A meal at Edison Food + Drink Lab is, as one of my neighbors put it on a recent visit, a taste adventure, a fun romp through a series of different flavor combinations.
Yeah, we really said things like that over dinner. Maybe Edison's creativity is infectious. Maybe it's just the ethos of a trendy place where guys watch "Chopped" at the bar.
Whatever the reason, Edison delivers plenty to talk about, along with its fresh, distinctive flavors.
For starters, we tried the Sweet Potato Biscuits (with barbecued pork cheek), the Crispy Pork Belly, the Vanilla Scented Foie Gras (served with shrimp toast), and the Burrata (heirloom tomatoes with pickled onions, jalapenos, pumpkin seed pesto and chipotle lime sorbet). And we couldn't stop eating the Salt and Pepper Cracker Jacks, a sophisticated take on the childhood favorite, with a wonderful truffle flavor and salt and pepper seasoning to cut the sweetness.
The appetizers taught us that, at Edison, it's best not to deconstruct your dishes. Although the individual components all were cooked well, the flavors didn't really come through until we combined all the elements on our plates. At last, a legitimate reason to "play with your food."
My wife, for example, wasn't wowed after trying the pork belly. But then our neighbors Tommy and Jeff realized that the dish's flavor profile jumped significantly when you mixed everything together. The same was true of the tomato plate, where the bold flavors on the plate including fresh jalapeno slices, a substantial pesto and a surprising sorbet worked best in concert.
That phenomenon may be especially true at Edison, because the kitchen seems to make such smart choices about flavor pairings. Dates with pork loin. Fried herbs, tangy burrata cheese and a slight back-heat from serrano chilies elevating the roasted tomato soup. A smoky flavor cutting the heat of the barbecued pork cheek.
Edison's version of chicken and waffles was a big hit with the carnivores at our table. The chicken was crispy and juicy, and because it didn't have a lot of bones, you got a lot of meat, our daughter said. Here, too, the combination of flavors really elevated the dish. That perfectly cooked chicken paired with, among other things, a butternut squash waffle and truffle honey. Although finding really good fried chicken may be rare, such creativity is rarer still.
Edison didn't have any vegetarian entrees on the menu that night, but the restaurant offers any of its dishes sans flesh for a reduced price. Normally, that would just seem like a cop-out to me, but the vegetable sides were tempting enough that I had a hard time choosing. I wound up going with the Crispy Striped Bass (without the bass, of course), leaving me with some very creamy grits, baby spinach and roasted poblano peppers in a light and flavorful sauce. This satisfying dish was sweet and creamy, with a little crunch.
The Edison touch, though, did not extend to dessert. The dark chocolate tart was dense and heavy. Although some components here worked well, such as the flambéed bananas, none of us loved this dessert. That also was true of the chocolate and pistachio "yule log," served with a blood orange sorbet. Poor presentation did not make this look appetizing, and unlike the tart, the portion was small. Although I enjoyed the flavorful sorbet, there just wasn't enough to like here.
Unfortunately, dessert was not the crowning moment an otherwise wonderful dinner deserved.
Overall, though, we all loved the food and the experience at Edison, which seems destined to cement Chef Jeannie Pierola's reputation as one of Tampa's leading culinary lights.