“You get what you pay for!” was a quote my middle school science teacher shouted every time a clutzy teen dropped a beaker on the floor that broke into a gazillion pieces. It was his attempt at a humorous mantra that was met with mostly bored hormonal eyes. Can’t blame him for trying. For the most part Tampa is filled with restaurants that give you what you pay for. If you’re willing to shell out the bucks, they are willing to tickle your tastebuds. You want to go cheap, they’ll give you big and lifeless on a plate. There are, of course, exceptions to the rule. Anise Global Gastrobar is one of them.
I was first intrigued with Anise because of the word “Global.” It is a restaurant that doesn’t stick to one style of food but instead gives you a worldly sampling of a few. From the redneck caviar turned chic foodie lust of the truffled tater tots to the Mexican-Korean fusion of duck confit tacos to the gluten free Japanese of their Jap Chae Noodles, Anise lets you sample the world from the safety of your own comfortable booth.
The restaurant is beautifully designed. It has a very dark, romantic interior with interesting art work covering the walls. These range from letters to photographs to artistic swirls. The bar stretches across the front with a traditional seating area split off to one side and a large booth decked out with high class television trays on the other.
On our visit, J-Fur and I ordered a batch of the truffled tater tots. I love me some tater tots, they remind me of my childhood. But very few restaurants have them on their menu (I feel like the only other restaurant I’ve ordered tater tots from is the Triple Rock in Minneapolis). These particular tots are done up in a truffled salt dressing and served with a side of lemon parsley creme-fraiche. J-Fur doesn’t do creamy and since it wasn’t vegan I abstained, so neither of us can attest to whether the dipping sauce was any good or not. But the tater tots sure were. They were served in an awesome little personal frying basket. Texture wise these little beauties were extra crispy on the outside with an interior that just melted away, sort of like the potato version of a savory M&M.
For my main course I had very few items to choose from. The Jap Chae and Tofu Confit Tacos were both free of animal products, but most everything else had either cheese or meat accompanying it. I decided to go with the Tofu Confit Tacos. The taco shell itself was a corn tortilla that had been fried in a way that puffed it out. It almost seemed like a crispy pancake. The shell was layered with Hoisin BBQ sauce tofu, pickled daikon radish, fresh jalapenos and cabbage. A lime came on the side and cilantro was thrown on top for garnishing. I immediately removed the cilantro, squeezed the lime over top and took a bite. These were really good, an exercise in complete subtlety. The spiciness of the jalapenos, the slightly sweet of the bbq, the crunch of the cabbage, the sour of the lime and the light tang of the radish were perfect together. The two small tacos were gone in a splash.
Tofu Confit Tacos
J-Fur went with the Jap Chae. This was a bowl of sweet potato noodles (which made them gluten free for anyone scoring at home) with sauteed vegetables, sesame soy sauce, scallions and tofu (which she added). It was a very nicely flavored dish. One that wasn’t overpowering (until she got to the bottom where the sauce had settled). She was completely satisfied with how simple, yet stunning the dish had turned out.
What’s not to like about the restaurant right? I mean the service was great, the bathrooms clean and pristine, the do it yourself bloody mary bar is excellent if you are into those things. Seems like an A+! Well…not exactly. The problem with Anise isn’t the way the food tastes. The problem goes back to what I said at the top…you get what you pay for. I’m not completely sold that at Anise Global Gastrobar you are getting what you pay for. The prices seem a bit steep for what comes on your plate. As far as I could tell, there wasn’t some strange ingredient in our dishes that warranted the associated price tag. On top of that, both J-Fur and I were hungry within a short time of leaving Anise (granted we did spend an hour or so talking after the meal). This isn’t something that we expect when going out for a meal.
Anise Global Gastrobar tastes great and is less filling. It is a good place to go for an anniversary or special occasion because it has a nice upscale feel to it. Take out-of-towners here and impress them with what Tampa has to offer. But for those on a budget or those who are extremely hungry and looking to find great value for your dollar, this won’t be the place for you.
The music at Anise was very early 90’s Sublime rock mixed with some reggae. I figured something similar was needed for the pairing, something like Outasight’s “Hell Yea”. It is fun, summery and very 90’s-esque.