Thinking about where to go for lunch? This is the first in a series of posts featuring several places I have tried recently....the good, the bad and the ugly.
I read the list of awards received by this New Tampa spot and it prompted me to suggest to Sister Foodie that we try it during her visit to Tampa last week.
What a letdown! Honestly, is Florida Trend kidding when mentioning this place in the same breath as Golden Spoon. Either I dined there on a bad day or it's gone downhill since its 2006 review.
I'll set the stage: It was a rainy, dreary MLK Day and a hot, spicy lunch was in order. We love Thai food and Liang's bills itself as an Asian bistro specializing in Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese and Thai cuisines.
Off we went to a casual, pleasant atmosphere but one surprisingly Americanized for an Asian restaurant. Where were the chopsticks and the soothing sounds of the Orient? We were seated in a rather empty dining room, consisting of a lady dining alone, a few people on business lunches and some seniors who braved the elements.
The smiling waiter presented an extensive menu and asked if we would like tea. That sounded ideal on this bone-chilling day. He brought us a pot of fragrant hot tea, heightening our anticipation of enjoying equally satisfying flavors from the kitchen. Then he told us that the lunch items were not available due to the holiday; we could order anything else, meaning the dinner items. Weird, but whatever.
We started with pan-fried pork dumplings, which were fine but unremarkable. The thing we liked best about them was dipping them in a flaming-hot red chili condiment. That stuff was fiery, but that was the extent of our happy inferno.
Next, we ordered Thai Basil Leaves Beef and Singapore Rice Noodle entrees. The menu indicated that the beef was spicy and the Singapore Rice Noodle was bathed in a lightly spiced curry sauce.
The beef dish was tasteless. Sister Foodie and I wondered if we had really seen a little chili pepper on the menu indicating this dish had some punch. That's how bland it was.
It consisted primarily of broccoli and thinly sliced beef stir-fried in a typical brown sauce, which Sister found heavy-handed on the cornstarch. I actually dipped the boring beef into the red chili condiment that remained on the table. Sister resorted to the soy sauce. We opted for brown rice instead of white, and they get points for offering a choice.
The noodles, coated in a mild curry sauce with slivers of chicken, scallions, scant asparagus and some egg tossed throughout, weren't spicy, either. However, there was a standout item in this dish: the shrimp. It was fat, juicy and really tasty.
Something else that looked to be a Liang's strength was the egg roll appetizer. We saw burrito-sized egg rolls, cut on a diagonal, delivered to a nearby table and were sorry we didn't order them. I might order some from their drive-through window one day. Yeah, they have a drive-through, but thankfully it's not visible from the dining room.
Our plates runneth over, so the waiter boxed up our leftovers, mentioning that most people order an appetizer apiece and share an entree. It would have been nice if he suggested that when we ordered, especially since this was lunch! The tab for two was $43, including tax and tip.
Verdict: Disappointing. Definitely failed the Thai test. Expect standard Chinese fare served in a comfortable, American-influenced setting.
17515 Bruce B. Downs Blvd.
Tampa, FL 33647