Saturday, August 17, 2013

Renzo's, Tampa, FL

Renzo's website states that they bring the authentic taste of the "Argentine Asado" to Tampa. After visiting, I must confirm that their claim is not unfounded.  Having spent a week in Buenos Aires a few years back (where we enjoyed some of the best food we've eaten on the planet), our lunch at Renzo's left us flashing-back and fondly reminiscing about several of the casual little Argentinean cafes we enjoyed over the course of our stay.

Renzo's decor is relatively frills-free without being totally devoid of ambience.  There's a beautiful bakery counter and steam table at the front of the resto where some items can be picked up to go.  All staff members we interacted with were friendly, attentive and helpful.  It was quiet when we arrived around 2:30 PM on a Saturday afternoon, but the place was fairly full of mostly Spanish-speaking patrons (and how could THAT not be a testimonial to the aforementioned authenticity of the food) by the time we departed about an hour and a half later.  I would choose Renzo's over El Puerto in Ybor any day...both for quality of both food and service.

A basket of hot, crispy bread was quickly dispensed along with a beer for UD and an Argentinean Chardonnay for me. The wine menu consists mainly of South American offerings, which I'll admit aren't my personal faves (no big, oaky whites), but I respect that based on the "not-dumbing-this-down-for-the-Outback-Steakhouse-palate" direction being taken here.

On to the food.  Sausage Boy (and I mean that in the most G-Rated way possible), couldn't help but order the meatnificent Trio de Chorizo starter for $7.95.  An ample platter of three offerings was presented with a chimichurri dipping sauce (one of them a blood sausage which, despite my best efforts, I have never been able to gag Argentina or anywhere else).  My better half had a little problem with the blood sausage, as well...but that was more the result of a cultural rather than a quality issue.  What little he didn't snort of the other two were taken home and consumed with breakfast the following morning.

Bona fide empanadas are one of my favorite foods on the planet.  I ordered them at every possible turn when in Argentina and Renzo's were just like I remember them there.  My $5.85 Trio des Empanadas (mix and match with choice of beef, chicken, spinach or ham and cheese) could've easily been a meal in itself.  I selected two beef and one chicken, all of which were lovely, generously plump and beautifully encased in a flaky, perfectly egg-washed and golden brown pastry crust...but I do have a weakness for picadillo, so the beef version was my favorite.

UD's entree was the Bife de Chorizo (grilled and marinated New York sirloin with a choice of this case, tostones).  Sirloin may not, under ordinary circumstances, be the most exciting cut of beef on the planet...but after the tenderizing and flavor-infusing marinading prep this cow chop had obviously undergone before hitting la parrilla, it was a juicy little masterpiece and the bargain of the century for $12.95.  Tostones were perfect renditions, served hot and crispy on the outside/warm and tender on the inside.

My empanada orgy had already left me stuffed to the gills, so I ordered "light" with the Augustus sandwich, which was served open-face on a toastilicious Cuban-esque roll and topped with lightly broiled Prosciutto, Havarti, Tomatoes, Olive Oil and Oregano.  Okay, so I had them hold the tomatoes. And guess what??  I didn't get any of that "modifications and substitutions will be politely declined" BS that I abhor. Requesting a simple omission didn't cause the earth to rip itself from its axis and go hurtling toward the sun.  Who knew? Another reason to love Renzo's.  This was a seriously kicked-up ham and cheese sandwich...fabu!  It was served with a basket of potato chips, but why waste precious stomach space on Lays?  Dessert time is nigh.

UD's Tres Leches cake was was good, but relatively standard-issue.  It definitely took a back seat to my dessert (stay tuned).

My Postre Chaja (an Uruguayan dessert consisting of moist white cake slabs sandwiched with peaches and dulce de leche, topped with Chantilly meringue crumbles) was clearly Satan-inspired.  I know you must be bitterly wishing you wuz me right now, but try not to hate.

Final word:  Renzo's is a fun and affordable little inexpensive way to take your taste buds out on a limb and try something different, especially if you have never experienced Argentinean cuisine.  Two paws up.

Renzo's on Urbanspoon

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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