You’ll fill up at the former gas station, built in the Twenties, but you’re here for food, not fuel.
Boca is restaurant, market, and watering hole. Wood dominates its décor and low lights glint off the expanse of a wall of windows. A convivial bar allows a small peek into the kitchen. It’s more contemporary and has more enclosed space for eating than Smoke, the barbecue establishment formerly located here.
Boca, which means “mouth” in both Spanish and Italian, serves cobia, a favorite that my mouth can’t get enough of. Chef Ted Dorsey, also of Ciro’s, cooks the firm, mild, white fish two fine ways: pan-seared with creamy polenta, braised Swiss chard, and a colorful Romesco sauce, and wrapped in parchment with tomatoes, spring squash, fingerling tomatoes, and a white wine butter sauce.
Boca-dito’s are open-face Ciabatta sandwiches: one has Italian pesto, tomatoes, and mozzarella; another is prosciutto, arugula, and fig jam, and a third has smoked salmon, pickled sweet onions, caper berries and crème fraiche scented with chives. Crunchy, herb-goat, cheese flatbread is distinguished by smoked onion jam and peppery arugula.
Other sharables are the Portobello Carpaccio, blistered Japanese peppers and caramelized-onion potato chips.
A Lobster Pot Pie emerges from the oven with a cloak of puff pastry that, when lifted, offers a pouf of steam then reveals little neck clams, shrimp and white fish. The lobster shells are used in a whimsical presentation.
The entree, called “Staff Meal, is every bit as good: two hefty slices of meat loaf, flecked with onions and peppers, with nicely crisp edges, and offering real comfort with mashed potatoes and gravy.
Filet Pittsburg Style came out overcooked and was sent back. The second plate embodies what the chef was trying for: a charred exterior and rare interior. Gremolata sautéed spinach was a delightful side. I’d forgo the Lake Meadows free-range chicken as it was a touch dry but it comes with nicely roasted potatoes and Swiss chard.
Other entrees include an oak-grilled flank steak, stuffed scallops, braised short ribs, and yellow fin tuna with Moroccan veggies.
On the dessert menu is Homage to Ybor, a funky rift on apple cobbler with a mini skillet of baked apples, coconut crumbles and pivotal scoop of caramel ice cream. Fried, dark-chocolate bon bons join passion fruit coulis and strawberry ice cream.
Organic or bio-dynamic wines, priced between $20 and $40, add to a dinner for two that runs $60-$65 before beverages.
So far, Boca’s market concept is isolated to a deli case of produce, cheese and seafood. Gordon Davis (Ceviche, Ciro’s and Smoke) and Michael Blesure plan a mini-farmer’s market on weekends. I wonder what Whaley’s thinks, since as it is just across the street?
Boca’s locally-sourced approach, with a few tweaks, can make it the go-to-spot. Actually, it’s already tough to get reservations.
Boca Kitchen Bar Market
901 Platt St., Tampa, FL
Sunday Brunch: 11 a.m. – dinner: 4 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Monday to Thursday: 11:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11:30 a.m. to midnight
Way to pay: AmEx, V, MC, Discover
As you may have noticed, the number of food trucks in town is growing like kudzu. Pad Thai, a one-dish street meal peddled on the sidewalks of Thailand, is the draw of a new food truck, Kombo Kitchen. Find the green vehicle with white awnings just south of the Interstate on Howard Avenue.
Jaratsri “J.J.” Dickenson, who is from Udonthainee, Thailand, serves Pad Thai with just the right amount of noodles, lime juice, tamarind paste and peanuts. The personable young widow has cooked at several fine, Thai restaurants around town but likes the pace of solo cooking in compact quarters. She makes about 10 dishes, including panang curry and egg rolls. Kombo Kitchen is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Their page on Yelp.com