The restaurant has only been open for about six weeks and they are (admittedly) still working out little kinks and details, but one would be hard-pressed to realize that fact if they weren't already aware. Service was caring and attentive on my recent visit and management was highly visible, roaming the house to ensure that every patron was satisfied...and this one certainly was.
It was almost impossible for my party of four to hone in on a reasonable selection from the tantalizing array of tapas, so of course we over-ordered. Empanadas have been my holy grail ever since I made it my mission to snort them 3-5 times daily when I discovered truly great ones on a trip to to Argentina, and Patanegra did not disappoint. We tried the lump crab and ropa vieja varieties, both of which were meaty, encased in warm, flaky crusts and served with a nice selection of dipping sauces.
Gambas Pil Pil (shrimp marinated with garlic, paprika and olive oil) were tender, subtly flavored and delish.
Since I adore anything that shows up in an individual little fryer basket, the Croquetas had me at "hello". I loved biting through their tooth-shatteringly crunchy crust and savoring the tender, chicken and Serrano ham filling within. Dayum!
Picquillos Rellenos are clearly the brainchild of Satan himself. These sweet, mild peppers crammed with Serrano ham, chorizo, mushrooms and cheese, topped with piquillo aioli and Manchego, were obviously the temptation of Eve. Really...who sacrifices anything for a stupid apple?
A couple of entrees were also sampled, but I really think tapas are Patanegra's strong suite at this point. Spanish Paprika and Coffee-Rubbed Pork Belly was good...but maybe not yet reaching its full potential (omitting photo for the sake of brevity). Similarly, Pato Asado (pan roasted duck with purple potato mash and habanero barbeque sauce) fell a tad short. Neither due to taste or presentation, but more for lack of the anticipated exterior "crisp" factor. That said, I'd rather have moist duck than overcooked duck and I was left with a favorable impression overall of the Pato Asado, also adoring both the sauce and the purple mash that came with.
While both sweet finishes we wound down with were wonderful...Cuatro Leches (yes, we're talking "FOUR milks" and the ridiculously kicked-up product that results from slathering tres leches cake with dulce de leche), was slightly trumped by the Coconut Panne Cotta with banana flambe and (yes) more dulce de leche (which should pretty much be slathered on everything as far as I'm concerned). Desserts really don't get much better than this
Despite a few nitpicks (hey...that's what I do), I really liked Patanegra. It's just another example of why Pinellas County trumps Hillsborough for best overall food culture. There you go...I'm a dual-county resident, and I said it.
My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.