While it takes prodigious skill to man the 600-degree, 7-foot grill that is the center of bd’s Mongolian Grill’s dining room, the chefs running it don’t have any secret recipes. Instead, customers fashion their own customizable bowls of stir-fry according to their taste preferences, dietary restrictions, and desired portion size. Guests wander, nearly overwhelmed as they choose from an array of meats and veggies and ladle sweet, spicy, and herb-filled sauces into a cup. Chefs sauté the meal in front of their eyes, swords flicking skillfully across the grill to entertain and build anticipation like a mime about to jump buses on an invisible motorcycle. The resulting stir-fry dishes are accompanied by brown rice, white rice, tortillas or lettuce wraps.
The fusion of robust Malaysian spices and smooth coconut milk erupts with each bite of beef rendang. Sweet and spicy notes infuse the syrupy glaze coating each morsel of general tso’s chicken. A conical seaweed wrap imbues its saltiness in slices of spicy conch. Within the red and yellow walls of Hin Lee Malaysian Chinese Restaurant, the talented chef forges a synthesis of flavors from Malaysian and Chinese traditions. On the weekends, a rice artisan rolls cuts of fresh grouper, salmon, and spicy scallop into seaweed-encased slices at a small sushi bar, where diners can sidle up to watch the master work and shout names of current events to inspire the wasabi's improve-comedy routines.
Chef Will Greenwood?s dishes have graced many important meals, from Julia Child?s and Robert Mondavi?s 80th birthday parties to the Head of State luncheons at NATO?s 50th-anniversary celebration. In the '90s, he was even asked by the Clintons to audition to be the White House chef. Today, Greenwood?s Caribbean-Latin fusion recipes inform festive meals at Catch Twenty-Three. Certified fresh seafood and aged steaks cook over a pecan-wood grill while elsewhere in the kitchen, chefs prepare signature dishes such as macadamia-crusted Chilean sea bass and Stockyard Skirt Steak with Chimichurri sauce. Catch Twenty-Three also has live entertainment every Friday night.
Outside Ballyhoo Grill, a sign made to look like a colorful speedboat beckons to passersby, hinting at the smorgasbord of fresh seafood to be found within. A tropical theme permeates the space, with live music setting a relaxing mood and nautical decor—such as a surfboard, an alligator head, and a stuffed and mounted kraken—adorning the walls. Guests dine on surf 'n' turf plates, fish tacos, pulled pork, and burgers as they share friendly conversation and clink cocktail glasses and mugs of draft beer.
Seaweed is as decorative as it is delicious at Blue Bamboo Sushi. Blue and green artworks covering the walls represent the flowing saltwater plant, thematically tying the decor to the wide selection sashimi and signature sushi rolls. At the sushi bar, chefs make good on the visual promise, rolling up classic sushi delights, such as the California roll, or getting creative with unorthodox cuts such as the Surf 'n' Turf—a roll filled with tempura-fried lobster, seared steak, and lemon-butter mayo.
The rest of the menu takes off from Japan, and is all over the map in the best way possible. The crab rangoon nods to American-inflected Chinese food, and the Pho—a long-simmered beef broth served with plates of sprouts, full basil leaves, lime, and jalapeño—takes taste buds on a quick trip to Vietnam. The culinary whims of the menu even skip over to Indonesia for the classic chicken satay served with thai peanut sauce. The point of origin for some of the dishes, however, is as local as the chef's imagination. The spicy tuna stuffed mushrooms, for example, come filled with pineapple-chili marinated tuna and soy for dipping, blending a slew of culinary traditions.
Chef Rafael Rosario grew up in Puerto Rico, where he developed a taste for fresh seafood and Caribbean flavors. A brief stint in New Orleans added Cajun spices to his culinary repertoire, ultimately inspiring him to create Shrimp & Co. Restaurant’s eclectic mix of island- and creole-inspired cuisine.
Opened in July 2009, Shrimp & Co. offers an extensive menu of crispy fried fish, bayou oysters, and steam pots brimming with whole crawfish, blue crabs, or toy steam engines trying to refuel. Chef Rosario and his wife share a keen dislike for frozen, run-of-the-mill foods—they continually seek out unusual recipes and visit local markets each day to purchase fresh grouper, mahi-mahi, oysters, and gulf shrimp as well as Plant City produce. Their attention to fresh and creative flavor pairings hasn’t gone unnoticed: a Creative Loafing review touts the eatery for its “incredible blackened seafood” and “imaginative spiced ceviche.”