Tampa (BLOOM) – When it comes to the food scene, Tampa has always been a city that embraces diverse flavors and cuisines. In the heart of this vibrant city, a new gem has emerged – Lona, a dynamic modern Mexican restaurant that aims to redefine the Mexican dining experience. The creative collaboration of renowned chefs Richard Sandoval and Pablo Salas celebrates the richness of Mexican food while incorporating contemporary techniques and artistic presentation.

Chef Richard Sandoval: A Global Pioneer in Contemporary Latin Cuisine

Chef Richard Sandoval’s culinary journey is nothing short of remarkable. As a global pioneer in contemporary Latin cuisine, his innovative approach to combining Latin ingredients with modern culinary techniques has earned him accolades worldwide. A graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, Sandoval’s culinary empire spans 60 locations across 4 continents, elevating Latin American dining to new heights.

Sandoval’s awards include Mexico’s “National Toque d’Oro,” Bon Appétit’s “Restaurateur of the Year,” Cordon d’Or’s “Restaurateur of the Year,” and a James Beard Semi-Finalist for “Outstanding Restaurateur.” His passion for Latin cuisine extends beyond the kitchen, as he serves as a television personality, cookbook author, brand ambassador, and philanthropist.

Chef Pablo Salas

Chef Pablo Salas, hailing from Toluca, Mexico, takes immense pride in his origins, a sentiment that shines through in his very Mexiquense kitchen. His career took off around 2004 when he acquired his first restaurant, embarking on an arduous but fulfilling path. In 2008, he underwent a process of introspection that led him to discover the untapped wealth in the cuisine of his native State of Mexico.

Through extensive travels, meetings with local cooks, and the discovery of new ingredients and recipes, Pablo Salas redefined his cuisine, resulting in Contemporary Mexiquense Cuisine. In September 2010, Amaranta was born. Amaranta’s dedication to food quality earned it a spot on the list of the 50 best restaurants in Latin America by San Pellegrino, among other prestigious recognitions.

The Creative Collaboration of Culinary Masters at Lona

With two culinary powerhouses like Pablo Salas and Richard Sandoval at the helm, Lona’s emergence in Tampa was nothing short of exciting. The restaurant offers a relaxing yet classy atmosphere that pays homage to Mexico’s rich culinary heritage while embracing innovation. At Lona, the menu showcases bold and authentic mexican flavors with a twist for the local palate.

Crafting Mexican Cocktails: Lona’s Mixology Program

At Lona, the culinary creativity doesn’t stop at the kitchen. The restaurant’s mixology program is a testament to the craftsmanship and passion of the skilled bartenders who take inspiration from the diverse flavors of Mexico to concoct a tantalizing array of cocktails that perfectly complement the dishes on the menu.

The Lona Margarita: A Classic Reinvented

No visit to Lona is complete without trying the Lona Margarita. This reimagined classic features Espolòn Blanco tequila, lime, Cointreau, and agave, resulting in a refreshing and well-balanced blend of flavors. Whether you’re a seasoned margarita enthusiast or new to the world of tequila-based cocktails, this signature drink is a must-try.

Tamarita: A Tangy Tamarind Twist

For a taste of the exotic, the Tamarita is a standout choice. Made with Don Julio Reposado tequila, 400 Conejos mezcal, lime, agave, and tamarind, this cocktail boasts a unique blend of sweet, tangy, and smoky notes that tantalize the taste buds. It’s a true testament to the bartenders’ skill in harmonizing unexpected flavors.

Passion Picante: A Fiery Fusion of Flavors

For those who crave a touch of heat, the Passion Picante is a perfect choice. Combining Teremana Blanco tequila, 400 Conejos mezcal, Cointreau, morita chili, and passion fruit, this cocktail delivers a delightful balance of sweet and spicy elements. The subtle smokiness of mezcal adds depth to the passion fruit’s tropical sweetness, while the chili infusion provides a satisfying kick. (This was my favorite during my meal).

Spicy Avocado: A Creamy and Spicy Delight

Embrace the creamy goodness of avocado with a dash of spice in the Spicy Avocado cocktail. Ghost Blanco tequila, avocado, lime, agave, and jalapeño come together to create a velvety and mildly spicy libation that refreshes the senses. It’s a unique and creamy treat that is sure to leave a lasting impression.

Media Luna: A Berrylicious Tropical Escape

Indulge in a tropical paradise with the Media Luna cocktail, featuring Lalo Blanco tequila, lemon, blackberry, and pineapple. This vibrant concoction celebrates the rich flavors of fresh berries and tropical fruits, transporting you to a dreamy beach getaway with each sip.

Final Thoughts

Lona’s mixology program goes beyond crafting typical cocktails; it’s a blend of creativity, tradition, and innovation. From classic favorites with a unique twist to avant-garde creations, each cocktail on the menu is worth a taste. So, raise your glass and toast to the mastery of Mexican mixology at Lona. Salud!

Standout Dishes at Lona

Clean plate club

At Lona, the creative collaboration between Chef Pablo Salas and Chef Richard Sandoval shines through in a selection of standout dishes that harmoniously blend traditional Mexican flavors with innovative techniques. Each dish on the menu tells a story of culinary mastery, showcasing the two chefs’ expertise in redefining Mexican cuisine. Let’s delve into the ingredients, preparation methods, and the inspiration behind these remarkable dishes:

See the lunch/dinner menu.

Pablo’s Fajitas: A Flavorful Fiesta

A celebration of the vibrant and bold flavors of Mexico, Pablo’s Fajitas are a must-try for any culinary adventurer. Guests can choose from an array of protein options, such as Roasted Chicken, Skirt Steak, Shrimp, or Veggies (vegan). The succulent proteins are complemented by roasted sweet peppers, creamy guacamole, pico de gallo, and crema. Served with the option of warm flour or corn tortillas, the dish invites diners to create their own personalized fajita feast. With each bite, the collaboration between Chef Salas and Chef Sandoval becomes evident, honoring Mexican tradition while introducing contemporary flair.

Steak Tampiqueña: A Homage to Mexican food

The Steak Tampiqueña embodies the essence of Mexican culinary heritage. Grilled skirt steak takes center stage, accompanied by refried beans, rajas (sliced poblano peppers), and corn enmolada. Enmolada is a tortilla dipped in a rich mole sauce, adding depth and complexity to the dish. Mole, a traditional Mexican sauce, is a labor of love, often prepared with a multitude of ingredients and simmered for hours. This dish pays tribute to the time-honored flavors of Mexico, showcasing Chef Salas’ expertise in mole preparation and Chef Sandoval’s commitment to elevating classic dishes.

Grilled Salmon: A Fusion of Coastal Flavors

For seafood enthusiasts, the Grilled Salmon is a true delicacy. The perfectly cooked salmon is adorned with a creamy poblano sauce, adding a touch of smokiness and depth to the dish. Accompanied by corn esquites and roasted peanuts, this plate embodies a harmonious blend of coastal and inland flavors. The dish not only showcases Chef Salas’ skill in seafood preparation but also reflects Chef Sandoval’s ingenuity in fusing different regional elements to create a symphony of taste.

Enchilada Poblanas: The Elegance of Mole

Enchilada Poblanas showcases the culinary artistry behind Lona’s mole preparation. Tender pieces of chicken are enveloped in housemade mole, a sauce renowned for its rich complexity and depth of flavor. Topped with queso fresco, onion, crema, and sesame, this dish exemplifies Chef Salas’ dedication to preserving and celebrating traditional Mexican flavors. It’s a culinary masterpiece that resonates with the creative vision of Chef Sandoval.

Final Thoughts

At Lona, each dish is a testament to the passion, innovation, and collaboration of two culinary masters. From the sizzling fajitas to the exquisite Enchilada Poblana. Chef Pablo Salas and Chef Richard Sandoval have succeeded in crafting a menu where tradition and innovation coexist, inviting diners to try the diverse and flavorful world of modern Mexican cuisine. Whether you seek classic comfort or something new, Lona’s standout dishes promise a great dining experience for all.

My Personal Experience Eating at Lona

My visit to Lona, was an exceptional one. Located in the Tampa Marriott hotel on Water Street, the restaurant’s inviting ambiance and the promise of a unique experience set the stage for an unforgettable evening. I have quite the soft spot for Mexican food so this was high on my list.

An Appetizing Start: Queso Fundido with Mushrooms and Chorizo

To kickstart the culinary adventure, we decided to indulge in the Queso Fundido with Mushrooms and Chorizo. The sizzling skillet arrived at our table, filled with bubbling cheese, perfectly sautéed mushrooms, and savory chorizo. The blend of flavors was heavenly, and the warm tortillas provided the perfect vessel to enjoy this rich and comforting dish. The Queso Fundido was an absolute delight, setting the bar high for the rest of the evening.

A Flavorful Fiesta: Tacos al Pastor and Carne Asada

Next up were the Tacos al Pastor and Carne Asada Tacos. The Tacos al Pastor, a quintessential Mexican street food favorite, did not disappoint. Tender marinated pork, adorned with fresh pineapple and a squeeze of lime, transported my taste buds to the bustling streets of Mexico City. The Carne Asada Tacos were equally satisfying, featuring perfectly grilled steak bursting with smoky flavors and complemented by vibrant toppings. The interplay of textures and flavors in both dishes showcased the chefs’ commitment to authentic and bold Mexican cuisine.

A Sweet Finish: Tres Leches and Churros

The meal wouldn’t be complete without a sweet ending, and we decided to try both the Tres Leches and Churros. The Tres Leches, a classic Mexican dessert, was a dreamy concoction of moist sponge cake soaked in a trio of milks and topped with luscious marscapone whipped cream. Each spoonful was pure bliss, and I savored every last bite. The Churros, crispy on the outside and delightfully fluffy on the inside, were served with a decadent chocolate dipping sauce and caramel.

Raising a Toast: Margaritas and Hospitality

Accompanying our food were the restaurant’s signature Margaritas, including the Lona Margarita and the Tamarita. The bartenders’ skill in blending unique flavors shone through, perfectly complementing our meal.

Valet and Value: A Seamless Dining Experience

Aside from the culinary delights, Lona’s thoughtful amenities added to the overall experience. The complimentary valet service at the Tampa Marriott hotel made parking a breeze, allowing us to focus on the joyous evening ahead. Furthermore, the restaurant’s reasonable prices made indulging in a variety of dishes a guilt-free pleasure.

Final Thoughts: A superior Mexican Gem in Tampa

My visit to Lona was a culinary gem, celebrating the richness of Mexican food and the ingenuity of Chef Richard Sandoval and Chef Pablo Salas. The seamless blend of traditional and contemporary flavors, the warm hospitality, and the inviting atmosphere made for a memorable evening. Whether you’re a seasoned food enthusiast or a curious explorer of flavors, Lona promises an exceptional dining experience.

So, if you find yourself in Tampa and seeking an exceptional dining experience, look no further than Lona by Chef Richard Sandoval. Eat a meal that will delight your senses, redefine your perception of Mexican cuisine, and leave you with cherished memories of a remarkable dining experience in the heart of Tampa.

Discover More Culinary Delights: Connect with me!

If you own a restaurant that you believe embodies the spirit of culinary excellence or have a favorite dining spot that you believe I should explore, I would love to hear from you! As a passionate food enthusiast, I am always on the lookout for exceptional culinary experiences that showcase the creativity and artistry of talented chefs.

Your recommendations and insights are invaluable in uncovering hidden gems and culinary treasures waiting to be discovered. Whether it’s a charming family-owned eatery with a cherished family recipe or a cutting-edge restaurant pushing the boundaries of food science, I am eager to explore them all.

Feel free to reach out to me at bwooddell@wfla.com with any restaurant suggestions or culinary experiences you would like to share. Together, let’s celebrate the diverse and delightful world of food in the Tampa Bay.

Thank you for joining me on this tasty adventure, and I look forward to hearing from you!