Tampa’s trendiest new restaurant, Hales Blackbrick, is now open, and it lives up to the enormous hype.
Conceptualized and opened by Food Network personality Richard Hales, Blackbrick is a “modern Chinese restaurant” serving dishes inspired by the Chef’s firsthand experience cooking in Asia. All of the plates on the menu, therefore, swing more towards refined Chinese delicacies—infused with Hales’ contemporary, Floridian touch—than fast casually-packed boxes of $5.99 wontons.
“At Blackbrick,” Hales said, “I’m serving my own interpretation of Chinese food. After culinary school, I spent years backpacking around Asia learning different cooking techniques. Most of the food we serve here is inspired by that, but there’s some Tampa influence, too.”
Refined Chinese dishes with a contemporary Floridian touch
Intrigued by the concept of contemporary-yet-traditional, fine-yet-hip-casual Chinese fare—and the fact that the restaurant’s reservation system nearly hit capacity during its opening month—we visited Hales Blackbrick last night. From the lights, sounds and tastes of the spot, however, we couldn’t place it in any genre of Chinese restaurant, whether American take-out or authentic Asian. Instead, it seemed to be a member of a newly forming classification of restaurants characterized by posh vibes, cross-culturalism and rapid innovation.
Hales Blackbrick, in other words, is so Tampa.
And, if our word doesn’t already have you convinced, these menu highlights will show you exactly what we mean.
General Tso Florida Gator
One of the more popular, and most unique, dishes on Hales Blackbrick’s menu, this shareable plate is the perfect example of the restaurant putting a Tampa spin on a Chinese classic.
Featuring a sticky mandarin marinade and crispy chilis, this dish elevates many familiar General Tso’s components—all while highlighting the Sunshine State’s own fried gator.
Dumplings (assorted varieties)
In China and America alike, dumplings are a wildly popular treat. It was predictable, then, that Blackbrick would serve them (in multiple varieties). What was left to chance, however, was what Chef Richard would choose to fill them with.
On today’s current menu, the restaurant offers four types of dumplings from the delicately steamed Siu Mai to the fluffy, squishy bao. And as for those fillings? Diners can expect anything from “Crab and Pork” to ground “Cumin Lamb.”
PRO TIP: If you want to try more than one variety, order the “Blackbrick Tower.” The popular option includes a sampling of three.
Ma La Fried Chicken
If you’re familiar with Sichuan fare, you know it can be spicy. Of the dishes we tried, nothing brought the heat quite like the Ma La Chicken.
Served with crispy with numbing oil, garlic and chili, this must-order plate is a customer favorite.
Xi’an Cumin Lamb Buccatini
The Instagram-famous Dan Dan Buccatini may be the most popular noodle dish on Blackbrick’s menu, but ask any foodie or staff member and they’ll advise you, instead, to go for the Xi’an Cumin Lamb option. The spiced vegetable and lamb mixture provides a rich, umami flavor you don’t normally find with pasta.
If you’re not a lamb person, however, you can’t really go wrong with any of the other Buccatinis on the menu. In varieties from Young Chicken and Chive to White Truffle, all are delicious, creative and prime examples of the high-end Asian-fusion restaurant genre to which Blackbrick belongs.
Probably Hales Blackbrick’s pièce de résistance, this was hands-down our favorite dish of the night.
The garlic-coated lobster, which was the most tender we’ve had in Tampa, was cooked to perfection, elegantly plated, and paired with an abundance of textured and marinated veggies.
Sticking with the Food Network theme, this dish is a true trip to “Flavortown”—and you absolutely need to try it.
10-Layer Triple Chocolate Cake
Five layers of cake + five layers of frosting = 10 layers of decadent dessert happiness.
If you don’t order (at least) a slice for the table, you’re Blackbrick-ing wrong.
A unique new Tampa hotspot
Hales Blackbrick may not be a traditional Chinese restaurant, but its funky, contemporary menu, in our opinion, perfectly reflects the modernity and uniqueness of the Bay.
In an innovative city on the rise, Chef Richard’s newest passion project—from the food to the atmosphere—is a welcome addition.