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Our excellent dinner at Edison: Food + Drink Lab

edison food drink lab

Anitra landed a new job, which in my books is the perfect excuse to celebrate with a night out featuring great food and drink. We decided to try a place we’ve never been to before: Edison: Food + Drink Lab, located on Kennedy Avenue in Tampa’s up-and-coming North Hyde Park neighborhood.

Edison’s chef and owner is Jeannie Pierola, the former chef at legendary Tampa steakhouse Bern’s and its spinoff fine-dining place SideBern’s (which has since closed and reopened under a new name, Haven). After leaving Bern’s and SideBern’s in 2007, she opened a series of pop-up kitchens that combined fine dining with playfulness, a theme that continues with Edison, where they seem to be very willing to combine ingredients in interesting and unusual ways.

The place was booked solid from 6:00 to 8:30, but through OpenTable, we were able to make a reservation for 5:30, which turned out to be a good time to book: early enough to beat the rush, but late enough that the restaurant was in full swing. Our waiter and the kitchen were very helpful with Anitra’s wheat/barley allergy, and it turned out that most of the dishes — the notable exception being desserts — could easily be altered to suit her. If you have to avoid gluten but still want fine dining, you’ll want to add Edison to your list.

And if you’re of the “bring on the gluten!” persuasion, you’ll still want to add Edison to your list. It’s that good.

Appetizers

We started out celebratory dinner by sharing a couple of appetizers, one cold, one hot:

appetizer 1

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Our cold appetizer was avocado leaf-seared yellowfin tuna. It was served with homestead green mango salad, fish sauce caramel, and tamarind peanut crunch, but what put it over the top was an aji amarillo sorbet. The sorbet was a mix of spicy, sour, and sweet, and it was perfect. I want sorbet pairings for all my food from now on.

appetizer 2

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The hot appetizer was the Edison take on Oysters Rockefeller. These came in a creamy butter sauce, and the kitchen substituted the traditional bread crumbs for almond flour crumbs, and then they kicked it up a notch by adding small cubes of their own homemade thick-sliced bacon. Such an dish called for bourbon, and speaking of which…

Opening cocktails

drink 1-2

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My starter cocktail was the Don’t Sweat da Technique. Based on an exclusive-to-Edison batch of Angel’s Envy bourbon and Avuá Amburana Cachaça, it was topped off with Carpano Bianco vermouth, Cynar Digestivo, Jack Rudy aromatic bitters, a very nice marinated cherry, and one of those giant artisanal cocktail ice cubes that I’m sure was made with panda tears and had a very precisely-calculated melting profile. It was Don Draper-worthy.

drink 1-1

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Anitra started with a Fire from Lima, which happens to the bar’s signature cocktail. A creation of bartender Ryan Pinés (pictured below), it starts with heavily cilatro-infused Fontana Pisco as its base, lime juice and jalapeño simple syrup for mix, and is topped with a froth made of egg whites.

Photo: Bartender Ryan Pines at the edison food + drink lab's bar serving a Fire from Lima.

Photo by Creative Loafing. Click the photo to see their article featuring Ryan Pinés and the Fire from Lima.

Our waiter made it a point to check up on us after the drinks arrived, and again after the appetizers showed up.

Mains

main 1

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For her main, Anitra had the duck confit. The duck was perfect: quite meaty and not as fatty or greasy as you might expect, and it was fork-tender — no knife needed. If you love duck, you must try this dish. If you don’t like duck, the way Edison does it just might change your mind.

The duck came with cooked greens, an excellent risotto, and the kicker: a strawberry-rhubarb sauce that added the right amount of sweet and sour to the dish.

main 2

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I was hungry, so I wanted something hearty. I went with the Moroccan veal tagine, which featured a fork-tender veal shank — the same cut you’d use for osso bucco — stewed in a rich, sweet and savory sauce with chickpeas and couscous and served with wilted greens and carrots in a deep dish. I’d gladly order this again, if it weren’t for everything else on the menu that I’d like to try on future visits.

Dinner cocktails

drink 2-1

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Anitra’s dinner cocktail was the Wisconsin Pride, made with Death’s Door vodka and Edison’s own Mexican cocoa. It was topped with foam made with Kringle Cream rum (which is made with Wisconsin cream, hence the cocktail’s name) and very thin almond slivers. Yes, it’s choco-licious, but not in a “chocolate choo-choo” way; it transcends the dismissive term “girl drink”.

drink 2-2

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My dinner cocktail was the Smashed Rickey, based on Martin Miller’s Westbourne Strength Gin and finished with basil, grapefruit juice, agave nectar, and Fever Tree Bitter Lemon Soda. It was a nice contrast, cutting through my meaty, saucy main.

Again, the waiter dropped by the table after we were served our mains to make sure everything was to our satisfaction.

Dessert

dessert

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We shared the one gluten-free dessert: a very nice cranberry sorbet. It was served on a bed of pistachios that were crushed so finely that we had to check with the waiter to make sure they hadn’t served us the sorbet on a bed of crumbled pastry by mistake. This was the only point of our evening when it took time to get out waiter’s attention, as the restaurant was at its busiest.

Verdict

edison dining room

I’m not surprised that Edison: Food + Drink Lab is considered to be in Tampa’s top ten restaurants. Here’s what the editors of Tampa Bay Times’ 2015 edition of Top 50 Restaurants in Tampa Bay (where Edison occupies the number three spot) have to say:

Settling into its third year, Jeannie Pierola’s Edison has found such a nice groove. The kitchen is dense with talent, from Allie Beasman who has been promoted to chef de cuisine, to pastry chef Erin Kelly (watch out for her new riff on milk and cookies using the anti-griddle). On the beverage side there’s bar manager Ryan Pinés who took the full bar (a late addition) from zero to 60 swiftly (and added house-bottled and barrel-aged cocktails) and new wine director Tyler Westlund, who has introduced wines on tap and will launch a fresh wine dinner series in Feb. Tampa-native Pierola is self-taught, with passion and curiosity that continually allows her to create mash-ups and juxtapositions that have to the power to shock as much as charm.

Both the food and drinks were excellent and interesting, and the service was quite good. The menu is really intriguing, and we want to go back and try different dishes and cocktails next time. Our waiter was helpful, and the kitchen was flexible enough to accommodate wheat-free dietary restrictions with the appetizers and mains; if they could be as flexible with dessert (not easy, I’ll admit), they’d be perfect.

Photo: Leather wallet, filled to bursting with US $20 bills.

The only real downside to Edison is that it’s not cheap — but hey, excellence rarely is — especially if you go there in full celebratory mode like we did. With two appetizers, two mains, two cocktails each, a shared dessert, and tip, the bill came to $200. While you might not want to drop that kind of bank every date night, if you’re in the Accordion Bay area and want to celebrate something special, I strongly recommend Edison: Food + Drink Lab as a venue for doing so. Special events call for special food and drink, and that’s Edison’s stock in trade.

Edison: Food + Drink Lab (edison-tampa.com), located at 912 West Kennedy Blvd., Tampa FL 33606. Open for lunch Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and dinner Monday through Saturday from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.. You can book reservations at (813) 254-7111 or via OpenTable. You can also check out their Facebook page.

2 replies on “Our excellent dinner at Edison: Food + Drink Lab”

(Sorbet between courses:sorbet paired with courses::intermezzo:?intermezzo?). A quick note on the oysters Rockefeller, which I am entitled to make since I drove through John D.’s birthplace about six hundred times over nine years: I like the substitution for the bread crumbs, but I’m not sure if toasted chickpea flour might not have the more rounded, less sweet taste profile that will benefit from pairing up with the sea creature broth. But I am slightly dismayed at baconification. Now don’t get me wrong, bacon is fab. But Huitres des Rockefellers should be about the surf, and not the turf, and bacon… If you do it for yourself, try a dressing of sauteed onions, chard, chickpea flour, and garlic butter. (The chard holds up better to cooking than spinach.) Maybe mount some parsley at the end.

(That would be Richford, New York. One intersection, four corners, two functioning businesses, at the bottom of a failed Finger Lake.)

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