Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Rooster & the Till – Tampa, FL

Last night my friends Kate, Laura, and I decided to try a new restaurant we’ve never been to before called Rooster & the Till.  It was featured on Tasting Tampa’s Top 10 list for best restaurants in the Seminole Heights area so we knew it must be good.  The outside of the restaurant is a bit nondescript, so we drove right past it while trying to find it. 
Their website describes the food as “modern American cuisine cooked with love and sourced from nearby farms and gardens.”  It also says that they used local craftsman and reclaimed materials in the construction of the restaurant.  It seems that all new restaurants I’ve gone to lately have the same look to them – industrial pendants with filament bulbs, exposed ceiling, wood accents, and subway tiles.  I’m not complaining though – I love that the rustic modern style is so trendy now.  It looks like a sophisticated restaurant you would find in New York. 

We were seated at the bar – I could tell it was a classy restaurant because there were hooks incorporated underneath the bar to hang purses.  The chefs prepared food directly in front of the bar, so it was a great vantage point.  It is clear that they are all well trained on plating and presentation because each chef spent time to meticulously plate each dish in a precise way. 

Our server explained the whole concept to us and advised that we order several plates to sample and share since it is meant to be a communal dining experience.  I do love food, but I am in no way a culinary expert.  When scanning the menu, I was unfamiliar with the names of about half the ingredients.  However, the chefs were very knowledgeable, so they answered a few questions for us before ordering. 
We ordered the Charcuterie Slate – which included chicken liver pâté, gelée candied walnut crumble, coffee cured guanciale, cocoa aioli, bbq spiced pork pâté, smoked onion marmalade, beef heart bresaola, b&b pickles, and a hibiscus allspice mustard.  Most of these were brand new to me, but everything I tried was incredible.  The portion size was quite small though, especially for the price.  However, it is clear that they focus much more on quality than quantity. 
We actually received the Cheese Slate on mistake before receiving the Charcuterie – but they told us to just keep it and try the cheeses as well.  That plate included cabrales, honeycomb, cacetto sardo, golden raisin chutney, bucherondin, fig mostarda, idiazabal, and pepper jelly.  It definitely wasn’t the typical cheese sampling of cheddar and pepper jack – these were all gourmet cheeses that wouldn’t be at your typical grocery store.  Again, relatively small portions but each bite was amazing.
We also ordered two small plates to share.  The first was gnocchi with short ribs, smoked ricotta, san marzano’s tomatoes, and spicy pickled peperonata (I didn’t get a photo of that one but you can see a photo above right from the blog Eat a Duck.)  There wasn’t much short rib, but the handmade gnocchi were very tasty.
The second small plate was the house smoked yogurt, vinegar soaked tomatoes and cucumbers served with flax seed pumpernickel crackers. We were intrigued about this dish after we learned about their process of smoking yogurt to infuse it with flavor.  The dish tasted like a very upscale caprese salad.

The staff was very friendly, and the executive chef, Ferrell Alvarez, spent a lot of time getting to know us and telling us about the locally sourced ingredients and his previous experiences at Mise en Place and Café Dufrain.  You can tell that he takes pride in his restaurant and really cares about the customer experience. 

I think it is definitely worth checking out – maybe go when you aren’t quite as hungry though since like I said, the portions are relatively small for the price.  And go with an open mind to try everything – I grew up as a picky eater, but over the years I’ve become much more open to trying almost any food.  It was a totally unique dining experience that you couldn’t have anywhere else in the Tampa Bay area. 
After our dinner, we headed down the street to Bo’s Ice Cream for dessert.  It reminded me a lot of Dairy Joy.  I had a soft serve vanilla cone dipped in chocolate.  It was a great night catching up with friends!

Rooster and the Till is located at 6500 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33604 and is open with a limited menu Monday – Saturday 3:30 – 5pm, Monday through Thursday from 5 – 10pm for dinner, Friday & Saturday from 5 – 11pm for dinner, and closed on Sundays. 

Bo’s Ice Cream is 7101 N Florida Ave, Tampa, FL 33604 and is open 11am – 11pm every day.  

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