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New South Tampa restaurants satisfy international tastes

I am a mageirocophobic. There, I've said it. My mother has mageirocophobia, and her mother wasn't so hot in the kitchen either.

You'll probably have to look up the malady, but here's my favorite remedy: discovering new restaurants. That's the reason none of us has ever starved.

Seriously, it takes guts and good luck to open a restaurant in a robust economy. Imagine the intestinal fortitude of these South Tampa newcomers.

• • •

BT Nguyen-Batley, chef/owner of acclaimed Restaurant BT, is on her way out of Hyde Park Village.

The new venture, to be called simply BT, will offer intimate dining — just 16 tables — at 2507 S MacDill Ave., in the former site of Rita Carlino's Cafe & Catering.

"This will be completely different,'' she said, "new menu, new design, new philosophy."

The menu will blend international flavors in the classic French-Vietnamese cuisine she has been serving for 23 years.

In April, Nguyen-Batley announced Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings when Vornado Realty declined to renegotiate her lease or allow a move to one of the smaller vacant storefronts.

"I'm looking forward to working with a landlord who cares about the community," she said. Look for a mid October opening.

Until then, she says, "please tell people we are still open on Snow Circle and hope they will continue to come see us right until the last minute."

• • •

Where some see a half-empty Hyde Park Village, optimist Jay Mize sees a half-full situation.

He couldn't be more upbeat about opening Irish 31 in December to combine his two loves — Irish pubs and all sports — in the former Wine Exchange space next to CineBistro.

"It will be sports central in an authentic pub decor for the upscale crowd," says the former University of South Florida Bulls defensive back No. 31. He has yet to visit Ireland, but conducted innumerable "field studies," he said, "over 150 pubs since I graduated in 2000."

"It won't be the biggest, but one of the nicest," Mize says of the 2,700-square-foot space, including the patio. Anticipate pub staples such as shepherd's pie, but also salads, burgers and wings to feed sports fans, moviegoers and hungry neighbors.

"Hyde Park is making a strong comeback,'' Mize said.

•••

Sally Cook Nichols' latest venture, Cook's Kitchen on Gandy Boulevard is a far stretch from Windsor Castle, where she helped prepare meals for Prince Andrew and, then-Duchess of York Sarah Ferguson. (By the way, don't ask about any food fetishes, confidentiality papers were signed.)

Cook and her husband, Tampa native James Nichols, King High Class of 1981, left England a year ago to care for his ailing father. When he passed away, the couple renovated the small space at 2902 W Gandy Blvd. and since May, serve breakfast and lunch. Sons James, 10, and Charles, 8, take orders and run the cash register when they're not at Carrollwood Elementary.

"The menu is European with an emphasis on English,'' Cook said, mentioning bangers and mash and cottage pie. She makes everything from scratch, "truly home-cooked beef, ham, turkey for sandwiches, salads, quiche, soups and lasagna."

Cook ran ski chalets in Switzerland and France before opening a catering business in Windsor, near the famed Ascot racecourse. As they add wine to the menu, she wants to fill fancy picnic baskets like the Brits enjoy at the royal races.

Cook's Kitchen is open Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; (813) 832-2665.

• • •

You'll get a side order of Hewien (pronounced He-VEEN) Kurdi's enthusiasm with your kabob or shawerma when Kurdi's Fresh Mediterranean Grill opens next month in Skypoint condominum.

"It's my first restaurant, but I come from a family of cooks," says Kurdi, 28, daughter of a Jordanian father and German mother, and thus fluent in Arabic and German. On her grill, she says, chicken, meat, seafood and veggies turn into healthy Middle Eastern entrees. Soups, salads and home-style lemonade are also on the menu. Seating is planned for 40 inside and 25 outside, at 777 N Ashley Drive.

Kurdi has lived in the United States for nine years, the last three in Tampa, earning an MBA from Nova Southeastern in 2009.

"We'll be fast and casual during the day, leisurely with wine and beer at night,'' Kurdi said. She expects to be open weekdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.; later on weekends.

• • •

Goodbye and good luck to NoHo Bistro founder Jessica Raia-Long, who sold her share of the restaurant to partner Tina Hurless and Tomas Carrasquillo last month. You might have seen Carrasquillo bartending at Hops or Carrabba's in the past, and more recently, tinkering with NoHo's wine list.

Raia-Long's ambition impressed me when I interviewed her in September 2003 for a story on personal chefs. So I wasn't surprised when the trailblazer opened a tiny bistro on N Howard Avenue in May 2004. How daring to draw diners north of SoHo. Hurless joined her the following year, before the move to the current location, 1912 N Armenia Ave.

Says Raia-Long: "There is a time for every season, and this is the time to spend with my two young sons."

Can she keep the apron off? We'll see.

Summer Breezes is an occasional column about interesting Tampa happenings. Amy Scherzer can be reached at (813) 226-3332.

New South Tampa restaurants satisfy international tastes 09/09/10 [Last modified: Monday, November 7, 2011 3:57pm]

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