I set my expectations pretty high when it comes to traditional Asian dishes - my mother has always been one to prepare home-cooked dishes rooted in a variety of Asian cultures, so my palate was very much spoiled growing up.
So far, my favorite spots for authentic Asian food in the Tampa Bay area are China Yuan (off of Armenia Avenue), ABC Seafood Restaurant (off of Fletcher Avenue), Pho Anh Hoa and Yummy House (both off of Waters Avenue). Now, I'll be adding Rock 'N Raw at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa to that list. I'll be honest - the entrees really surprised me.
Prior to this visit, I had gone to Rock 'N Raw once before, ordering only items off of the sushi menu. That was my biggest mistake, because although the restaurant calls itself "The Sushi Joint," I truly believe that the best dishes are the ones on its regular menu.
I got the chance to speak with Chef Kim Pak Chai, who exudes nothing but passion towards the entrees on the menu. There's nothing I love more than talking to people who are passionate about food, and even more so, those who are passionate about the food they cook. Chef Kim Pak introduced myself and pH to his recommended menu items:
My must-order picks:
- Red Oil Dumplings: These are unlike any steamed or pan-fried dumplings you've ever had at any restaurant. You get the authentic zesty Szechuan flavor with every bite, as it soaks in the red oil sauce.
- Surf & Turf Roll: What a unique and flavorful sushi roll - I don't think I've ever had anything similar to it before. The Wagyu beef is lightly charred with a blow torch, and adds a distinct and unique smoky flavor to the roll.
- White Flounder Supreme: This is one of my favorite Asian dishes - the flounder, imported from Holland is fresh and full of meat, and I love to let it soak in the ginger/scallion sauce. Be sure to ask for a side of rice with this dish!
- Luc Lac Beef Tenderloin: These tender cuts of beef are full of flavor and pair wonderfully with Rock 'N Raw's house-pickled jalapeno and habanero peppers! Be careful of those red habaneros - they are SPICY!
- Braised Pork Belly: If you are a big fan of pork belly like pH is, you are going to LOVE this dish. I only eat the tender, non-fatty parts of pork belly (yes, I know I'm crazy), but this dish brings back wonderful memories of the Vietnamese thịt kho that my mom always makes at home.
- Assam Prawns: This was my most favorite dish of the entire meal, highly recommended by Chef Kim Pak as he has a Malaysian background and this is his signature dish. The sweet flavor of tamarind is paired with the rich flavor of coconut, which both level out the spiciness of this unique dish. This is another entree I'd recommend with a side of rice - the sauce is amazing, so mix it in!
Rock 'N Raw delivered a wonderful experience, and I can't believe I hadn't discovered this Asian cuisine gem sooner. Next time you pay a visit, focus on the regular menu versus the sushi menu - I promise you won't regret it!
Rock 'N Raw is located on the second floor of the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa, next to Fresh Harvest. The restaurant is open daily from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m., and you can view the sushi menu here and the regular menu here.
*Disclosure: The meal featured in this post was provided by Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for feature and for an honest review. Opinions expressed here are my own and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino or Rock 'N Raw.