Tampa’s Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino’s Council Oak restaurant hosts a ‘Social Hour’ that is putting Happy Hour on its head with amazing shareable dishes & elegantly made classic cocktails. Come, be social, leave full!
I was invited to enjoy dinner at Council Oak with other Tampa Bay bloggers to try out their new “Social Hour” menu. This will fast become the place to be to celebrate happy hour at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa.
Every time I tell people that I am going out to Council Oak, I get “ooohs” and “aaaahs”. Its reputation is well deserved because of their dedication for creating notable meals and well- crafted drinks. Any time you go, you’ll be in for a real experience.
I recently enjoyed a dinner at Council Oak in the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in Tampa. I was there with a wonderful group of fellow Tampa Bay based bloggers. The intimate group allowed us to converse about must dine at Tampa restaurants, the crazy things our kids do, and how to best use credit card points to allow you to travel more. Of course, the conversations were great, but the star of the show was the incredible food and drinks.
We met during Council Oak’s Social Hour, which is held daily from 4 – 6pm in the Lounge section of the restaurant. The menu features a variety of ‘Signature Dishes’ that have been created by Chef Francisco Pomalaza. The dishes are sized for sharing, so come and be social! And, of course, pair your dish with a refreshing cocktail. Enjoy one of their cocktails, sangria, or a glass of wine. I can cheers to that!
As I walked in I was greeted by our wonderful hosts, and handed a Cucumber Gimlet cocktail. The cocktail ($10) was easily sippable with the balanced delicate flavors from the Effen Cucumber Vodka, Elderflower liquor, Pear Nectar, Lemon Juice, Sparkling Wine. It was light in flavor and had a subtly effervescent feeling from the sparkling wine. It was garnished with a ribbon of cucumber to finish it off.
Before I knew it, more guests had arrived, my drink was slowly disappearing, and it was time for our scrumptious dinner together.
Fried Green Tomato Caprese Stack
The first of the Signature Bites to arrive was the Fried Green Tomato Caprese Stack ($13).
The description that highlighted the ingredients made me giddy: Burrata Crème, Cilantro-Spinach Pesto, Roasted Red Pepper Jam. Each element is perfect in its own way, but by combining them you are creating a perfect dish. The golden crunchy fried green tomatoes were the perfect palette for the buratta, pesto, and pepper jam. I particularly enjoyed the crunch with the combination of a rich creamy burrata. A fun flavor and texture combination.
Tomatoes are abundant in Florida, so it felt like it was the perfect dish to kick off dinner here. In fact, it was reminding me to go tomato picking soon to get the green tomatoes. Before I know it, the ripe ones will be ready to be eaten like apples.
Grilled Brioche & Mushroom Toast
The Grilled Brioche & Mushroom Toast ($13) arrived next. The first dish was Italian in nature, but this was all French. The grilled brioche was the perfect vessel for the piles of mushrooms and Truffle Crème Fraîche that sat atop it. Layered on that were Pickled Shallots, Mirco Chive, and freshly shaved Manchego Cheese.
Like the fried green tomatoes, this dish is another great option for vegetarians in your party. It is known of its amazing meat and seafood selections, but there truly is something for everyone at Council Oak.
Grilled Beef Tenderloin Skewers
We started with 2 vegetarian friendly dishes, but we quickly found out why Council Oak is so well known for their meat selections. The Grilled Beef Tenderloin Skewers ($17) were a shining example of their perfectly grilled offerings. Each piece of tenderloin was buttery soft, yet had a great sear to it. The meat itself was rich in flavor but it was really amplified with the Blended Herb Chimichurri that was served it it. Crispy Shallots provided some fun crunch to the dish.
I love when I have a chance to meet the chefs of the restaurant I am visiting. It is great to express my gratitude for the incredible work they do because they put so much heart and soul into the restaurant. It was wonderful getting to meet Chef Francisco Pomalaza. His passion really shone through as he explained his previous work experience and how that brought him here to Council Oak. One of the things that he told us about the dishes that he created was that he always wanted to have something crunchy in the dish. It was a fun thing to learn and be aware of the things he considered while developing a dish because it make me appreciate it that much more.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Cucumber Gimlet, but bourbon is my tried and true spirit. I couldn’t resist enjoying a Perfect Americano next. The rich Woodford Reserve Bourbon was partnered with Tattersall Orange Crema and Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth. A large peel of orange was the perfect garnish. This was so smooth and I really enjoyed its full-bodied flavor.
Council Oak Meatball
The Council Oak Meatball ($15) is made with 4 different cuts of meat. The softball sized meatball was draped in the hearty House Marinara. It has a rich flavor and a chunky, homemade texture that brings you back to grandma’s house. Fresh Parmigiano Reggiano coats it like a fresh snowfall. suggest cutting a piece of the meatball off, placing it on a slice of the Toasted Baguett, then taking a big bite. Pure happiness!
BBQ Kuobuta Pork Belly
We went from beef to pork with the BBQ Kuobuta Pork Belly ($15). My mind jumbles when I think of this dish. It was so perfect that I basically am speechless. That happens when I enjoy something that is so good. The pork belly is enveloped in a Sweet Kimchi Glaze and topped with a Cucumber Slaw and Parsnip Chips
I really enjoyed every dish but, hands down, this was my favorite. I loved everything about this dish because it was fun, creative, and delicious. You just can’t beat seared tender pork belly that has been bathed in that glaze. If this was a chicken wing, you would be saying it was “finger lickin’ good”.
The night ended with the Mediterranean Octopus ($23) that is actually an appetizer on the Main Dinner Menu. It was special treat to be able to enjoy the dish. The octopus was paired with Grilled Artichokes. They went together so well because of the grilled flavors. The crunchy element of the dish were the salty Sweet Potato Chips that were nestled on top of the octopus and artichokes. The funny thing about the dish is that the seafood element was essentially like an island in a Piquillo Pepper Romesco sea. The sauce was so good that I wanted to lick it clean!
Our entire dinner at Council Oak was phenomenal. Enjoying Social Hour needs to be a ‘must do’ thing with friends. Everyone needs to enjoy some delicious dishes, fantastic cocktails, and fantastic company.
The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is having a major expansion and I cant wait for it to be completed. More rooms, pools, and so many more restaurants for everyone to enjoy. I’m just going to have to eat and drink my way through it!