In a little over a week 4,411 delegates (some actual delegates, some alternatives, some alternatives to the alternatives) and their entourages will be making their way to Tampa to unleash the beast that is the Republican National Convention (RNC). The city is quickly finalizing a process that began years ago. They’ve removed a number of dilapidated boat slips, bought the police new bicycles and a state of the art armored S.W.A.T team truck and put the homeless…uh well, they can’t really send them anywhere else because neither Clearwater or St. Pete wants them. But the homeless (and the construction) aside, Tampa is ready to shine. For J-Fur and I that means a long weekend of avoiding the downtown. So, like dieters told to restrict chocolate, we overindulged while we still could. One of the places we visited this weekend on our downtown tour was Bamboozle Cafe.
Bamboozle Cafe is a cafe that offers Vietnamese Fusion food. It was recommended to us by our friends B & E (its ok, they are “foodies” and are to be trusted). Upon arrival the first thing I noticed about the cafe, aside from the RNC posters, was the bipartite interior. Half of it was bright, due to the huge window on the street, and the other half was dark, almost romantic. The walls are painted almost entirely black, with shades of blue jade, which gives even the light side, some dark undertones. Bamboozle’s menu is very unique in that it has a number of different sections for special diets. It includes an extensive vegan menu as well as a gluten free one. J-Fur and I naturally gravitated to the vegan side. We both started with an appetizer. She went with the mini fried veggie egg rolls. These little boys were super crispy and offered just a slight salty aftertaste. They were served with a side of pickled daikon and carrots (just a hint of pickled taste, very mild and unoffensive).
Mini crispy egg rolls
I ordered a bowl of pho with thai basil, lime and tofu. With those flavors I expected a much bolder soup. But not wanting to steal the show, the soup was actually very calm. It was a nice, light way to begin the meal. For our entrees, I selected the Vegan Banh Xeo with Tofu. Closer your eyes and imagine this. You have a tofu Banh Mi (like this one) and instead of serving it on French bread, you decided to roll it up in a thick crepe. Is that something you might be interested in? I was, without question, and thankfully Bamboozle did not disappoint. This thick crepe was stuffed with bean sprouts and tofu, and served over a lettuce wrap with some pickled daikon and carrots on the side. It was accompanied by soy vinaigrette. Cut, dip, and eat was all I did for the next few minutes as the crepe was huge. The only downside was that I had to cut it. I wanted to just pick the thing up with my hands and shove it into my mouth but it wasn’t built for that. Instead I just took it a bit at a time. The Banh Xeo was so good I didn’t even make it to the car before I began looking up how to make it at home. It’s penciled in for next week.
The Vegan Banh Xeo
J-Fur ordered the Vegan Tofu Noodle Salad (which I eyed briefly). It had a nice balance of softness to crunch (with the noodles, lettuce and sprouts and the crushed peanuts). I was disappointed in how much mint was in it. I like mint, I just don’t like it that much. I’m definitely glad the Banh Xeo was on my plate and not this dish.
With two appetizers and two entrees and tip the meal came out to about 40 dollars. Certainly a bit on the high end of the spectrum, but considering we left full and satisfied (and researching how to make one of the dishes in my own kitchen) it was a nice splurge. The Fat Cats of the RNC, as long as they have a worldly flair to their palette, would love this place.
I‘m assuming some of these delegates are men of fashion (aka gallants) so pair this meal with the new track from Two Gallants “My Love Won’t Wait.”
Also try a bit of “Radiator” by Coach Bombay, just because it satisfies.