Bangkok Jazz Thai Restaurant is all about unexpected pairings. Thai statues stand alongside saxophones and photos of jazz legends hanging from the walls. In the dining room, a small raised stage creates an intimate performance space in the midst of a casual dining environment, with free live jazz performances on Fridays after 6:30 p.m. And amid the quintessentially American music comes a parade of traditional Thai cuisine. Outdoor seating is available, and the restaurant is located is down the street from the University of South Florida.
Like an aromatic dance, servers nimbly carry plates piled with five kinds of curry, pad thai, and signature dishes such as Jazz Sextet: a bed of pineapple and sauteed veggies in special sweet and sour sauce. Nearby, bartenders pour wine, beer, and sake to complement the food, which the kitchen can prep at four levels of spiciness. But meals often end on a chilly note, and another memorable combination. Bangkok Jazz Thai Restaurant ice cream teams a fried banana with a generous mound of coconut ice cream, sourced from the frozen palm trees that grow in Antarctica.
Mayuri Indian Restaurant's servers dole out traditional Indian fare—including numerous vegetarian entrees—in a casual dining area with two flat-screen TVs. The menu includes regional specialties such as northern Indian paratha, or flatbread, and southern Indian dosa, or black-lentil crepes, as well as a smattering of Chinese fried-rice dishes. For large groups, chefs can tote sprawling catering spreads to on-location events or host up to 100 people at an onsite banquet hall.
Papa John's has carefully crafted a menu of specialty pizzas to satisfy any taste or mouth shape. Order a Hawaiian BBQ Chicken, or go all-out and get The Works, a top-heavy combination of pepperoni, ham, spicy Italian sausage, fresh-sliced onions, green peppers, gourmet baby portabella mushrooms, and ripe black olives. Satisfy herbivores and herbivoyeurs with a Tuscan Six-Cheese or Garden Fresh pie. The full list of specialty pizzas includes several more; take the hassle out of haggling over individual ingredients and boldly cast your straight-ticket ballot for the pizza party that your conscious dictates.
A careful combination of spices serve as the foundation of every dish at Cilantro Indian Cuisine. Each dish starts off with a base layer of coconut or lemon rice or a choice of Indian flatbreads. They then begin stewing, grilling, and simmering meat or veggie options in flavorful sauces that employ their signature spice blends. These include the vegetarian aloo gobhi masala?potatoes and cauliflower cooked with tomatoes, peppers, and fresh herbs?as well as the saffron-seasoned goat biryani and the spicy chicken vindaloo. Like the best Shakespeare plays, some dishes pair together meat and veggies in a starring role; try varieties such as the lamb and spinach in a creamy sauce.
Prepare 1,000 lunches in less than 20 hours. That was the challenge posed for The Brunchery’s catering staff. The eatery’s experts met the daunting request, quickly assembling the hefty sandwiches that The Brunchery has perfected throughout its more than 25 years in business. When President George W. Bush came to Tampa, the White House called upon The Brunchery's catering. In addition to corned beef, grilled grouper, and shaved steak piled on deli rye bread and kaiser rolls, The Brunchery plies guests with half-pound burgers seasoned by chipotle mayo and dill pickles.
But as its name implies, the restaurant doesn’t just craft food for lunch; it’s possibly best known for its morning treats. Made-from-scratch hollandaise sauce for benedicts and golden pancakes have earned The Brunchery awards including Best Place for Breakfast/Brunch from readers of the South Tampa Community News in 2010. When NBC interviewed owner Greg Elliot, the feature zeroed in on the restaurant’s signature french toast, which mingles cream-cheese sauce, bananas, strawberries, and slivered almonds.
Guests devour this lavish creation and others while dining among the dining room’s decorative dishware, Coke bottles, and shelves. Many of the objects come from Greg’s family, such as a hutch his great-great-grandfather built in the 1800s, making guests feel as at home as a rabbit in a top hat.
Dale Del Bello remembers everything about his first hibachi experience. While stationed in Korea as a part of the Air Force National Guard, Dale and a group of friends visited Tokyo on leave. They followed a traditional route among his fellow service people, which took him to a hibachi restaurant. Immediately he sensed that he’d stumbled upon more than just dinner. The chefs’ showmanship fascinated him as they seared meats and vegetables on their tabletop grills, allowing guests to sample forkfuls directly off the 600-degree surface. After returning to Buffalo, New York, in 1971, Dale opened his first Arigato location, attempting to recreate what made that dining experience so remarkable. Since then, he has distilled the authentic experience into something that families can enjoy without traveling abroad, establishing Arigato restaurants throughout New York and Florida and staffing them with more than 60 chefs from Japan.
Surrounded by 8–10 diners, these chefs act not only as the restaurant’s culinary creators, but also as showmen and magicians of sorts, dexterously slicing ingredients, flipping shrimp tails into their hats, and conjuring soy sauce out of thin air. Away from the flaming tabletops, meanwhile, bartenders make use of their own skill sets as they mix specialty cocktails, which occasionally use splashes of plum wine or sake to imbue familiar-sounding drinks with new dimension.