As a vegetarian, I generally avoid restaurants such as Mise En Place, where the menus tend to favor traditional proteins — the type that used to walk or swim. But when you're married to a meat lover, you occasionally have to agree to a nice dinner someplace where a pricey salad might be your only option.
That wasn't the case, though, at Mise En Place, where the menu is creative and diverse enough to satisfy different palettes, as well as different diets.
For an appetizer, I ordered the heirloom salad, a Spartan offering that almost felt like a deconstructed plate, where each ingredient was good enough to have stood on its own. The flavorful tomatoes, truffle salt, fresh herbs and grilled flat bread pieces especially elevated this dish.
Mimi ordered the pan-seared foie gras, which was served with pancetta, a lightly drizzled sauce and, most notably, crispy polenta that proved a perfect pairing. The polenta soaked up the juices of the foie gras, providing a flavorful element that lingered even after the meat was gone. The flavors were wonderful, and the cut was exceptionally hearty. Mimi would have preferred more of a sear, though, for that crispy texture she loves.
For her entrée, Mimi ordered her favorite cut of steak, ribeye — and a kobe steak, at that — served with creamy fingerling potatoes blended with bacon and Maytag blue cheese; broccolini — a hybrid vegetable similar to broccoli, with thin stalks and broccoli florets on top; shallots; a red wine reduction and lardo toast.
Lardo toast is pork fat back cured with salt and herbs, sliced paper thin and, in this case, fried until crispy. It had the consistency of shredded, fried parmesan — and for Mimi was the star of the dinner plate.
But that can't have been what Chef Marty Blitz intended when he conceived this dish. A ribeye served with a sauce signals trouble. This was, after all, a kobe ribeye, the most expensive entrée on Mise En Place's menu. It came cooked medium — not medium-rare, as ordered. The sauce had great flavor and would have been a terrific accompaniment for a less flavorful cut, such as a filet. But why put any sauce on a ribeye — especially a kobe steak?
Mise En Place's entrée nod to vegetarians, on the other hand, was exceptional: curry-rubbed tofu served on a bed of stir-fried jasmine rice peppered with flavorful surprises such as shitake mushrooms and edamame. Thin slices of pickles sat atop the well-cooked tofu — an unusual pairing that added an unexpected and wonderful flavor to the delicious dish.
We shared the vanilla bean crème brule, which was quite simply the best either of us has had anywhere. The caramelized crust was crispy and balanced perfectly by the smooth and creamy custard. The dessert was not overly sweet, allowing the vanilla to stand out. Tiny shortbread cookies add another element to the dish.
Mise En Place delivers the atmosphere and service you'd expect from a high-end restaurant. We appreciated our servers' knowledge of the menu and wine list, along with the iconic view of the University of Tampa's minarets across Kennedy Boulevard and the whirling city outside. And after finding an accommodating dinner menu, I'm eager to go back for lunch — that decadent grilled cheese sandwich with leeks, mushrooms and roasted roma tomatoes is speaking to me.
MISE EN PLACE
MISE EN PLACE
BOTTOM LINE: Inventive menu delivers high-end food at reasonable prices
WHERE: 442 W. Kennedy Blvd., Suite 110, Tampa
HOURS: Tuesday-Friday, 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.; Tuesday-Thursday, 5:30 to 10 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 5:30 to 11 p.m. Bar open Tuesday-Saturday at 5 p.m.
CREDIT CARDS: All major
CHILDREN'S MENU: No
ALCOHOL: Full bar
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
PRICE: $19 to $36 for dinner entrees
CALL: (813) 254-5373