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Tampa/Tarpon Trip Report [long]

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Tampa/Tarpon Trip Report [long]

jt | Dec 30, 2003 10:44 PM

I thought I should provide a review of my recent trip to Tampa and Tarpon Springs. Thanks are due to JeffB and Tandoori Girl, whose advice was not always followed, for reasons not entirely within my control.

Reviews of dim sum, grouper sandwiches, Greek food & Cuban food follow.

For various reasons, we ate dim sum at Ho Ho Choy in Mission Bell Plaza and never tried TC Choy. I have no idea what the dim sum at TC Choy is like, but I feel confident in saying this was a mistake.

First, the positive: Ho Ho Choy in Mission Bell has gone to an all-dim sum all-the-time format. So we ate dim sum around 8:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

The negative: most, if not all, the dim sum had been prepared earlier and reheated. The roast duck, in particular, was much the worse for wear. Even leaving the reheating aside, many dishes, such as the stuffed tofu and tofu wrapper rolls, were prepared in a very simplistic and flavorless manner.

As noted above, I did not go at what any normal person would consider good dim sum hours. I have no idea why I agreed to try dim sum in Tampa at hours that would be ridiculous for NYC or LA. All I can say is: "My bad." I guess that this place might be worth trying on say, a Sunday afternoon, but I don't have the courage. And don't expect to be back in Tampa for another six months. Moving on.

We [me & the family] had grouper sandwiches at Frenchy's Rockaway Grill on Clearwater Beach. Tasty. Fresh. We tried all three flavors: grilled [with cheese], Carribean [jerked] and Cajun [peppered]. All three were good. None were actually that spicy. Reasonably priced. A very good meal. Thanks for the recommendation.

We also went to Tarpon Springs for Greek food. A couple years back my family went to Santorini's. I don't remember much about the meal except the amazing hummus. But have very good memories of the hummus. This time around we tried Mr. Souvlaki's, on Pinellas. It was good.

The highlight of the meal was the pickled octopus appetizer. Lots of thick tentacles. Very tasty and spicy. The rest of the menu seemed sort of unsurprising: gyros, souvlaki, dolmades -- nothing that unusual. The gyros and souvlaki and dolmades were all tasty, no complaints. The portions were large. An above average meal.

We had Cuban food three times. Partially out of a desire to avoid any further dim sum experiences. We ate at La Teresita, Pipo's and La Tropicana.

La Teresita was bad. The fried plantains were good; they can be particularly hard to find in DC, where I live. We were overjoyed to find an abundance of tasty ones at La Teresita. The yucca was also very good. Very crispy exterior and very soft interior, particularly compared to the yucca in Salvadoran places in DC. The interior was so soft that I wondered whether they mashed the yucca before frying it. In any event, it was served with a very nice garlic topping. My dad's oxtail [spinal cord] dish was nicely flavored as well. Everything else, not so much.

My Spanish beef stew tasted sort of like tomato and not much else. My wife's corn seemed straight out of the can, and her ropa vieja tasted like the peas on top came from the same can as the corn. She'd had ropa vieja at Versailles in Miami and liked it much better. My black beans had little or no flavor. No onions or bay leaves.

La Tropicana was pretty good. The Cuban sandwiches didn't seem that warm or that pressed. The pork in the sandwiches wasn't that flavorful, and they put salami in the sandwiches. I got some black beans with rice and they were great.

Pipo's was the best we had. We got Cuban sandwiches and a medianoche there, along with an empanada and a tamale. The sandwiches wound up a little soggy because the pork was scooped out of a tray with a whole roast, still dripping juices. Good sandwiches, though. Well pressed, etc. I loved the empanada, too. I thought the tamale tasted a little strongly of corn husk, instead of corn, but that was a minor point. We also got some more fried plantains. I don't know what to say. They're scarce in DC.

Pipo's [we went to the Northdale location] smelled great. Everything behind the counter looked and smelled great. I wanted to sit down and eat, but had an important date with a football game.

Thanks much for the advice. If you're coming to DC be sure and post and I'll try to help out.

-JT

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