Many of my regular readers will recognize my running fueled love for Mac & Cheese along with a tasty beer. So, on my recent trip to Ulele (Tampa’s hottest new restaurant), my post workday mood was immediately improved by the appetizer.
Yes, Ulele. You had me at “Mac and cheese and beer”.
While I sipped a very tasty Honeymoon beer, brewed with fresh local strawberries, I curiously eyed that Mac and Cheese. Were there really bacon bits? Was the sauce made with beer brewed onsite? Yes and yes! The four cheese light beer sauce poured over seashell pasta and topped with a Parmesan Romano crust was absolutely delicious on its own. Add Ulele’s signature duck bacon and you’ve got yourself some of the best Mac and Cheese in the south!
Many times in the past, I have made a solid meal out of Mac and Cheese and beer. So, it was difficult to remain disciplined for the feast to come. I ordered a glass of Rusty’s Red lager and settled in as the oysters arrived. I’m not a big fan of oysters so I passed on the beautifully presented raw oysters. I must admit that they were a big hit with the others at the table. The smell of the charbroiled oysters was too hard to resist, though. I’m glad I tried them. Covered with garlic butter, grated Parmesan and Romano, they were simply delightful.
Alligator Hush Puppies? Well that’s interesting. And delicious. Made with alligator, country ham and duck bacon (a theme is developing), these little spheres are full of flavor. I was in the midst of food heaven when our knowledgeable and attentive waiter removed the empty plate.
Then, he brought the filet.
I enjoy Filet Mignon. I have it maybe 3 times per year. It’s always for a special occasion. Only two months prior, I had the best filet ever at the Envy Steakhouse in the Renaissance Las Vegas while celebrating the finish of the Las Vegas Ragnar Relay. It was tender and juicy with a perfect crust full of flavor. When I went to Ulele for native inspired cuisine, I did not expect to be served Filet Mignon. When I was served this lovely 10 Oz filet, I did not expect it to be as good as the one I had at Envy. It was – maybe even better. It was so tender that I almost didn’t need the knife. The texture was perfect and the flavor was heavenly. Ulele features a lot of unique dishes – all of them delicious, but it would be difficult not to order this filet on a return trip. That’s how good it is.
The Filet Mignon was served with White Chedder popcorn mashed potatoes. Yes. Popcorn. I thought the waiter misspoke at first. You probably expect white cheddar to complement mashed potatoes very well and it does, but the popcorn actually gives the potatoes a unique texture. It sounds crazy and perhaps it is, but it works very well.
How does one follow delicious Filet Mignon? With a relaxing cocktail and dessert of course! I checked out Ulele’s menu of signature cocktails and settled on the Pyrat Old-Fashioned. This Florida twist on the classic old fashioned is made with Pyrat XO Reserve Rum, sugar in the raw and Angostura bitters. It was the perfect compliment to the food coma I was slipping into.
Dessert, however, was a long way off. Instead, how about something from the lunch menu? The Ulele burger arrived smelling irresistible despite my full belly. I sliced off a quarter of the burger and consumed it happily. Made from a blend of ground short rib, brisket and chuck, the term “burger” hardly does this glorious sandwich justice. I was loosening my belt and getting ready to dig in for more when the Florida Pompano arrived.
If you’re looking for something a little lighter than beef, this seafood entree will not disappoint. Served with a sun dried tomato shallot cream and topped with crispy fried carrot ribbons, it’s fun and flavorful.
When our waiter brought the 2.2 lb. Kilo Porterhouse, I threw in the towel. This episode of Man vs Food was over (sort of). Billed as “the best of both worlds”, this filet mignon and New York strip loin is aged 24 days and chef carved off the bone. All of Ulele’s beef is locally sourced from Strickland ranch just 50 miles away. In turn, the cattle at Strickland ranch are fed on the spent grain from Ulele’s onsite brewery. That’s recycling (and just plain cool!) Although the Kilo looked and smelled delicious, I simply could not fit any more in my very happy stomach – or so I thought.
It turns out there was some room left for the Candied Duck Bacon Maple Fried Ice Cream. I don’t care how much you eat when you go to Ulele. You need to have this ice cream. It’s really, really good. Ulele also featured several other flavors of house made ice cream. Others at the table enjoyed them. I did not try them. I have a hard time believing they could possibly be better than the Candied Duck Bacon Maple Fried Ice Cream. Not only is it one of the best desserts I’ve ever had, it’s just fun to say!
I will certainly be back to Ulele and I’ve been highly recommending this wonderful dining experience to all of my friends. The food is delicious. From the brew master to the head chef to the management and wait staff, everyone is experienced, friendly and knowledgeable. This team takes great pride in delivering an excellent experience to their guests and they succeed on all levels.