It’s not often that I write an entire post about one restaurant, but after my first meal at Rooster & the Till, I felt compelled to share and focus on an extremely satisfying meal I had recently.
It had been on my radar for awhile after seeing West coast foodies rave about it; but I’m often unsure of who is getting paid to rave or who truly just loves a meal they chose to eat on their own. I took full advantage of a Friday night in Tampa with no dinner plans to find out for myself.
My favorite time to eat dinner at a new restaurant is as annoyingly early as possible, as though I was taking advantage of some early bird special. We arrived at 4:00 p.m. right when the restaurant opened. I like to do this for two reasons. Honestly, other loud dining patrons normally annoy me when the seating proximity is extremely close. I know, I might as well be 80.
The other comes from my many years working in restaurants. It taught me one indicative sign of a good kitchen is how well they perform when it’s slow, not just when they are slammed.
After local beers and a Cranberry Beret shim, we started our meal with oysters. A menu item that a few years ago I never would have ordered; but now I find myself curious when a restaurant offers them. These oysters came from Connecticut, my home state, so I was pretty pumped to slurp them down. While they had a good amount of brine to them, the Chef offset that flavor expertly with cherry ponzu, chive, and sesame. I absolutely would have ordered more if I hadn’t been so interested in trying several other of the small plate menu items.
Next up was gnocchi with short ribs. Just imagine the most comforting warm bowl of pot roast, then increase your satisfaction level by one hundred. As the gnocchi and short ribs melt in your mouth during each bite, you get a hint of sweetness from the ricotta, paired with the stewed tomatoes and spicy pickled peperonata. My husband and I selfishly fought spoons on this dish. It was intensely satisfying.
Our server Elischa (hopefully I spelled that right) was so helpful as we made tough choices on what dish to try next, and we kept coming back to the pork belly. It was apparently a fan favorite, so that is what we dove into next.
My husband doesn’t often get very excited about food the way I do, but this dish caused quite the stir in him, and with good reason. The pork belly was tender with the lightest layer of crisp; but what stole the show was it’s perfect partner, the corn bread with spiced honey and pickled apple. It really felt like some sort of heavenly meat dessert Ron Swanson would eat (ok, he might throw out the spiced apple), but if I went back and ordered five of them for myself it would be worth the drive. This is a must eat dish if you visit.
We decided to end our savory tour with the sea bass belly. It’s served with glass noodle crab salad, pumpkin panang curry and coconut chutney. Again, the main protein was served at the height of tenderness, but the surrounding exotic flavors complimented the dish so well. Don’t let “pumpkin” or “coconut” keep you from thinking this dish will be overly sweet. Everything was balanced for another knock out dish.
We did order a dessert, but in all honesty we should have stopped at the savory items because they were so perfect that the dessert paled in comparison. We chose the Valrhona Caraïbe semifreddo - white chocolate, cherry ganache, griddled banana bread with peanut tuile. It was a solid dish that’s only problem was that it came after so many other amazing dishes so it got a little buried in our excitement over that cornbread. Yes, cornbread stole the show.
I would absolutely recommend dining at Rooster & the Till if you find yourself in Tampa. Reservations can be made on their website, or you can be old people like us and show up right when they open and enjoy a quiet meal with no judgement regarding any food photography.
This is not a sponsored post, this business did not invite me or ask to me dine with them. All food and beverages were personally paid for. All images are the property of LemonHearted Creative and should NOT be used in other digital or print publications without permission. Don’t trust food recommendations? Me either! Go explore for yourself and support local businesses.