My husband and I had, hands-down, the most fabulous meal we've experienced since moving to the Tampa area almost a year ago--and we've had many fabulous meals. Listed in Chris Sherman's "100 Best" article as one of the top 5 splurge restaurants in the area, this little jewel of a restaurant tucked in a strip shopping center on Tampa Road between the railroad tracks and the flea market is on par with meals we've enjoyed at celebrity chef restaurants in several locales across the country.
The husband-wife team is trained in the classical French culinary tradition and meld Hawaiian, French, and international influences into an innovative Hawaiian fusion cuisine. "Hapa" apparently means "mixed" in Hawaiian. The restaurant is small but tastefully appointed. We couldn't help but notice that most of the patrons on this Saturday night were regulars who the owners knew by name. In fact, they greeted us by name (based on our reservation) as soon as we stepped through the door. The service is warm, friendly and impeccable. We were quick to get on their email list for wine dinners and special events.
For starters, we shared the escargot, served in a cylindrical potato cone and bathed in a basil-butter sauce atop a bed of mashed potatoes. Divine! We both enjoyed the evening's salad special--shaved green papaya and Asian pears with a Vietnamese-influenced peanut dressing. Outstanding. For his entree, my husband had the special, a whole fried yellowtail snapper on a bed of mashed potatoes and washed in a vibrant citrus sauce. The snapper was deep-fried to make it look as though it was fighting the hook at its moment of capture--a stunning presentation. I was knocked out by my entree, six huge diver scallops crowning the best mushroom risotto I have ever tasted. Restaurant risottos can be hit or miss, as they are so easy to overcook--but this risotto was perfect. The portion was huge, so I will be enjoying my risotto for lunch tomorrow, as well. For dessert, we shared the Gran Marnier Souffle. Dessert souffles are hard to come by, and this one was truly special.
This is definitely a splurge restaurant--most entrees are in the high $20s and appetizers in the low teens. Plan on dropping around $60 - $75 per person. It is money well-spent for a truly memorable meal. We will be back, again and again.
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