When I arrived in Tampa from California, International Plaza was one of the first places I visited. I will never forget my initial visit there back in May of 2003. As I sipped on a Cosmopolitan at Blue Martini, I enjoyed the nice weather and admired all of the fashionable people as they passed by. International Plaza reminded me so much of the beautiful Santana Row, which is a gorgeous shopping and dining complex in San Jose, CA that had opened just prior to my departure. After I finished my cocktail, I walked around admiring all of the shops and dining establishments. I had only been in town a few days, but somehow this magnificent place made me feel like I was right at home.
As of recent, I have been rediscovering all of the fantastic restaurants at International Plaza. I had lunch yesterday for the first time at Zen Bistro. After hearing so much about their fantastic menu and innovative cocktail list, I was eager to pop in.
To avoid the busy lunch crowd, I went in about 2:30. I was immediately impressed by the airy decor and overall swanky vibe. Since I was alone, I grabbed a seat at the bar and began to make that difficult decision….what was I going to order?
As much as I was craving sushi, I decided to save that for my next visit when I could also enjoy some of their exotic cocktails. My eyes were drawn to their selection of Bento Boxes, as it had been way to long since I enjoyed eating lunch from one. With mouth-watering choices such as BBQ Short Rib, Korean BBQ Beef, Chicken, Sashimi, Tempura Shrimp, Maki Bento and Nigiri Bento, I went with the bartender’s suggestion of BBQ Short Rib. Served with miso soup, crab dumpling, mixed green salad, cucumber salad and your choice of white or brown rice, it was a generous amount of food. The miso soup was piping hot and soothing. I had been having a case of the Mondays and somehow all my worries seemed to disappear as I savored this cup of warm goodness.
As my bento box was presented, I could not help but smile. It was so colorful and smelled amazing. Not knowing where to begin, I sampled from each section. The meat on the short ribs melted right off the bone. As I worked my way around each tasty section, I was loving everything. The salad was refreshing and tossed with a citrus dressing. I gobbled up the scrumptious crab dumpling which was served with a duo of dipping sauces.
I could not get over the flavor of the short ribs and did not leave an ounce of meat on the bones. This was one of the best lunches I had experienced in quite sometime. Service was fast and friendly and the food was beyond delicious.
If you are looking for a great spot to grab lunch in the Westhshore district, be sure and head over to International Plaza. Zen Bistro is a fantastic spot for a quick and tasty lunch. I was in and out in less than an hour. My next visit will include sushi and cocktails after a day of shopping. 🙂[?]