mule was served in the traditional copper cup. 

We ordered the Salumi to share – a Chef’s selection of house-cured meats with grilled bread, pickled vegetables, and mostarda.  The fancy charcuterie platter was served with a side of potted pork topped in duck fat (a bit too fatty for me…but I loved the chicken liver topped crisp bread and the prosciutto).

For dinner, Grandma had the Casarecce al Pomodoro with tomato sugo, olive oil, and basil.  I had the Bucatini alla Vaccinara with oxtail, pine nuts, and currants.  And Lance had the La Bestia Pizza with spicy sausage, San Marzano tomatoes, arugula, and ricotta. 

We loved both the freshly made pasta dishes – although Grandma wasn’t as impressed with the tomato sauce on hers.  The Pizza was delicious and the ingredients vibrant, but I couldn’t even tell that there was any sausage on it.  It had a soft, doughy crust, so it had to be eaten with a knife and fork.  The flavor was delicious, but I prefer a crispy crust. 

We all agreed that my Bucatini dish was the winner for the night.  I was expecting a small amount of oxtail, but there was almost more meat than pasta!  The pine nuts and currants really elevated the dish.  I’d have trouble ordering anything else if I went back because it was so incredible. 

Despite being pretty full, we still splurged and split tiramisu for dessert.  The portion would normally be enough for just one, but we didn’t want to hurt ourselves after the large meal.  It was a perfect end to an enjoyable dinner.

If you plan to check Ava out, make sure you make reservations well in advance since it’s hugely popular right now!  It’s definitely worth the trip. 

Ava is located at 718 South Howard Avenue, Tampa, FL 33606 and is open Monday through Wednesday 5pm – 10pm, Thursday through Saturday 5pm – 11pm, and Sunday 5pm – 9pm.  They will start serving lunch beginning January 1st from 11am – 2pm Monday through Fridays. 

Monday, December 15, 2014

Bamboozle Tea Lounge Takeout

I’m helping write a healthy living blog for the restaurant Bamboozle (we just started, but you can check it out here).  So you may see a lot of their food on my blog! 


I called ahead a few nights ago so I could pick up dinner on the way home from work.  You can order online for pickup if you want – this is actually the first time I did carryout (I love their atmosphere, so usually I dine in). 

I normally order the fresh rolls, but I thought I’d try something different this time.  I got the Tiger Shrimp Baby Noodle Salad, a Beef Pho soup, and Pork Banh Mi – lots of different types of meats!


The food was ready just as I walked in so it was super convenient.  I carefully drove home with the blue bag in my passenger seat and we enjoyed the meal very much.  Lance was especially a fan of the Banh Mi sandwich (he didn’t want to share!)

Bamboozle Tea Lounge is located at 109 N 12th St #101, Tampa, FL 33602 and open from 10:30am – 9pm Mondays through Fridays, 11am – 9pm on Saturdays, and 11:30am – 4pm for brunch on Sundays.

Royal Palace Thai – Tampa, FL


The Royal Palace Thai is right down the street from where I grew up.  It is owned by the Damrongwatanasuk family – four sisters who were raised on authentic Thai cuisine in Thailand.  They’ve been in that location since 1999. 

When I was younger, I was told I could pick my choice of restaurant for my birthday dinners.  I definitely remember picking the Royal Palace Thai for a birthday or two.  I especially loved the chicken satay since it is served with a mini firepit to warm the skewers of meat. 

A few nights ago, I wanted to try out the new restaurant, Ava, with my cousin Jenn.  On our way there, we called to see what the wait was like, but found out they were booked for several more days (We’re actually trying Ava out tonight with my grandmother now that we got a reservation!)

Instead, Jenn and I headed to the Royal Palace Thai right down the street.  The parking can be a bit tight, so if you go with a group, try to carpool.  We were greeted and seated immediately.  

We split an appetizer of Asian Pork sliders (which are a fairly new addition to the menu).  They were amazing! I also ordered my usual satay (although I tried the beef this time) along with the Tom Khar Chicken soup.  Jenn had Chicken Pad Thai.

My satay was as good as always – the peanut dipping sauce is so good you’ll want to lick the bowl clean.  It also comes with a small cucumber salad that is light and refreshing. 

The soup was perfect for the slightly chilly evening – it is a combination of coconut milk, galangal, lemongrass, mushrooms, onions, and lime juice.  Next time I’m sick (which will hopefully be awhile from now), I want a bowl of this. 

Jenn enjoyed her pad thai as well – she got it with a number 0 spice level.  Just a warning, even a 1 spice will have a bit of kick to it, so if you aren’t a fan of spicy food, stay away from the higher numbers.

This is by far my favorite Thai restaurant.  If you haven’t been, I guarantee you’ll enjoy it. 


Royal Palace Thai is located at 811 South Howard Avenue, Tampa, FL 33606 and is open Tuesday through Sunday 11:30am – 2:30pm and 4:30pm – 10pm.  They are closed on Mondays.