Saturday, December 4, 2010

Shrimp & Co., Tampa, FL

In a quest to find a casual spot for a bite that would support our post-Thanksgiving low carb regimen, my better half and I decided to hop over to Ybor and check out Shrimp & Co.  We went with the verybest of intentions, with steamed crab with butter and coleslaw at the forefront of our minds...but we are apparently not the best judges of our own willpower.  Once we got a good look at the menu, the diet quickly turned into an epic fail (at least for today). 

Shrimp & Co. is a cute little hole in the wall...nothing fancy or expensive here.  The menu is sort of a Puerto Rico-meets-New Orleans-meets-Florida Gulf Coast fusion.  There is plenty of straight up fried, blackened and broiled local seafood; a Lousiana Steam Pot with andouille sausage; a few Caribbean-influenced dishes; steamed crab of several varieties and even lobster.  There were about a dozen bottled beers available (a good mix of domestic and imports) with a very basic list of house wine selections.  I believe Shrimp & Co. allows patrons to BYOB, you could probably bring along something nicer than the Gallo-esque offerings if you cared to.  Since we weren't really looking for a high-end experience, we were fine with the beer and wine that was available (which was very reasonably priced at $3.50 for imports, $2.50 for domestics and $4.50 for wine). 

The venue (we were there at 4:00 P.M., which is why it's not crowded) is cute and clean, with Cajun music playing at a reasonable sound level. 

We started with the $12.99 Caribbean Mix starter (which was the most expensive one on the menu) because it sounded so intriguing.  It consisted of fried grouper nuggets (which were perfect); small cubes of very lightly breaded fried cheese; awesome little empanadas stuffed with tiny, spicy shrimp and spicy plantain aranitas.  There was sort of a sweet and sour cocktail sauce served on the side, which we ratcheted up a few notches with the hot sauce on the table.  This was a very creative and tasty appetizer plate...there was not a single crumb remaining when we finished.

Because I had seen the owner post on that all of his seafood is fresh, purchased daily and hand-breaded to order (which, after tasting it, I have no trouble believing), I simply couldn't pass up the Fried Oyster Basket.  The oysters were lightly battered, which was quite pleasing.  In fact, I loved the lightness of everything I had here that was fried...wet battered or dry crusted, there was no "bready" overload on anything we tried.  The $11.99 basket was extremely generous and piled high with the perfectly fried mollusks, shrimp slaw, herbed red potato wedges and hush puppies.  The shrimp slaw was an interesting twist on classic cole slaw.  While it was a  bit more "mayonnaisey" than I generally prefer, it was delightfully cold and spicy with tiny shrimp interspersed throughout.  I was not terribly excited about ordering the redskin potatoes instead of fries since they are often pretty boring (but did so anyway because I thought they wouldn't tempt me as much as fries would), so I asked for a side of melted butter with them.  I needn't have worried...the potatoes were absolutely delicious.  They were tender, creamy, heavy-handedly seasoned with garlic and herbs and already very buttery-tasting.  Oh, and the little hush puppies were very nice, too.

Underdog's $10.99 Fried Shrimp Basket was equally enjoyable.  The shrimp were large and sweet, and were dry-breaded as opposed to battered.  The outer crust was so light that it was almost as if they had not been breaded at all, so you got a tiny bit of crispness and seasoning without the shrimpy goodness being overpowered.  Probably some of the best fried shrimp I've ever tasted.
Since the damage was already done (and because we learned from our exemplary server, Jose N., that the desserts were all made in-house), we decided to live large and order the key lime pie.  It was beautifully presented and most excellent in its density and intense lime taste.
Ummm...back off, beyotch!  You're dieting and I don't remember asking for two forks. 
I will admit to using a $25 cert for this meal because I honestly wasn't sure what to expect from this place.  After the fact, I almost felt guilty for doing it.  Everything was delicious, service met (if not exceeded) expectations, and we got out of there (with coupon) for $49 (which included three glasses of wine, two beers and 18% gratuity on the total before discount).  We will return and happily pay full price when we do.

Shrimp & Co on Urbanspoon

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