Sunday, December 19, 2010

Mise En Place, Tampa, FL

What's a guy to do when his girl is suffering a hellishly hormonal bout of holiday blues the week before Christmas?  Feed her, of course!  And if you can funnel a few glasses of wine into her, so much the better.  That's exactly the tactic UD took last night...and his strategy happily coincided with the recent receipt of a generous gift certificate to one of our favorite Tampa Bay fine dining spots.  Girl and Dawg are both smiling today. 

Mise en Place serves up some of the most creative and delicious cuisine in the Tampa Bay area.  It's a smallish, romantic spot with a Big City feel. The painful part of dining there is narrowing down your selections because everything on the menu sounds amazing (and you know it tastes that way, too).  Nonetheless, the mistah zeroed right in on the "Get Blitzed Tasting Menu".
At the suggestion of our incredible server, Nathan (who gave us what was probably the finest and most professional waitstaff experience we've ever received at the local level), I selected Cornmeal Crusted Market Oysters with Green Tomato Chutney and Roast Corn Aioli.  He did not steer me wrong...perfection on both plate and tongue!  Because my spousal unit was being so wonderful, I let him have two.  Oh, and it also had something to do with the fact that I wanted TWO second plates,  Don't judge, they say, "feed a hormone, starve a jugular-ripping frenzy".  Okay, I made that up.
Mise's Chicken Liver Pear Port Mousse Pate has been on the menu forever and I first tried it on my maiden visit almost 20 years ago.  Although the portion has shrunk over time to a size so microscopic that it almost makes me angry, all is forgiven when I take the first lovely bite.  It's really special stuff.
Since liver always cheers me up and finding Foie Gras on any menu in Florida is pretty rare occurrence, I also had to have the Five Spice Rubbed Foie Gras with Wild Mushroom Pork Belly Moo Shu, Sudachi Rice Vinaigrette and Pineapple Daikon Salad.  I dropped the dagger from my clenched teeth and was finally breathing again after this luxurious dish. Please...don't sic PETA on me.  It was consumed purely for medicinal purposes. 
In the meantime, a small amuse of Tuna Confit with Salsa Verde and Wasabi Sea Salt appeared for each of us...a delightful, miniature work of culinary art!
Let's not forget the basket of fresh, hot onion, sourdough and crispy flatbread with creamy butter.

As I was cheerfully snorting my foie gras, UD was presented with his First Plate:  Hamachi Crudo, Grapefruit Lychee White Soy Vinaigrette, Fresh Coconut Lime Radish Salad and Sezchuan Sea Salt which was paired with the wonderful Heidsieck & Co. Monopole Blue Top Champagne (of which I was able to steal a sip). Divine!

The Second Plate in the hubster's tasting menu made me want to snatch it from him and dash. The Seared Tuna with Truffled Savoy Cabbage, Lobster Pistachio Fregola and Lobster Red Wine Jus was phenomenal...especially the Lobster Pistachio Fregola (I almost fainted).  This plate was served with a 3 oz. pour of Emeritus 2007 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, which I liked so much that I temporarily ditched my devotion to Chardonnay and ordered a glass of it to enjoy with my entree. 

On to the entrees, which were both top-notch.  I opted for the Herb Crusted Filet of Beef Tenderloin with Duck Fat Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Brussels Sprouts, House Cured Bacon, Baby Artichokes and Chanterelle Mushroom Jus.  This dish was hugely satisfying, perfectly prepared and offered a broad depth of freshness and flavor.  The duck fat roasted potatoes were nirvana on a plate and the brussels sprouts (which had been sauteed in pork fat) were sweet and amazing.  Underdog (who hates the "skunkiness" of cruciferous veggies and has never eaten a brussels sprout except for the ones served to him at the French Laundry...and only then because it was the most expensive dinner we've ever eaten in our lives and he wasn't about to leave a crumb of anything on the plate) tried a bite and even took a second and third sample, proclaiming them "quite tasty".  Everything was really beautiful and delicious with perfectly seasoned meat cooked exactly to my specs.

UD's tasting menu entree (serendipitously, because he adores rack of lamb) was Coriander Crusted Rack of Lamb with Zahtar Spiced Fingerling Potatoes, Moroccan Carrot Olive Salad and Preserved Lemon Lamb Jus. Judging from the way he was picking his teeth with the little bones after gnawing them clean, I feel safe saying he was more than content with this offering.

Dessert time!  As it turned out, the Tasting Menu dessert was not the one listed on the menu (which was fine).  Jimbo was presented with a perfect, tangy, mini Cranberry Cheesecake with Apricots which was served with Sauterne.

But it was my dessert that truly rawked.  Again...have I mentioned that I absolutely adored our server, Nathan, and wanted to bring him home with us?  This was ordered on his recommendation and may have been the best dessert I've ever eaten in a Tampa restaurant.  The Blueberry Almond Clafouti...which was dreamily creamy, sweet and deceptively light...was Sofa King good and the perfect ending to a perfect meal.

There's a reason Mise En Place has been around for 25 years. The food is cutting edge for the area and artfully executed.  It definitely falls into the "Big Night Out" category (plan on a minimum of $200 for two if you will be enjoying wine or cocktails), but it's so wonderful and worth it.  For a more reasonably priced experience, lunch is affordable and always top notch.

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My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.

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