Historically, the location at 1502 SoHo has never really been a place I paid much attention to, largely because it’s located at the very end of Howard Ave. When you’re rolling the dice you literally have 30 other restaurants or bars to pass before you get to the end of the strip and something else always caught my attention before I got there. When I first moved to Tampa it was Le Bordeaux. After that it became St. Bart’s Island House. Most recently it was the Samba Room. Honestly I never really had the desire to try any of them. However, the new concept, CopperFish Seafood Grille and Raw Bar aims to change that. If my dining experience last night was any indication, they’re going to do an incredible job.
After valet parking (VERY much appreciated in a place like SoHo which can get really crowded), the first thing I noticed was the feel of the place. It has a slightly upscale vibe but without that pretentiousness that restaurants like this can sometimes fall victim to. The decor is a really interesting blend of contemporary and New England coastal. The heavy beechwood tables, wrought iron fixtures, copper art and bright white hurricane shutters almost made me feel like I was dining on the water in Rhode Island, Connecticut or Massachusetts. There’s an outdoor bar with couches, white curtains and a cool-looking fountain and the patrons there seemed to really be enjoying themselves.
Our group was seated immediately at our reservation time and our server was well versed in the menu, specifically noting the items on the largest raw shellfish selection I’ve seen anywhere in Florida.
Our group started with the Grilled Gulf Oysters as an appetizer and they were absolutely amazing. They had at least eight different types of seasonal oysters available from all different regions and we decided to go with the Gulf variety. Grilled as opposed to steamed, which is something I’ve never tried before, these were cooked with a little garlic, butter and parsley, a bit of parmesan and romano cheese and a light dusting of seafood seasoning. Easily some of the best oysters I’ve ever had and you could tell how fresh they were in the first bite.
Following the apps, I had to decide on my entrée, and I was drawn to one item on the menu before anything else… the Hot Lobster Roll. A lobster roll is a New England thing and it’s incredibly hard to find a place down here that serves one. If they do, it’s usually a mayonnaise-laden cold lobster roll (which I maintain is not a real lobster roll; it’s a lobster salad sandwich). CopperFish does serve a cold version of the roll if that’s your preference.
This was a phenomenal Lobster Roll. The lobster meat was incredibly fresh, the bun was toasted perfectly and the sandwich was lightly buttered rather than slathered in it as lobster rolls can sometimes be. There was also the welcome addition of a tiny bit of what I can only describe as a creamy seafood au jus and it kicked the whole dish up a notch. If you’re from New England like me and you really miss a good lobster roll, definitely consider this.
The roll came with their signature Old Bay Kettle Chips, but I wanted to try a side item that looked really good, so I also grabbed an order of the sea salt and vinegar potato planks. These were crispy and pulled in the flavor notes without overpowering you with salt or being so drenched in vinegar that they’re soggy. They also served the planks in an individual fry-basket on top of a heavy cutting board which I thought was an ingenious presentation choice on the part of the chef.
It’s worth noting that their alcohol selection, while not overly extensive, included quite a few uncommon wines and unique microbrews. There were a handful of 22 oz “bomber” beers and I tried the Bear Republic Red Rocket Ale which is a microbrew I’ve never had before. A deep red-brown ale, it had a great flavor and complimented the seafood perfectly.
Each of my friends enjoyed their meals as much as I did and we left more than satisfied and intending to return. The manager even stopped us on the way out to ask how we enjoyed our experience which just proved to me how serious they are about making sure their patrons are pleased.
If you like seafood as much as I do and you’ve driven by 1502 without ever giving the eatery there a second glance, do yourself a favor and try CopperFish. I can’t imagine anyone having anything less than a stellar dining experience.
Tried CopperFish? What did you think? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!
And remember… the food abides…