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Tampa's Wimauma Wows with its Southern Fusion Skills

As I strolled into South Tampa newcomer, Wimuma for a late dinner last Saturday night, I could not help but take in the warm welcome I felt while walking to my table. I am not solely speaking of the sincere cheerful greeting I received from the chef’s wife, Amy. I am referring to the “make yourself right at home” southern hospitable ambiance that speaks through this restaurant’s walls. Tastefully mismatched dining room tables and chairs are placed delightfully around the very small dining room. Colorful local art that captures the beauty that is both old and new Tampa covers the restaurant’s walls. A giant chalkboard wall displays beer, wine and special lists. Dim lighting creates charm and romance. Flowers and candles add a fresh flair to my already appealing surroundings.

Jack-of-all-trades Amy Moran plays the role of the Maitre-D, the chef’s lovely wife, and the admirable businesswoman all in one. She welcomes Chris and I and then allows Ashley, our skilled server, to take it from there. After drooling over the incredibly interesting and inspired dinner selections, we are torn. Fun and somewhat funky fusion exists in almost every plate. When Ashley returns, I have apprehensively narrowed it down to the Bacon-Encrusted Mahi and the Braised Beef Enchilada special. She insists the enchiladas rank supreme so I satisfy her suggestion. Chris orders the other special of the evening- Herb Grilled Mahi with an Indian cuisine twist. We agree to share the Fried Oyster small plate as a starter.

The fried oysters come out in beautiful time. Plated with perfection, each oyster sits prominently on a mini mound of house-made guacamole. On top of each oyster is a dollop of delectable smoky tomato jam. I almost have difficulty destroying this piece of art in front of me. Way more of a foodie than a fan of art, I grab an oyster and take a bite. The oyster is huge. Not a single morsel of flawlessly seasoned fried batter goes into my mouth without fresh and flavorful oyster along with it. The smoky jam plants a pleasant zing on my taste buds and the guacamole rounds it all out with its rich creaminess. Every oyster on the plate is equally as huge. Consistency is key in my "cookbook" and this dish nails it.

Soon after devouring those luscious oysters, dinner is served. Our plates are not lacking in portion. My braised beef enchiladas are served scorching and heaping in a casserole dish.  The juicy and ridiculously tender beef is generously stuffed in the sweet tortillas and falls off of my fork with each bite.  The authentic Mexican cheeses- Queso Oaxaca and Queso Cotija conjure my soul.  Melted with love, the sharp and crumbly Cotija (the Parmesan cheese of Mexico) gives a distinct flavor while the Queso Oaxaca provides the ever-so-smooth and stringy “meltiness”.  The Colorado sauce, a traditional Mexican red chile sauce, gives this dish a pungent punch, so pungent, in fact, that some may find it slightly overwhelming.  Accompanying the enchiladas is cilantro Basmati rice formed in rice cake form.  Because I’m a slave to cilantro, I would not have minded some more kick to the otherwise plain Basmati rice.  The enchiladas are also served with re-fried black-eyed peas.  Yes, you read correctly. A traditional southern New Year’s Day favorite no more.  I would love to eat this impeccable spin on a classic any day of the year.  The texture was right on; mashed and fried with small bits still lingering in the mix. Upon finishing my meal I am quite pleased.  A southern fare eatery where a mean Mexican staple is prepared confirms excellent versatility exists in the kitchen.

 Chris ordered the other special of the evening, the Herb-grilled Mahi with cilantro rice, Indian lentils and pickled mustard seed riata. His Mahi boasts undeniable precision in timing.  I am very particular with the flakiness and moistness of fish and Wimuama once again proves excellence.  The Mahi comes fused with Indian greatness-lentils juicy and smooth as well as riata- a fancier and Indian version of tzatziki adorn the fish.  His plate is equally impressive to every last flavor detail.  

Just when we thought we were ending the evening, successfully stuffed and thrilled with our delicious meals, Amy goes over and beyond to verify her southern hospitality.  She brings out Grits Crème Brulee and a cornbread cake topped with cooked apples, vanilla bean ice cream and a glorious basil Chantilly.  They are simply showing off now.  These desserts are both decadent and unique with their southern ingredients creatively joining forces with downright delicious dessert essentials. 

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