From the Green Book:
Haven is the newly rebooted Sideberns, which for a few years was my favorite restaurant in Tampa. They've been closed for almost a year, letting newcomers like Rooster and Ava run away with all the foodie-love. So now, they're back; what do we think?
We think the new interior looks great. They sat us in a gargantuan semi-circular booth, which felt like a privileged spot. But looking around, all the spots seemed similarly nice. A lot of thought went into this layout.
Our ordering decisions were constrained by --REDACTED-- so we couldn't try everything we normally would have gravitated toward. We will definitely have to come back after --REDACTED--. [See below- M]
We began with cheese and a miscommunication. Mel wanted something that spread like butter, but all she said was "I want something buttery," so we got a solid (but tasty) cheddar which was buttery, but didn't make Mel happy.
We got "baguette service" which was nice (the baguette is served with lovely olive oil and goat-milk butter), but not necessary at all for fewer than four people at the table. I liked the olives though.
Meanwhile, I had two cocktails: A "Vieux Carre'" and a "Haven Sour." Both were nice, but honestly I prefered the V.C. I had at Anise last Sunday. The sour was a sophisticated update of a classic with tamarind and egg white.
Next we got our vegetable course, consisting of the "Sweet Corn" and the house salad (I wanted to order basically every other thing in that section of the menu, but this was Mel's birthday dinner, so...). The corn dish was surprisingly inventive: popped corn, corn nuts, and lightly fried baby corn met with the sweet corn kernels and leeks, plus a spicy aioli on the plate. Fun dish (and way more interesting than you'd expect from the description on the menu). The house salad also trumps expectations. It was beautiful (assorted greens, cheese, tomato, etc.).
Next I ordered the skirt steak & bone marrow, which was artfully presented, with the bone bisected longitudinally and laid across the top of the dish. The steak was super grassy, with that slightly alkaline taste that some prefer... but not me. Even so, when I got all of the components together (especially including the sweet pickled olives, which were a new one on me) with the sauce on the plate, the bites were superb. The bone marrow by itself was glorious too, for the record.
For dessert we got some apple fritter business, which was fine, and (for moi) two ounces of the Angeline Rye. They have 27 Ryes on the menu. Seriously.
This wasn't my favorite meal out lately, but that wasn't the restaurant's fault. The service was great, and I really like the menu. I just can't wait to go back and really get amongst the charcuterie.
Let me add some to my initial Green Book recollections:
We returned to Haven for my birthday in June, and had a much better experiance. You see, my wife was pregnant when we went the first time, so she was avoiding any animal products that weren't fully cooked or pasteurized. That, of course, ruled out basically all the charcuterie, and frankly most of the rest of the menu too, since so many dishes contained various partially cooked components or aiolis and the like. The pregnancy didn't work out, sadly, but the major bright-side of that was that on our second visit, we got to try anything we wanted. Lemons => Lemonade.
We started with the impressive Butcher's Plate (pictured above), which seemed like a good value for $42 (though it's awfully filling for just two). What an absolute treat! Everything was tremendous, but I particularly remember the head cheese and the country pate being wonderful.
We had the beet salad, which was great (and also is "under-described" by the menu, like the veg. dishes I described above). Then we moved on to the Hamachi Sashimi. This latter dish, while mostly great (the fish itself was sooooo good-- rich, buttery, with just the right amount of salt and fishy-ness) had one off note: there were green bell peppers in with the garnish that just tasted wrong with the other ingredients. The menu says that there should be jalepenos, so maybe they ran out and somebody called an audible.
We were super-impressed with the scallop dish, which comes with sweetbreads, sugar snaps, and a porcini sauce. Then we went straight to dessert, which was nice, but not as good as the Scotch I finished up with.
A final word on the bar program: On this second visit, in addition to the scotch, I had a barrel-aged cocktail, and a couple glasses of lovey red wine that the server took tremendous care in helping me select. They really care about your experience as a drinker, and I really appreciate it.
Matt gives it a 4.5;
Mel would prefer not to assign a number until she goes back with her book.
Haven is located at:
2208 West Morrison Avenue
Tampa, FL 33606
tel. (813) 258-2233
and you can book a table through their website.
As always, any and all feedback is welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for reading!