Oldsmar is a tricky market for restaurants. These past couple of years have seen many comings and goings along Tampa Road, with little consensus about just what is going to be a hit. Winners Grill came, went, came and went again. Kuzina Mediterranean Grill was fleeting on the scene, as was Twisted Bamboo. This last restaurant was a stunner, with fair-priced pan-Asian cuisine that was stylish enough for a business dinner or date night, but broad enough to feel family-friendly. It closed in October.
Without having to do a lot of remodeling beyond adding a sushi bar and high-top bar tables at the back, restaurant veteran Robert Snow has just taken over the Twisted Bamboo location and launched Suro. Snow comes from 16 years with OSI, most recently at Roy's Restaurant, one of Tampa's most elegant expense-account spots along the West Shore commerce corridor. He understands the pacing, needs and price point entailed in servicing business folk.
A thoughtful restaurant pro, he's figuring out how to get the formula right for Oldsmar. Thus far, it seems a little pricey. FlameStone Grill down the way has hit upon a strategy of sophistication with budget-minded options. The tiny Hapa seems to have locked up the local fine-dining market. On my visits, entrees tipped up toward $28, but since then Snow seems to be inching them back down to accommodate locals' expectations.
Suro (short for Sushi Rock, which was already taken in St. Petersburg) is serving a California-Asian hybrid cuisine that is hard to characterize. Friendly servers seem uniformly exuberant about the menu ("It's the best you'll ever eat," such hyperbole making choosing difficult), and a slick little wine list and array of signature cocktails complement things.
Jose Rivera, a longtime Columbia Restaurant veteran, heads up the kitchen. Tempura-battered bell peppers and asparagus ($6) with a nicely kicky aioli, and duck spring rolls (the moist meat tucked in with noodles and mushrooms and paired with a mustard-Sriracha-soy dipper, $9) set the stage for an Asian-inflected meal. But then straight-up beef carpaccio ($12) with all the fixings (capers, red onion and, oddly delicious, a chiffonade of fresh spinach) and sides of gnocchi ($4) spin things off in another direction.
Of the entrees, the most compelling was delicious little lamb chops ($25) dredged in Dijon and rolled in panko, then roasted and set down on a nutty parsnip puree with lengths of mushroom and a side of asparagus. A little slick of slightly sweet demi-glace added glamor and brought the flavors together. A snowy fillet of sea bass ($28) was the centerpiece of another successful dish, a puddle of broth cradling saffron-braised fennel, roasted fingerling potatoes, still-crisp haricots verts and a dab of olive tapenade. This dish has subsequently been replaced with a local snapper dish to bring the price point down a bit.
A great deal of care is brought to bear on the ingredient combinations in the sushi rolls. Not the kitchen-sink approach seen at so many sushi bars: A Mexicali roll ($11) gets crunchy shrimp tempura, avocado and cuke, then the roll is topped with a spicy crab, tomato and red onion salad. It's a satisfying marriage of flavors, the sweet shrimp shining through. An elegant tuna tataki ($9) brings a fan of flash-grilled albacore with a gloss of ponzu sauce and a tangle of rice-vinegar-marinated cucumbers. Very classy, and utterly dependent upon quality ingredients.
Snow and company have just opened for lunch and will doubtless continue to make changes here and there as they settle into the local landscape. But Suro seems to have the know-how and the charm to hang on in the tough Oldsmar market.
Laura Reiley can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 892-2293. Read her blog at tampabay.com/blogs/dining. Reiley dines anonymously and unannounced. The Times pays all expenses. Advertising has nothing to do with selection for review or the assessment.