Cafe Dufrain: Not So Much (Tampa)
Dinner at Cafe Dufrain Saturday night was a mixed bag only because the location is so gorgeous: the sunset, the view of the Ice Palace across the water, the fresh breeze, all conspired to help me ignore the so-so food and slow, clumsy service.
The salads were nothing special, the fish was overcooked, and the risotto was beyond weird: hard grains of pasta in a sauce made sticky with too much mozzarella, loaded with chunks of mushy tomato, abundant with celery, and topped with haricot verts. Huh?? The shrimp on the risotto were good, as was the ahi tuna tataki.
A quibble: the diner who ordered the ahi tuna tataki pronounced it slowly and carefully and not quite correctly, so the waitress corrected her pronunciation. What on earth? Is gracious service too much to ask for? Here, it is.
We asked for bread, but they don't have bread, they only have crackers, which they brought; that was nice, but why doesn't a restaurant that serves sandwiches at lunch have bread at dinner, especially when soup is on the menu and it calls itself a cafe?
The waitress was slow to clear used plates and glasses, and the food was even slower coming out of the kitchen. Why did dessert, of all things, take 20 minutes to appear? The chocolate souffle cake, which our waitress confusingly explained was not a souffle at all, was just cake, dry and flavorless: thank god for the quite nice vanilla ice cream served alongside and the dabs of what I swear was Hershey's Chocolate Syrup on the plate. The mango cheesecake, on the other hand, was great, although it was more like mango mousse on a graham crust.
The wine list was nice, well-priced and with every bottle on the list offered by the glass as well. And did I mention the view?
I'm thinking Cafe Dufrain would be great for wine and appetizers (no liquor, folks!) at sunset, or lunch with out-of-town guests (preferably from the Frozen North) who will be so knocked out by the location they won't notice much else. But wouldn't it be nice if the chef had higher ambitions?
My husband and I went here maybe 2 years ago. It was at lunch, I had a salad, I don't remember which now and my husband had a sandwich. The portions were only adequate, if you were very hungry it would not have been enough. The food was tasty on our visit. However, we have not been there since.
A note - if you go, try to get the on-street parking, as the nearby parking garage is fairly pricey per hour.