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Posted: 12/09/11


Restaurant: Columbia Tampa

Nelson @ Ybor City: Columbia is Florida's oldest restaurant at over 100 years old. This Spanish/Cuban restaurant has a great atmosphere, especially where we sat - in the middle of the courtyard that almost made it feel like we were outside. To start, we tried a local delicacy, the Devil Crab Croquettes, which were traditionally sold by bicycle vendors in Tampa's Latin Quarter. They contain blue crab meat, Cuban cracker crumbs, paprika, onions and garlic. These were extremely meaty and not saucy, which I like. They were just excellent.

The bread service is of course Cuban bread (Tampa localized), brought out fresh by a person dedicated to this task (I think). It's like a french loaf to me, but they describe it as about three feet long and rectangular in shape. The crust of the bread is hard and thin, almost papery, toasted with a soft, delicate dough in the middle. The loaf is stretched long with a moist long palm frond laid down the middle creating a shallow trench in the upper crust. Good stuff.

The other appetizer we tried was a Queso Fundido, Tetilla cheese, mild and delicious (from Galicia, in Northwest Spain), baked in a Rioja tomato sauce until melted and served with toasted Cuban bread points. I thought it was like a hot salsa with cheese and crunchy bread. It was good, but not as unique as I was hoping.

Next was the salad which was a show in itself. The call it the Original 1905 Salad, Columbia's legendary salad tossed at your table. It consists of crisp iceberg lettuce with julienne of baked ham, natural Swiss cheese, beefsteak tomato, olives, grated Romano cheese and garlic dressing. I appreciated that it was made at the table as I enjoy watching food being freshly prepared. I like salads, and even I have to admit, this was one of the best I've ever had. Leo who doesn't like salads even commented that he enjoyed this salad. The tomatoes were so meaty, fresh and full of taste. I enjoyed the cured ham and even the olives! They were prepitted and tasted ok, which says a lot since I don't like olives. Also notice that there are strips of cheese as well as grated cheese. The sauce was vinegary in a nice tasty way. I would come back here and just eat the salad as a meal!

I didn't know what to order, so I went with a sampler plate, La Completa Cubana. This sampler of Cuban flavours includes roast pork, Boliche, Empanada de Picadillo, platanos, yuca, black beans and yellow rice. The pork and beef are very tender, and not dry. The sauce was good on this dish. I've included a closeup that shows the ground beef inside the Empanada as well as the Chorizo sausage embedded in the hunk of meat. Of course I liked the plantain, but wasn't a huge fan of the black bean. Overall a great dish with nice variety. I was stuffed!

To drink we ordered their Mojito, also made by the tableside with Don Casimiro Classic Silver Rum, Hierbabuena (mint) and fresh lime juice. Once again, I appreciated the show as the waiter made the drink in front of us. This was so tasty and hid the alcohol so well that I drank it quickly and subsequently got quite red.

Overall great service and great food for something of a different experience for me. I thoroughly enjoyed this meal!

Columbia Restaurant on Urbanspoon


Categories: Appetizer,  Beef,  Caribbean,  Crab,  Drinks,  Pork,  

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