#3: “Eric Fralick is the kind of autodidact who pushes forward, curiosity about this thing leading to wondering about that thing. Since he opened Noble Rice a couple of years ago, he has taken the small South Tampa restaurant in a remarkable and ambitious direction, moving away from an a la carte menu and toward a seven- or 15-course omakase menu ($125 or $200 per person) with optional sake and wine pairings, reservations only.
Noble Rice is one of our Best Seafood restaurants of 2019. See the complete list here.”
The restaurant is funky-hip, set in an old guitar shop, the service staff equally hip-funky (one server has a tremendous gargoyle tattoo on the length of her swanlike neck), but the plate presentations are spare and exact. Work your way through nigiri, sashimi, hosomaki (the traditional thin rolls), uramaki (the rolls with the rice on the outside) and temaki (cone-shaped hand rolls), interspersed with various chicken yakitori, medallions of super tender beef tenderloin topped with discs of black truffle and scallion compound butter, or cider-braised Brussels sprouts.
Chris Kunitz joined Tampa Bay as a free agent during the offseason and has only spent about six months in the area, so his knowledge of the local food scene is rather limited. However, he has one go-to spot he and his wife visit frequently.
Noble Rice is a little sushi place on Platt Street that's a little more pricy but is kind of a good date night with the wife," Kunitz said. "We sat up there and had a nice meal. We did the tasting menu. Like I said a little pricy but we really enjoyed the food. But that's the only restaurant that really sticks out in my mind. We haven't been able to do too much since the season's started."
When Eric Fralick first fell in love with Japan, it was with anime and video games. It was much later that other kinds of love settled in.
He moved to the country for five years after college, living in the city of Shizuoka and in Tokyo and learning the allures of izakaya, the casual pub-style restaurants frequently equipped with picture menus and a communal small-plate approach. Back stateside, he met his wife Adriana, a Tampa native, in New York. Together they started an iced tea company called Sweet Dispositions (it's huge in Switzerland and Germany), and later began bottling their tea via a company in Dade City.
We're really lucky that the past year has seen a renaissance in Japanese food. I'm eating more good sushi and ramen than ever before. And it's now being served izakaya (tavern)-style. In this ever more casual world of dining, the rise of the Japanese gastropub should come as no surprise. Hyde Park's Noble Rice is a tribute to the 15 years chef/owner Eric Fralick spent in Japan. "Across cultures the one element that remains constant is that food holds a powerful nostalgia for all of us. This is what I [want] Noble Rice to be."