Sunday, April 7, 2013

Mise en Place - The Grand Dame of Tampa

Mise En Place on Urbanspoon


After twenty-seven wonderful years working alongside the esteemed Ms. Watson, it was high time to celebrate our delightful partnership together and when one finds themselves in Tampa in search of that certain ambiance there is no other location that calls to mind the pure excellence and certitude of selection like 'Mise en Place'. 

Aptly named oh so many years ago, 'Everything in Place' shows honor to such a heralded occasion by being that locale that DOES have everything just so - whether it is inside the kitchen as is suggested by it's name or throughout the entire enterprise located in the Hyde Park area of Tampa, FL. 

With only the 22 (now 23!) outstanding visits to 32 East in Delray Beach, FL besting it, my current run at Mise en Place is well over a dozen with nary an askew scaloppine or tart Pouilly-Fuisse to show for it. The Proprietor's of this Grand Dame of all things elegant show such a reverential respect for the food, for their customers, for their wine selections....certainly for every aspect of their 'presentation' that to find fault in any area would be akin to harping on the minute.

Being immediately seated on a splendid Saturday evening, Ms. Watson's whistle was soon whetted by a 2010 Raul Perex Vico Mencia, a lighthearted little Red from Bierzo, in the Northwest of Spain, which was flowery and aromatic yet still sporting a rich complex taste, while I opted for my usual Bombay Sapphire Martini with three blue cheese stuffed olives (tight waistcoat be damned!) which arrived with the tiniest beads of ice within, normally an off-putting event in my view but in this atmosphere it was suddenly remarkably welcome!

Mise en Place proffers quite the extensive assemblage of world class wine concentrating on the unique and the artisanal giving one a sense of adventure when choosing. This would be all for the better if the stakes were not as high. Bottles range generally from the mid $30's to the $70's while half bottles are listed from the 20's to '40's but there is still a quite healthy offering at $200 to $300 per bottle and higher. Taken as a whole the care in which this assemblage has been constructed is dually admirable and almost varietal, if you'll allow me such a dextrous linguistic pun!


Blue Cornmeal encrusted Soft Shell Carb
The menu as well is as intriguing and eclectic as it's wine panoply with ten 'First Plates' including a succulent Ceviche, a Sous Vide Lobster plate, and a Tuna Carpaccio among others; twenty-one 'Second Plates' including Roasted Butternut Squash Salad, Kobe Oxtail, Licorice Powder Rubbed Foie Gras, and several more startling surprises, and Twelve 'Main Plates' as varied as Harissa Seared Tofu,  Fennel Crusted Veal Scallopine, Mustard Pecan Crusted Pecan Rack of Lamb, and Macadamia Coconut Crusted Seared Tuna. In fact, the Main Plates cover nearly all manner of delectable cuisine - Chicken, Veal, Venison, Snapper, Salmon, Tuna, Beef Tenderloin, Kobe Strip, Lamb, Duck and a Zahtar or Arabian Grilled Sea Selection of the day.....along with a Seared Tofu for good vegetarian measure!

While enjoying our early cocktails we selected the Hamachi Crudo with Pickled Serrano Chiles and Green Apple Pepita Salad drizzled with a white soy basil vinaigrette along with the Blue Cornmeal Encrusted Soft Shell Crab with Salsa Criolla, sweet potato causa with saffron aioli and a mango chili jam. 

Interesting that the chef chooses to use 'Hamachi', a Japanese Amberjack  or Yellowtail found in the Pacific Northwest ....alongside the word 'Crudo'.... strictly a Mediterranean manner of preparing 'sushi quality' raw fish, almost a double negative in description yet this endeavor results in the exemplary delivery expected.....a fresh and delightful appetizer with tart zing of serrano chile livening things up a bit....the apple slivers connecting them both wonderfully for a tight ensemble of flavor.

Yet it was the Blue Cornmeal Encrusted Soft Shell Crab that was so stunning as it was perfectly done with just the right hint of crunch and chew yet soft where it needed to be with a particular jab of tartness intertwined, attributed to the Mango Chile jam..... my mouth watering as I presently opine with the very thought, simply exquisite!

Surprisingly we were then treated to a 'taste test' of the Chef's latest soup creation. Now, I feel I must add an opinion on this increasing habit of fine chefs to 'sample' their latest creations connived ....an eclectic soup entrant mostly but also other delicacies...which I've come to find devilshly ingenius particularly when served before any appetizers are brought for the simple fact remains that the hunger of the patrons virtually assures that said sample will be well received.....unless of course it misses the mark entirely! 
Grilled Free Range Chicken

A small ladle of a Saffron infused Cauliflower Soup with thyme encrusted pistachio crumbles was ceremoniously placed before us....a deliciously grand effort and one very well received and appreciated, however in this isolated case I found myself unsure of the melange and swirls of tastes and textures. The smooth creaminess of the soup, exquisitely done nonetheless, did not quite blend with the thyme pistachio 'granola' atop in my slightly percolated estimation....but taken as it was....an experimental taste test with little downside to the patron (unless one is allergic to cauliflower or saffron of course) the effort should continue unabated!

Smiling and satisfied with the Soft Shell Crab and the Hamachi Crudo, I reminisced of a recently wonderful sensation with a Tandoori inspired recipe which thus drew me to the Tandoori Spiced Rubbed Salmon entree with Pistachio Saffron Basmati Rice, Tomato Masala Vinaigarette, Pomegranate Raita with Eggplant Tamarind Jam and Curried Wilted Spinach - which was remarkably still steaming when it arrived (a definite plus in my casework!)
Tandoori Spiced Rubbed Salmon

Watsons' choice was the Grilled Free Range Chicken Breast and Sous Vide Thigh with Root Vegetable Leek Fricasee on a Wild Mushroom Quinoa with a Sherry Vinegar Sage Jus, an assortment which had her head swirling and marveling at it's aromas. Not only were these entrees everything we had in mind when ordered, they exceeded our already lofty expectations which is a wonderful experience when we are gifted so!
Chocolate Pecan Toffee Mousse

With a decadently developmental buzz going on in my cranial cavity due to the infusion of a second helping of Bombay Gin, we both were soon slaloming into the after dinner world of desserts, apertifs, coffees, cordials, and the like with no rush assumed or warranted... determined to take a pace of our own choosing and happily met with reciprocal professionalism. 

Celebrating with a delicious Graham's 20 year Tawny Port, which sported the gravitas that a 10 year simply does not (and which is why a 30 year will be ordered on my next surreptitious visit!)

Admittedly drawn like a feline to a bowl of milk  I was captivated by a more than perfunctory Artisinal Cheese Board as an after dinner choice.........a most excellent appendage to the menu I must say! But it was the Chocolate Pecan Toffee Mousse with Creme Anglaise and Toffee Sauce that drew Watson's trained eye, an amalgam of textures, temperatures, and glazes that had Watson nearly in a tizzy and won her over easily.
Blood Orange Sorbet

For me I chose the Blood Orange Sorbet with its hint of spice...cardamom perhaps, which lent the coolness of the sorbet a lace of sophistication, although three scoops of the blood orange began to overwhelm my pallet a bit. Taking a page from the Tribeca bastion 'Odeon' perhaps a scoop trio of perhaps a tart lemon, a pungent blueberry, along with the intoxicating blood orange might allow for a less overwhelming infusion to the senses.... Three scoops, with three tastes, would move a wonderful dessert into the realm of the outer-worldly (but I harp on the minute! 

And to the delight and chagrin of us both, the signage said it all and sent us off into the next 27 wonderful years!