Lilac’s epicurean journey is elevating the Tampa dining scene (PHOTOS)

The culinary experiences available for distinguished palates, in the Tampa market, are flourishing, especially with the welcome addition of three recipients of a Michelin One-Star rating in the region. What is the significance of a Michelin star and how does it impact the evolving dining landscape? According to the Institute of Culinary Education, a Michelin star is a prestigious award that signifies exceptional culinary prowess. A one-star rating indicates that a restaurant is “very good in its category” and consistently maintains a high standard of cuisine. 

In May 2023, Rocca, Koya and Lilac, all in Tampa, had the honor of being included in the Michelin Guide, further establishing Tampa Bay as a dining destination. While the food accolades are reason alone to visit Lilac, the ambiance of the sleek, and stylish, lobby enhances the luxurious experience from the moment one enters the exquisitely appointed Tampa Edition. Given the dynamic team behind Edition’s vision, it’s no surprise that Travel & Leisure Magazine named Tampa Edition within the top fifty of 2023’s Best 100 New Hotels.

Tampa Edition, home to Lilac and other award-winning restaurants such as Azure, is a magnet for culinary talent, in Tampa. Ian Schrager’s partnership with Marriott International created EDITION Hotels, the next chapter in the lifestyle hotel story. The Tampa Edition has a mix of luxury hotel rooms and select private residences, drawing visitors, and locals, to this vibrant Water Street destination. Designed by Morris Adjmi, with interiors by Roman & Williams, Tampa Edition is a masterpiece of architecture and design, setting the stage for Lilac’s culinary journey.

It takes more than beautiful design to earn a Michelin Star. It takes an entire team – from the sommelier to the waitstaff – that pays attention to every detail, such as replacing the silverware with each course. Each vessel and piece of stemware is carefully curated to highlight, and complement, the flavors of the dish, or cocktail, while presenting them as true works of art. With a team of visionaries at the helm, including General Manager Matthew Braden, Chef John Fraser, Beverage Director Amy Racine, Chef de Cuisine Joshua Werksman and Executive Pastry Chef Caroline Ballum, Lilac is poised to bring a Michelin-level dining experience to the Gulf Coast.

The well-versed staff explains Lilac’s four-course prix fixe dinner menu as celebrating the chef’s vegetable-forward philosophy of using seasonal, locally sourced ingredients. Libations play an integral role to the Michelin experience, as much as the exquisite, savory delights. When it comes to enjoying a glass of champagne, most people envision a classic flute filled with effervescent bubbles, perfect for toasting special occasions. However, the world of mixology has expanded the horizons of champagne, infusing it with a spectrum of unique flavors. Lilac’s Champagne Cart offers a selection of curated cocktails, each with a distinct profile that tantalizes the palate. The champagne cart is presented tableside with each cocktail hand-crafted in specific stemware to enhance the flavor profiles of the bubbles. The champagne options change seasonally, taking advantage of fresh ingredients with cleverly named libations for the summer including Thyme, composed of yellow pepper, Turkish chili and Antech Blanquette de Limoux; Fields, the refreshing mix of strawberry, celery and Rouanne Brut Nature Rose; and Gold, a perfect blend of Hennessy XO, Grand Marnier, Cuvee Louis-Alexander Liqueur and Dom Perignon. 

The Thyme cocktail is a sensory adventure, infusing yellow pepper’s subtle heat and Turkish chili’s aromatic spice. The crisp acidity of the Antech Blanquette de Limoux elegantly complements the spicy and savory notes, while allowing the yellow pepper’s earthy sweetness to shine through. The posher palate is bound to be pampered with the Gold Champagne Cocktail, as it is the epitome of luxury in a glass. The rich and complex blend of Hennessy XO, Grand Marnier, Cuvee Louis-Alexander Liqueur and Dom Perignon exudes opulence. Each component adds layers of flavor, from the warmth of the cognac to the vibrant citrus notes of Grand Marnier. The staff’s expertise in crafting this cocktail is a testament to their dedication to excellence and this cocktail is a true masterpiece, setting the stage for the culinary journey ahead.

As Werksmen says, “Food brings people together…and that brings me joy.” His passion for creating memorable dishes is evident in every morsel. Each dish is a separate symphony of flavor. The four hors d’oeuvres options are carefully arranged in the recommended way to savor the flavor experience. The first savory bite of the Pain Lyonnais is the perfect blend of milk bread, sweet onions and thyme to start the taste buds craving more from the appetizer journey. The Ravioli Monte Carlo is a delicate ricotta-filled ravioli with artichokes, adding a touch of French elegance. The flavors are nuanced and refined, showcasing the chef’s skill. The blackening spice and creamy lime vinaigrette add a bold and tangy twist to the delicate Smoked Grouper Feuillantine, a delightful fusion of flavors and textures. But the showstopper is the Poultry Liver Mousse, where the port wine gelee and almond croissant create a perfect blend of sweet and savory, pleasing the palate on multiple levels.

The appetizers continue to set the stage showcasing a range of flavors and ingredients, each aesthetically plated as a vision of art. The Summer Beet and Berry Melange is a vibrant dish blending the earthiness of beets with the sweetness of berries and the creaminess of goat cheese. Compressed strawberries and melted rhubarb create a harmony of fruity flavors that complement the succulent Marinated Half Maine Lobster, while spiced rum and wildflowers add an exotic twist. The Diver Scallop is a beautifully balanced dish where the pine nut preserve and lemon risotto highlight the sweetness of the scallop, while the rosemary embers infuse a smoky depth. 

The entrees take center stage, showcasing the culinary prowess of the kitchen. The Dover Sole is a harmonious blend of flavors, with a touch of Mediterranean warmth. The peppered Duck au Poivre is cooked to perfection, while the heirloom citrus glazed carrots and favas add a burst of fresh color to the palate and the plate. The Petite Filet of Beef is a celebration of flavors, with the green asparagus and beef tongue salad providing a delicate contrast to tantalize the taste buds.

The dessert course is the sweet conclusion to the dining experience, with each pastry presented as a culinary piece of art. The Caramelized Honey Bombe is the pinnacle of desserts. With its white chocolate honeycomb and gold beehive, it is a culmination of textures and flavors that leave a lasting impression.

Lilac not only delights the palate but also showcases the importance of exceptional service. From the carefully crafted cocktails to the artfully presented dishes and expert recommendations, every element is designed to create an unforgettable dining experience. Each course tells a story, and the attentive staff ensures that every chapter is savored to the fullest. ♦

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