Pretty Fly for a West Coast Guy

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In the past two years, Fly (1202 N. Franklin St., Tampa, 813-275-5000 or flybarandrestaurant.com) has shown that not only can restaurants succeed in downtown Tampa, they can thrive. The lively restaurant and bar has made a name by drawing crowds in for the bar scene, rooftop deck, late hours and upscale small plate dining. Now, owners Leslie Shirah and Matthew Sturm want to up the ante.

They've imported a chef from Brick — one of their three San Francisco restaurants — to update the menu and elevate the food. Rene Caceres is a graduate of the New England Culinary Institute and has worked at several restaurants in California. "He had to leave a city known for food, with a very supportive environment for restaurants," says Fly GM David Bromberg. "But out there, he wasn't the executive chef."

In the month that Caceres has been in charge of Fly's kitchen, he's already exerted a hefty influence on the menu, steering it toward the seasonal California cuisine he's familiar with, along with a dash of French influence. Wild salmon comes poached, with dill infused pomme puree, while pork loin is accented by kumquat confit.

Caceres hasn't shed all of the other Bay area's influence. He still doesn't own a car and he lives in downtown, right next to the restaurant.

New Year's Eve will be Caceres' coming out party, with a seven course tasting menu entirely devised by Fly's new executive chef.

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