We had been waiting impatiently for BT Nguyen to open her new restaurant at 2507 South MacDill Avenue. Her latest venture into culinary excellence is known simply as BT and we were fortunate enough to secure reservations for this past Thursday evening.
As you approach BT fronting MacDill Avenue you walk through a lovely outdoor seating area and up to the double doors leading into the...kitchen? Were we ever surprised! The kitchen staff looked up and around at us standing in the doorway. We muttered that we obviously were not where we should have been. A friendly face smiled and welcomed us in anyway. We were given an impromptu tour of the immaculate kitchen as we were guided into the seating area and the maitres d' station at the real front door which is behind the restaurant, and looks out to the parking area.
We felt a little silly, but we were assured that all was well, and this was not the first time people came in to BT through the kitchen. This was certainly true, as we observed three more parties enter from the kitchen looking just as befuddled as we did.
The decor is light and airy with a clean, modern design. Great! Now that I got that out of the way, let's move on to the important stuff. BT has an impressive wine list and for our dinner we chose the exquisite Chateau Mont-Redon, Chateaunuef-du-Pape. The dinner menu had some impressive appetizer and salad choices. I chose the Spicy Baby Squid and Frisee Salad. This was a tangy, tasty, and tender start to my dinner. My dining partner prefers to have her "appetizer" at the end of the meal when it transforms itself into dessert.
For her entrée, the Belle of Ballast Point selected the Organic Chicken Breast Tonya, tender and juicy, served with mashed Asian purple potatoes molded into balls and accompanied by a French bean and carrot medley. There were subtle flavors common in Southeast Asian cooking, but with a delicate French touch.
One of my favorite dishes to prepare at home is Vietnamese Shaking (or, shaken) Beef - Bo Luc Lac - so called because the chef must shake the pan to sear the filet mignon cubes on all sides. My recipe is decidedly Southeast Asian with fish sauce, rice vinegar, and lime juice used in the dressing and marinade. It was with great surprise to see Shaken Beef on the BT menu, but prepared with Courvoisier Cognac and Swiss soy sauce. This I had to try, and I was totally impressed. The BT Shaken Beef was tender, and delicious, and maintained its Vietnamese heritage while benefiting from a decidedly French influence. Magnifique!
For dessert, my bride chose the Bread Pudding Croissant that she still raves about. I am not a dessert person, but I do enjoy an occasional Creme Brulee. What piqued my interest in the Trio of Creme Brulee was the one prepared with kaffir lime. We have a kaffir lime tree in the front yard and I use the leaves in a number of Southeast Asian recipes. The kaffir lime leaf has a distinctive taste that was apparent, but not overpowering, in the brulee cup. I was so enamored with the kaffir creme brulee that I honestly don't even remember what the other two tastes were.
Our bill for the evening came to a little over $200 and included our 20% gratuity for exceptional service.
Would we dine at BT again?