“Anyone who’s a chef, who loves food, ultimately knows that all that matters is: ‘Is it good? Does it give pleasure?’” ~ Anthony Bourdain
Take a ride with me into downtown Tampa. In the Channel District, off Water Street, you’ll find the newly unveiled restaurant SIX of the brand new JW Marriot Tampa. JW Marriot Tampa just opened December 21 of last year and is already turning heads and pleasing stomachs. I had the pleasure of dining at SIX at the end of December last year and am excited to add it to my eatery list for Tampa. SIX is one of the two restaurants at the new Tampa hotel, the other being Driftlight, both of which are run by executive chef Joseph Pankrath.
As a Florida native, born and raised in Tampa, I’m always thrilled to see new things sprouting up. JW Marriot Tampa is at the center of the latest downtown development. After twenty-so years, you can imagine that the landscape of Tampa has changed dramatically as things continue to expand and get built up. In the 1990’s there were few buildings to shape the cityscape. While it’s nothing like New York or Chicago, there are several buildings shaping the city, making their mark, supporting the local culture and community, and contributing to making Tampa a premiere destination spot.
Tampa has many historic hotels and resorts and the addition of JW Marriot Tampa has added a touch of luxury. Getting to this new Tampa neighbor is a straight shot, but don’t confuse it with its sister hotel, the Tampa Marriot, right across the street. There are various options for parking. Of course, the easiest is valet, but you can also park on the street or in nearby garages. I opted for valet because if I had to drive around to a garage, I would get lost walking back. (I’m a little directionally challenged.)
When you walk through the doors, expect a warm greeting coming through the pair of double doors. You’ll enter the expansive and open lobby, with check-in to the left, seating lounge in the middle, and escalators off to the right. It can’t be helped noticing the sleekness of the design coming in that matches the sophisticated air of the establishment. As it was my first time here, I asked for directions to SIX and the concierge kindly showed me to the elevators.
Once up top, I met a hostess, gathered my menu, and headed to my seating. There’s indoor and outdoor seating. Outdoor seating allows you to face Franklin or Water Street, where you can either see Davis or Harbor Island, or even a little bit of both. I decided to dine outside because it is rare that Tampa has cool evenings, and we had a string of cold fronts coming in. Then again, 2020 was a strange year in itself. Either way, I wanted to enjoy the cold while it lasted and dined outside close to the railing. There’s nothing like fresh air, especially when rolling off the bay.
On the rooftop restaurant, you certainly get the feeling of modern chic as expected for a stylized American bistro. By that time in the early evening when I arrived (about 4:45), there were already quite a bit of people. A nice mix of young and old. It gave a “yuppy” vibe in an outdoor lounge atmosphere set with music, vintage string lights, and assorted seating. You have to stay late to see the lights come on.
Now on to the main event—the food! As I mentioned, you can get menus from the hostess right when you come in. There are servers walking around (my waitress was delightful), but if you are dining outside, you can simply come up to the window side to order. The menu is quaint with various selections. Sadly, there are not any dessert options (Oh, my sweet tooth!); but you’ll be quite filled with the mains.
For dinner, I went ahead and ordered the Focaccia Crusted Grouper. When I dine out, I like to try dishes that I don’t usually make at home and I haven’t, as of yet, cooked grouper. It’s a telling fish and can be easily overdone. Immediately, when the plate was brought out, I thought, “This is so pretty!” The earthy colors were lovely and enhanced by the light of golden hour (the time of sunrise and sunset when the light has a golden hue).
Taking a bite, all of the fresh flavors hit you. The grouper was nice and tended. The gnocchi soft and doughy but not chewy. The mushrooms firm and not overcooked. The handmade bruschetta on top was crisp and buttery. The mushroom broth pulled everything together and was delicious. Everything blended and balanced well. A great thing I learned is that the ingredients are locally sourced from Tampa farmers (Another big plus for supporting the local economy).
I had high expectations after hearing that this was the dish that solidified Chef Roy Bryant’s position at SIX. Needless to say, the dish met my expectations as it was absolutely scrumptious! It’s always great when the food delights your eyes and taste buds. My evening was spent happily eating away and relaxing in the breezes that swept across the rooftop. SIX did not disappoint and I can’t wait to visit again!