Tonight is the first night of the second and last week of Kitchen Bar’s run at Pinky’s diner (3203 W. Bay to Bay Blvd., Tampa; 813-374-4537). In Saturday’s story about the first couple days, we talked more about the concept and the scene than the food. So here are some more details on some of the things we tried.
Among the small plates, I really liked the arroz de champignon ($9). It was a rich risotto with chunks of mushroom and studs of Idiazabal cheese. The menu didn’t mention truffle oil, but rest assured, it was there. It might have been the most decadent bowl of rice ever.
Tom Scherberger says his favorite small plate was the little neck clams ($7), which came on top of luscious pork belly and sauced with a salsa verde. Tom says that after the clams and the pork belly were gone, he asked for extra ciabatta to sop up the combination of the salsa and the juices in the bottom of the bowl.
The farro tabouleh ($3) was nice, with beets and feta providing all the flavor against a backdrop of the grain. I suspect the sauce for the fingerling potato bourguignon ($7) was meat based, because even though it was billed as a red wine sauce, there was something seriously meaty going on in there. Very, very rich and delicious. Shallots on top were fried in duck fat, which is a fine fate for each.
On to the medium plates.
The shrimp al ajillo ($12) had a nice spicy sauce featuring pimenton and the jus from the shrimp heads. Didn’t get much from the green garlic in the name, though. And a chiccharon added a nice pork element.
Inititally, we hadn’t ordered the stone crab buttercrunch lettuce wraps ($16). But from our vantage point in the dining room, they seemed to be going to every table, so we put in a late order for them. The hot-and-sour hollandaise on the crab had an interesting tang, but I wasn’t crazy about the texture of the crab. Tasted fine, but I was underwhelmed. Also, the plate had three wraps, and each wrap was two bites. So, six bites cost $16. That’s more than $2.50 per bite. I’m sure this isn’t the first dish that doesn’t stand up to that kind of math, but that was where my head was when I was having it.
Entrees, or large plates, were all fine. We noticed inconsistencies on the plating of the prime culotte steak ($25). Some had the green peppercorn sauce on the plate and some on the top of the steak. The reason we noticed that was because it was really good, and on ours, it came on top of the steak, while our neighbor’s had it on the plate around the steak and seemed to have much more of the sauce. The barramundi ($24) was a nice piece of fish, and the lemon fennel black rice was an amazing combination of tangy and chewy. Tom liked the lamb tenderloin ($26), but said that the star on the plate was the beet soubise, which he initially mistook for a rice dish because of its unique texture and creaminess.
I was underwhelmed by both desserts we tried. The torrejas ($5) was dry french toast with bananas and dates. It needed a better soak in egg before being griddled, and some sort of sauce/syrup would have helped. The green opera cake ($7) was better, but tasted like it had been precut and left to sit out quite awhile. The double chocolate ice cream that came with it, though, was excellent. And I got a call today from someone who said they have gone to Kitchen Bar three times just to have the Catalonian flan. We didn’t try that, so maybe we missed the best dessert.
The scene was a little hectic on the first night, as could be expected. Things had settled by later in the week.
An aside on Pinky’s: Apparently, some people misread the story on Saturday to think that Pinky’s would be closing after the 10-day Kitchen Bar event. It will not. The story did not say or in any way imply that it would. After Kitchen Bar moves on, Pinky’s will still be there for breakfast and lunch.