On the outskirts of downtown, in a brightly colored shopping plaza that’s home to the trendiest salon and cheapest gas in Tampa, edison food + drink lab feels more Lower East Side than Florida strip mall.
The restaurant’s name, which foregoes capitalization and spelled-out conjunctions, is a nod to a nearby cross street and inventor Thomas Edison. Edison pays homage to its namesake with inventive and thoughtful fine dining. Wine carafes shaped like beakers and menus tucked into clipboards play up the lab angle.
Chef Jeannie Pierola leads the edison kitchen. The self-taught chef worked at Tampa’s famed Bern’s Steak House for nine years before leaving in 2002. She and the steak house’s owner, the founder’s son, reportedly had “different visions” for the future of Bern’s.
Pierola opened edison in Aug. 2011, promising a fresh menu and “accessible modern cuisine mindfully created with classic cooking’s respect for technique and ingredients”. The menu changes daily, based on seasonality and availability.
In early spring, the menu consisted of 35 items ranging from $5 olive tapenade served with small fried breads that tasted like the state fair, to a $39 lamb tenderloin with cashew coconut biryani and spinach.
The most expensive items on our table were three generous pork belly tacos and a plate of vadouvan seared foie gras, each $15. The tacos were served on straight-outta-Mexico-City corn tortillas and stuffed with radishes, herbs, onions and a slice of avocado. The foie gras included white chocolate and curry.
For $14, two pieces of homemade brioche were topped with coconut kaffir jam, soy, mango and poached quail eggs. Each piece of runny toast was perfectly bite-size.
Our third most expensive item was a yellowfin tuna tartare, homemade Korean pickles and kimchee for $13. A frothy red curry mussel soup for $11 was the cheapest item, as well as my favorite.
Service was slow but attentive on the busy Friday night. With tip, two beers and a small carafe of wine, the six-plate meal came to $131. It was a glutton of food and drink for two people. Each plate – ranging from the simply-constructed tacos to the coconut-foam-topped mussel soup – was delicious.