Dec 30

Aqua Bar and Grille
7627 Courtney Campbell Causeway, Tampa, Florida 33607

Primarily a seafood restaurant, the name speaks for itself. Set inside the Westin Hotel on the water of Tampa Bay, Aqua has beautiful scenery both inside and outside of the restaurant. Walking in the first thing you notice is the low green lighting which slowly changes to a clear marine blue. The color change adds the necessary ambiance to impress a first date, as well as the fun lighting for happy hour with your coworkers.

The service at Aqua is very good when you are sitting in the dining room. The staff is very attentive and knowledgeable about the wine list. All three times I visited they were able to help me select a perfect wine with my meal choices. The food is divine down to the bread and honey butter they serve with every meal. I recommend the Waygu Beef Carpaccio or House Smoked Salmon Plate to start, as these are large enough to share with someone without ruining your appetite for more. I had the Seared Florida Snapper for dinner my first time, and it was so good that I ordered it the second time I went as well. Cooked to perfection and laid on a bed of roasted vegetables with duck pancetta and fingerling potatoes, it was too tasty to pass up a second time.

Back to the service, my only gripe is that the bartenders  were a little too young to take seriously the fact that they are employed by an upscale restaurant. I sat at the bar only once, on a Saturday night, and waited at least 10 minutes for the bartender (who couldn’t have been a day over 23) to finish chatting up this voluptuous brunette with a full glass of red wine before I could get any service. And anyone who knows me knows that I loathe sitting at a bar with an empty glass, let alone empty handed! His coworker noticed my stare and decided to take my order himself. However, the damage was done. Had this been my first visit to the place, I would have left right then and there. But fortunately for them, I came for my oyster shooter and was not leaving without it.

Now granted, I cannot speak about the entire bartending staff, but the one bad apple brought my high expectations back to reality. I will still frequent  Aqua, as the food, atmosphere, and background entertainment is well worth the drive. You can take your date to one of the high back privacy booths along the perimeter of the dining room for a nice meal, or sit at the bar and enjoy the live entertainment while downing one of the best $3 oyster shooters (a special bloody mary mix with a hint of sake and an oyster ending) you’ll ever have. Bottom line, Aqua is a place for almost any occasion.

Note – I have been back to Aqua since writing this and can say that they no longer have the young men at the bar and my service was way better at the bar seating. They have also altered the menu a bit regarding the oyster shooters as they now offer three different shooters in one flight of three. An absolutely gorgeous presentation, however, the flavors of the newer shooters leave a bit to be desired. I told myself should I order the flight again, I will see if they will give me all three in the original form.

4 Stars

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