So given the fact that there are all these amazing, tasty reviews out there, how can I share a review that’s any different?
As boastfully as it may sound, I experienced the uniqueness of Ulele a month before my evening with Tampa Bay Bloggers when my husband and I celebrated our anniversary at Ulele in December 2014. From the wine selection to the incredible sirloin, the evening was carved to perfection and yes, Ulele is just that unique and incredible as all the accolades you’ve read.
Therefore when I was invited back as part of a Tampa Bay Bloggers’ dining experience with Ulele, I simply could not miss out on a second helping of one Tampa’s highly-rated restaurants. For this experience, Ulele wined and dined us until we exploded from all the native-inspired fusion.
What in the world in “native-inspired fusion”?
With its Native America ties and the European and Spanish explorers that resided centuries before the Tampa Heights Water Works, the history and the view pairs perfectly to the dishes Ulele delivers. In fact, much of the menu features items indigenous to this area’s waters and farms. The restaurant tries to use as much fresh, local items as possible. With its reclaimed tables and restored water bottles from the old Columbia restaurant, even the dishes and art work scattered throughout the building mirror the history of the region.
What’s in a name?
Ulele decided to draw its inspiration from the Tocabaga tribe which lived in the north end of Tampa Bay until the 1500s. The name “Ulele” celebrates the brave young daughter of Tocabaga Chief Hirrihigua. Ulele pleaded her father to spare the life of Juan Ortiz. It’s a tasty historical tale that precedes Pocahontas by 80 years and soon, a bronze statue of Ulele will stand in the center of the restaurant to truly honor her.
But what about the food?
While my husband only sipped wine, sampled a few bites of this and that for our anniversary visit, the Tampa Bay Bloggers were wine and dined on a whole other Ulele level. We started with two samples of craft beer (Buckhorn Black Lager and Honeymoon Ale) from Ulele’s own Spring Brewery, right on site. Both beers paired perfectly with our first course, Florida Native Chili Alligator.
Like a brave blogger, I bravely ate alligator for the first time in my life merely for the purpose of a fair review. Between the Florida Native Chili Alligator and the Alligator Hush Puppies, I did so TWICE at Ulele. The mixture of alligator, wild boar, venison, duck and ground chuck), cranberry beans along with the combination of spices offered a comfortable heat and the meats definitely played well together. I honestly didn’t even know I was eating alligator. I guess the old saying is true: “Gator tastes like chicken.”
Following the chili, we sampled two serving of Gulf Coast Oysters. My favorite, the Baracoa-grilled Gulf Coast oysters topped with a gorgeous crust of garlic butter and Parmesan and Romano cheeses had me happy as a clam!
For the next course, we sampled stacks of meat starting with a wet-aged 28 day Filet Mignon and a large helping of popcorn mashed potatoes.
The UIele Burger char-grilled to perfection combines short rib, brisket and chuck to make the juiciest burger I have ever eaten. The Ulele Burger is served on a brioche bun and topped with Ulele’s own house steak sauce, Wisconsin sharp cheddar, portobello mushrooms, fire-roasted red peppers and fried leeks served.
And if that wasn’t enough meat to cause cardiac arrest, the KILO PORTERHOUSE offers the best of worlds with a filet mignon and New York strip loin dry-aged 24 days and chef-carved off the bone. The KILO is also served with popcorn mashed potatoes and a defibrillator on the side.
Next we sampled Florida Pompano, a pan-seared pompano fillet served with sundried tomato shallot cream and fried carrot ribbons. This dish perfectly complimented Ulele’s signature side dishes the Wild River Rice and Squash Gratin Horno consisting of roasted squash, zucchini, red onion, tomato and a Manchego crust.
And as if that sweet meal wasn’t enough, Ulele graciously served us their signature dessert Candied Duck Bacon Maple Fried Ice Cream (an amazing presentation of cinnamon corn flake candied duck bacon crust, Knob Creek crème anglaise, caramel, sweet potato waffle crisp)…
…along with scoops upon scoops of their House-Made Ulele Ice Cream including coconut, Toasted Coconut, Valhrona Chocolate, Ugandan Vanilla Bean, Chocolate Espresso, and their most recent Flavor of the Day, Plant City Strawberry, in honor of Plant City’s Strawberry Festival.
After enjoying serving spoonfuls of ice cream, we rolled ourselves down to the brewery because walking was not an option for as full as we were. Inside the brewery, we met Timothy Shackton, the Head Brewmaster. Like a proud papa, he welcome into his home and with such enthusiasm shared his craft beer recipes and process for creating what will be known as award-winning craft beer.
From the atmosphere to the artisan efforts of its food and beer, Ulele single-handedly lifts Tampa to a new level of dining delicacy while effortlessly folding in everything we love and celebrate about Florida: its food, the history and culture. Even Emeril Lagasse agrees.
Disclaimer: This post was made possible through collaborative partnership with Ulele and Tampa Bay Bloggers.