There’s certainly no shortage of restaurants in the Boca /Delray area, including a slew of new ones opened this year. Some are pretty good, some are fairly bad, and most fall somewhere in between. But amongst the crowd, here’s nine newbies worth checking out. They may not necessarily be “the best” or fanciest restaurant around, but each offers a unique twist on the usual, and is worth putting on your bucket list to try. So here they are, listed alphabetically:
1. Buddha Garden – 217 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach 561/450-7557 www.BuddhaGarden.com
The sexy sibling of Buddha Sky Bar (upstairs) opened right in heart of the Atlantic Avenue action. Like her rooftop sister, Buddha Garden excels in sushi, but offers a far more enlightened experience than your typical sushi joint. The innovative menu focuses on Japanese cuisine, along with Chinese, Thai, and Korean elements – plus some unique New World twists. Starting options range from inspired sushi rolls (try the Hamachi White Truffle or Salmon Bombshell) and Peruvian-style ceviche, to Chinese Shu Mai and Korean BBQ ribs. Mainplates include an impressive selection of chef-inspired wok-fry and grilled items. Executive Chef Tony Torres is a veritable culinary wizard. Take, for instance, a sumptuous Chilean Sea Bass, glazed with Kimchee (Korean), and accompanied by Risotto (Italian) studded with Edamame (Japanese) enriched with Boursin cheese (French), then crowned with California Asparagus. Wow! This dish could easily go fin-to-fin with any high-end seafood place around. And where else can you find tender Lamb Chops treated to a Chinese 5-Spice rub, sided by a refreshing yuzu Tzatziki? Peking Duck, Wild Mushroom Noodles (vegetarian), and Truffle Wasabi Prime Filet Mignon are equally praise-worthy. Other attractions include killer cocktails (incorporating items like fresh muddled berries and herbs, yuzu juice, and grapefruit bitters); an impressive sake list, and some amazing desserts, like Peanut Butter & Jelly Wontons, refreshing housemade Ginger Ice Cream, and a multi-faceted Buddha Sky Bar Bento box.
“May Buddha bestow its culinary blessings upon us!”
2. Butcher Block Grill – 7000 W. Camino Real (at Powerline Rd.), Boca Raton. 561-409-3035 www.butcherblockgrill.com.
This new eatery just opened in August in the Fountains Center (where W. Camino Real dead-ends into Powerline Road). It fills a much-needed void for a really good steak & seafood restaurant in the ‘hood that delivers high-end quality, without the high-end prices or stuffy attitude of the big chains. Butcher Block Grill boasts an “All Natural” menu – meaning all of its meat and poultry is hormone-free, antibiotic-free, and humanely raised on a vegetarian diet. All seafood is wild-caught and/or locally sourced; and all produce is locally sourced and pesticide-free.
Signature entrees feature a notably outstanding Rib-Eye; a thunderous Veal Tomahawk Chop with a plate-licking Saltimbocca reduction; Simply Grilled Wild Salmon; local Snapper with crispy asparagus; and Mediterranean Skewers. Other attractions include hand-pulled Warm Mozzarella made tableside; Super Lump Crab Cakes (NO bread crumbs or mayo filler!); and a Goat’s Cheese Cheesecake with chopped pistachio crust that is worth the visit alone. And yes, ALL of these dishes are all natural, hormone-free and antibiotic-free!
Read the Review! http://ventwing.com/article/butcher-block-grill-a-natural-selection
3. Ceviche – 116 NE 6th Avenue (off Atlantic Ave), Delray Beach. (561) 894-8599; www.Ceviche.com
This cool new concept took over the former Falcon House, and seems a natural fit for the historic site — infusing a hip new vibe while preserving its legendary glamour. As the name implies, fresh cevíche and Spanish-inspired tapas reign supreme. The menu features about 100 tapas, spanning the culinary gamut from light veggies to hearty meats, including Albondigas (Spanish meatballs), Champiñones (sautéed wild mushrooms flambéed with Spanish sherry), Chorizo (grilled sausage) flambéed with Spanish brandy), and Gambas al Ajillo (“Spanish shrimp scampi”). The kitchen also kicks out some serious entrees, including several versions of the quintessential Spanish dish, Paella. Other specialties include Solomillo a la Parilla (beef tenderloin with wild mushrooms), Piquillos Rellenos, and Grilled Norwegian salmon with saffron and leeks. And don’t forget the special Sangria (red, white, or sparkling Cava), prepared tableside to order; then finish with housemade Flan or Tres Leches cake. Ole!
Read the Review! http://ventwing.com/article/cev-che-tapas-bar-restaurant-delray-s-ne…
4. Dorsia – 5837 N. Federal Hwy, Boca Raton 561/961-4156 http://www.dorsiarestaurant.com
Located on North Federal Highway north of Yamato, Dorsia is the kind of hidden gem that, once you discover it, might just become your favorite neighborhood Italian. Owner Cris Lanza and his family know a thing or two about running an Italian restaurant, having owned and run several Italian venues in NYC, and then in Florida (including Rosario’s in Royal Palm Place). Inside the elegant-yet-relaxed setting, you’ll find an inviting, friendly atmosphere, away from the hassle & hustle of downtown or the busy strip malls. Executive Chef Tommy Kabashi turns out some exquisite cuisine with a creative finesse, while still maintaining the Italian focus on the basics. Starters include an upgraded Caprese Salad starring fresh Burrata and Kalamatas, Grilled Calamari Steak (NOT fried rings!), ricotta-stuffed Zucchini Blossoms, Roasted Pears with blue cheese & walnuts, and a delightful Dorsia Chopped Salad. A large pasta selection features both house-made fresh and imported Italian dried pastas, including black (squid ink) Linguine (with seafood), Bucatini, and a daily Ravioli of the Moment. Amongst the large plates, the Chilean Sea Bass was one of the best we’ve ever tasted, anywhere. The tender fish practically melted in the mouth, and seemed to taste even better with each bite. All steaks are USDA Prime, and the Rib Eye was notably praiseworthy. Fresh Yellowtail Snapper, Lamb Chops, Stuffed Veal Scaloppine, and Braised Short Ribs are other standouts. A full bar, thoughtful wine list and homemade desserts complete the scene.
P.S. Movie buffs, check out American Psycho for the genesis of Dorsia.
5. Firehouse Subs – 1920 N.E. 5th Ave. (5th Avenue Shops, off N. Federal Hwy.), Boca Raton (561) 245-8219; www.firehousesubs.com.
A new concept in these parts, Firehouse Subs is well-known in Jacksonville, where it was developed by two third-generation firemen. Firehouse is a marked step up from the generic sub shop franchise, starting with high quality meats sliced fresh daily in-house. And here’s a unique twist: Firehouse steams the meats & cheeses to fuse the flavors and maintain moisture, then toasts the custom-made rolls separately to maximize textural integrity.
Specialties include the slow-smoked Beef Brisket with cheddar; Hawaiian Pulled Pork, slow-smoked over mesquite by a Texas BBQ pit master, served on a special King’s Hawaiian bun with a zippy cole slaw (seasonal special!); NY Steamer, a deli-inspired corned beef & pastrami combo; Meatball sub;
and Firehouse Chili (come on, they’re firemen – gotta have chili!). Also check out the “wall of flame,” and the cool Coca-Cola Freestyle® fountain, with 120+ custom combination options. Firehouse also gives back to the community, providing life-saving equipment to local fire departments and public safety organizations.
Read the Review! http://ventwing.com/slideshow/firehouse-subs-boca-raton-fl
6. Jazziz Nightlife – 201 Plaza Real (Mizner Park), Boca Raton. 561/300-0730. www.Jazziznightlife.com
A definite “Must Do!” in Boca. This totally unique venue took the former space of the glorious ZED 451, occupying the strategic southern endcap of Mizner Park. As the name implies, Jazziz is a jazz club. Where else can you spend an intimate evening grooving ‘up close and personal’ to the area’s most outstanding local talent — plus jazz legends like Gino Vanelli, Spyro Gyra, David Sanborn, Al Dimeola, and Nestor Torres? Best of all, it’s right here in Boca — no need to schlep to Miami!
Yes, Jazziz is a great jazz club (the only one in town), and certainly worth visiting just for the music (and bar!) experience alone. There’s also a cool outdoor patio, cigar bar, and champagne room. But it’s also a fantastic restaurant, with Executive Chef Justin Flint turning out some serious cuisine, from light snacks to substantial entrees. The authentic wood burning grill and oven imbue their wonderful, earthy magic upon all of their temporary inhabitants, including a variety of meats, fresh fish (try the Florida Red Snapper when available!), and pizza. A prodigious 20-oz Prime bone-in Rib Eye is an all-star hit, and would absolutely hold its own against the finest steakhouse around. (Chef Justin’s background includes steak legend Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak, so this guy knows his steak). Other entrée choices include Braised Short Rib, Hudson Valley Duck Breast, killer Burgers, and wood-fired Pizzas. On a lighter note, Beef Tartare (excellent!), Hawaiian Tuna Crudo, Seared Diver Scallops, and PEI Mussels in a champagne-saffron broth are perfect for sharing, or as a light meal on their own. And, Do NOT miss the housemade Desserts – they’re worth the visit alone. The Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding with salted caramel vanilla ice cream, or a luscious Fresh Peach Cobbler will elicit an “Oh My God!” from even the most diehard dieter. Jazziz IS Jazz (and Food!)
7. Segreto – 39 SE 1st Ave., Boca Raton. 561/465-2888 www.SegretoBoca.com
The original Segreto first opened in January, but then quickly folded. Now under complete new ownership, Segreto (Italian for ‘secret’) is a treasure worth sharing. Not only is the food outstanding, but there’s genuine warm, gracious hospitality and comfortable feeling, thanks to co-owner/GM Gracemarie DeSiervi. What you’ll also appreciate an exceptional level of service, so hard to find nowadays — especially in south Florida. Not some nose-ringed, tattooed teenage punk — but a true pro, delivering the kind of old-world service, thorough menu knowledge, and expertise, where you can just sit back, relax, and know you’re in good hands. For starters, the Antipasto Segreto is practically a meal in itself, an artful compilation of grilled fresh vegetables, along with assorted olives, authentic Prosciutto di Parma (the real stuff!), and wonderful Italian Burrata. Other antipasto include Spiedini Romani (think “gourmet Italian Grilled Cheese”), insanely tender Meatballs, and Stracciatella (Italian chicken soup with spinach, eggs, and Pecorino cheese). The signature Pappardelle Segreto, made tableside in a huge Parmesan cheese wheel, is an all-star. Notable entrees include fresh seafood and meat dishes, from Yellowtail Snapper to Rack of Lamb. Frozen Limincello makes a delightfully refreshing dessert. With food and service this good, Segreto won’t be a “secret” very long!
8. Shake Shack – 1400 Glades Rd. (University Commons), Boca Raton 561/ 923-0847 www.Shakeshack.com
You may have heard about the 2-hour lines when Shake Shack first opened in Miami, and even longer lines in NYC and other markets. And you probably thought, “that’s crazy to wait so long, just for a burger.” But there’s a reason this NY-based phenom has developed such a loyal, cult-like following. One taste, and you’ll be back in line soon — but don’t worry, you won’t have to wait quite so long in Boca! The new Boca location opened this spring on East Glades Road (at University Commons), and is already kickin’ in high gear. The limited menu emphasizes Shake Shack’s dedication to quality over mass quantity. So if you’re looking for salads, breakfast burritos, or pre-fab nuggets, keep looking — Shake Shack is all about the burgers. Some of the best burgers in the country in fact, according to countless reviews, scores of awards, and a few million fans. All burgers starting with fresh, all natural hormone-free Angus beef ground daily, grilled to order and served on a customized potato bun.
Recognizing that man does not live by burgers alone, the menu also offers flat-top grilled, all natural Hot Dogs, fries, beer (including its exclusive ShackMeister Ale) and wine. And vegetarians take note, the Shroom ‘Burger,’ starring a cheese-filled Portobello, is surprisingly yummy. Hint: Go for the Shack Stack, combining a Shroom Burger with to a cheeseburger. And with a name like “Shake Shack,” you know this place better have some good shakes! We’re talkin’ real, old-fashioned frozen custard – made in house daily and hand-scooped to order (NOT some pre-packaged mix dispensed from an automated nozzle). It’s served by the cup, in hand-blended shakes, or as a special ultra-rich Concrete, mixed with your choice of add-ins. Each locale features locally-inspired specialty Concrete creations. The Mizner’s Muse (available only in Boca) combines vanilla frozen custard with a cheesecake blondie, strawberry puree, and cinnamon marshmallow sauce (yum!); while the Boca-specific “Glades Donut” incorporates The Sugar Monkey’s glazed donuts, peanut butter, and chocolate toffee (ditto!).
“Diet be damned, it’s Shake Shack tonight!”
9. Sybarite Pig – 20642 State Road 7 (Shadowood Square), Boca Raton (561) 883-3200; www.sybaritepig.com
This crazy little place with a crazy name and an even crazier locale proves that good things often come in small, unexpected packages. Sybarite Pig is a friendly, comfortable place to drink and dine amongst friends — like your favorite old neighborhood pub from days gone by. One senses an almost unspoken camaraderie amongst the patrons, who subtly recognize the rare value of discovering this “secret.” Here you’ll find unique offerings unlike anything in town, including items you’ve probably never ventured to try, or even heard of. From his foxhole of a kitchen, chef/owner Daniel Naumko turns out some amazing – and very UNIQUE offerings. Just about everything on his menu is hand made in house, from the soups and sauces (even the mustard), to the sausages and burgers, to the handmade specialty rolls.
I knew this place was worth checking out when I sampled Chef Dan’s amazing Tri-Tip Duck Fat Burger, which won my bid as the “Best Burger” at the recent Boca Burger Battle (www.BocaBurgerBattle.com). The menu features a host of housemade sausage (7 on our night, including Apple/Lemon Pork, Moroccan Merguez, Tamarind Lamb, Duck (my favorite), and Chef Dan’s own Hellswine), each accompanied by a customized sauce and select toppings, served on a wonderful fresh-baked pretzel bun. And Sybarite Pig is the only place around that not only serves, but actually makes its own Porcetta Di Testa (if you don’t know what Porcetta is, suffice it to say, it’s a ‘pork product’). Other unique signatures include Roasted Bone Marrow, Pickled Tongue Sandwich, Korean Short Ribs (excellent!), Duck-Fat Roasted Potato Salad, Pickled Beets in Greek Yogurt, and yes, Bacon Chocolate Cookies. Like I said, this place is unique!
But beer fans know Sybarite Pig even better as their ‘Go-To’ destination for serious craft beers, and the Pig has already built a loyal following of beer aficionados. Chef Daniel comes from a microbrewery background, and is quite a brew master himself (and also incorporates select beers into food recipes). On-tap choices rotate continuously, but you’ll always find a great selection of artisan craft beers (including a strong showing of Florida’s finest), served by a very friendly and knowledgeable beertender.
I guess the restaurant’s slogan sums it up best, “Craft Beer, Craft Grub.”
So there you have it, fellow foodies. Nine cool new places to check out. And stay tuned for my upcoming list of the year’s top closings!
Restaurant Placement Group – www.RestaurantPlacement.com
Read More openings and closings: ventwing.com/article/2012-the-restaurant-year-review