SideBern’s (Tampa)

SideBern's on Urbanspoon

Sidebern's on Foodio54

Day of the Week: Thursday, 4/25
Total Bill: $393.76 (before tip)
Breakdown: 1 cheese & charcuterie plate, 1 soup, 2 tasting menus, 4 additional desserts, 4 large beers, 1 champagne, 2 drinks, 2 espressos
Verdict: An outstanding experience.

She says:
I know this is ridiculous: we had never been to SideBern’s before. Until recently, their food was, honestly, a little too adventurous for us. I’ve always liked food but my mom was a product of her generation: a nice meal out meant a steakhouse. We went to Ruth’s Chris when I was a kid A LOT. Hubby’s family was of a similar culinary attitude. Our palates needed to expand before trying SideBern’s. Since Hubby and I have been together, we’ve had lots of new food adventures (sea urchin, antelope, kangaroo). I guess it’s only fitting that for our fourth wedding anniversary we finally tried SideBern’s.

We arrived at 7:30 for our reservation and were promptly shown to our table. We were both surprised that the restaurant wasn’t busier. Our server, Brad, came right away to introduce himself and get us water. Delightfully, SideBern’s still had some of the Legacy collaboration with Cigar City, so we ordered a bottle of that to start ($27). I’m not a barley wine fan but this is a very well-executed beer and will age quite well. We also ordered a cheese plate (four for $24) and two meats, chorizo ($8) and prosciutto ($9). Brad told us they were out of the prosciutto but assured us we would love the speck (usually $12), which is smoked prosciutto. We asked him to select the cheeses for us.

While we settled in and waited for our starter, we took a good look at the restaurant. SideBern’s is definitely the chicer younger sibling. The main dining room is one large room with a high ceiling painted a deep greenish-blue. Hung in the peak is a pink-hued light fixture that contrasts nicely. The booths are high-backed and upholstered with an abstract modern design. The large bar is made of blonde wood.

As soon as Brad brought the cheese plate, we knew it was the beginning of a wonderful friendship. He chose so well. Unfortunately, I don’t remember the names! I think the brie was the Pierre Robert, simply because it’s from France and it seems to us that’s the brie we had in London. The next cheese was aged with all kinds of olive branches and whatnot and reminded us of a soft pecorino. Also fantastic. He brought another spreadable cheese that tasted like it had Dijon mustard in it. He explained that flavor came from the cedar bark the cheese is aged with. The fourth was Point Reyes blue, which is one of our favorites. Each cheese had a special accompaniment (the brie had raspberries – I don’t recall what the other ones were) and the plate was served with crusty sliced bread.

Our meats were also fantastic. The chorizo was accompanied by a golden raisin and olive relish, while the speck was served with a small cup of espresso mayonnaise. I know espresso mayonnaise sounds a little crazy but it enhanced the smoky saltiness of the speck perfectly. The charcuterie was also served with bread.

Hubby and I both wanted the tasting menu ($75 per person, wine pairing is $40) but the fourth course choices were foie gras and morcilla (blood sausage) ravioli. Hubby doesn’t eat either so he asked Brad if the kitchen would allow a substitution and the chef was able to accommodate us, which was very lovely of him. For my courses I ordered salmon tartar with asparagus curls and some fiddlehead ferns, a caramel roasted scallop, veal sweetbreads, the ravioli, charred ostrich, and strawberries & honey. Hubby ordered the hamachi crudo, halibut, something (forget what his third course was), the scallop I had for my second course, charred ostrich, and chocolate marquise. I also ordered a Domaine Chandon Etoile Brut ($12) and Hubby ordered a Pisco Sour ($11), which he declared to be the best Pisco Sour he ever had (I agreed).

While we waited for our first course, we were sent a lovely seared tuna amuse bouche. The really noteworthy thing about the dish was that the chef used a lot of flavors that would be considered Italian, instead of going in the typical Asian direction. It was unexpected and delicious. The chef wasn’t trying to throw us for a loop; he just had a new idea about tuna that really worked.

Our first courses arrived shortly after we finished our amuse bouche. My salmon tartar was paired with some crème fraiche and chive oil, along with some crunchy asparagus curls and fiddlehead ferns. Everything about this dish was perfect. Hubby also loved his hamachi. The second courses arrived after an appropriate length of time. My scallop was perfectly cooked and very tasty. Hubby said his halibut was delicious. The third course came. The veal sweetbreads were pan-fried, which, apparently, I don’t like. I found the flavor to be too gamey. (When I had sweetbreads at one of Gordon Ramsay’s restaurants, they were battered and fried, which gave them a sweeter, milder flavor.) But that wasn’t the restaurant’s fault. I’m sure the dish was properly prepared. My ravioli was next. Blood sausage makes for good ravioli! The flavor of the filling really stands up to the pasta. Then our ostrich arrived. Just…wow. If every restaurant offered ostrich like this, I would quit eating steak altogether. This ostrich was like the leanest, most tender, most flavorful filet I’ve ever had. I told Hubby, if you like this, you would like beef.

Along the way Hubby also had a Strawberry #9 ($10) and we got a bottle of Sierra Nevada Grand Cru ($25) to share. Hubby was very pleased with the beer selection.

As our final course was served I ordered an espresso ($4) and Hubby got us a bottle of Sierra Nevada stout ($25).

My strawberries & honey (“honey mousse, orange, sesame granola, crispy brik”) was really good. The honey mousse was light and refreshing and I really loved the crunch and flavor of the sesame granola. Hubby seemed to enjoy his chocolate marquise quite a bit. We also ordered a scoop of goat cheese ice cream (which you must try) and a scoop of roasted pineapple (also phenomenal), $3 per scoop.

After the plates were cleared, Hubby decided he wasn’t done (which he later regretted but it seemed like a good idea at the time). He ordered a crab bisque (“piquillo peppers, preserved lemon, soft herbs,” $13) and the French toast dessert (“banana bread, peanut butter swirl ice cream, huckleberry, brown butter,” $10). I decided I should have a scoop of macadamia nut ice cream and another espresso.

The crab bisque came out first. The presentation of the crab bisque was very nice. The bowl came with a large mound of crab meat and Brad poured the bisque around it. Hubby seemed to really enjoy it.

A few minutes after Hubby’s bowl was picked up, our next round of desserts arrived. The French toast was really awesome (I did get a bite of that). The banana bread was very moist, and if you’ve ever made banana bread you know keeping it from drying out can be a challenge. The peanut butter swirl ice cream was really unique and a good pairing with the banana bread. Of course my ice cream was good (same recipe as at Bern’s).

One thing Hubby and I both noted toward the end of our meal was the service. Our courses were perfectly timed. Brad was friendly, engaging, and there when we needed him but didn’t hover. The assistant waiters kept our water glasses full and our empty plates were picked up quickly.

When we finally left, fat and happy, it was 11 pm. I can’t believe we spent three and a half hours there – we had such a good time!

Let me address the prices. You might’ve had a little sticker shock when you saw what our final bill was. Over $100 of the total was beer. Just beer. We spent $19 on additional desserts (that weren’t needed, trust me). If we weren’t such gluttons, we could’ve made it out for under $400 including tip. And that would’ve still been a very generous amount of outstanding food and drink delivered by excellent servers.

I don’t think SideBern’s gets the attention or accolades it deserves. SideBern’s is delivering an experience that could easily compete in New York’s crowded and cutthroat culinary scene. Hubby and I will absolutely be back.

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About twofoodiesinlove

About the couple: We are thirtysomethings. We’ve known each other since 2001 when we were in college together and we got married in 2009. About the wife: She’s been an accountant since 2004 and loves numbers maybe a little too much. She eats and cooks and bakes and drinks and constantly has to watch her weight because of it. About the husband: He’s a government employee… for 9 years… he likes nice people who don’t talk too much and FOOD!!! He’s a fatty who loves beer, wine and clear spirits. He likes to cook, usually stuff that is too hard for him but usually turns out well. he tries to watch his weight as it goes by at the speed of light but can’t seem to see it… oh and he loves the Wifey. she rocks.
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