By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
John Isaksen doesn't use any machines in his kitchen (if you don't believe him, ask to see for yourself; he loves to give tours), so main courses may take a while to appear. He's also very particular about his preparations. For instance, if the rack of lamb (dubbed "The Shepherds and the Sheep") hasn't marinated for 72 hours, he'll refuse to serve it. We were fortunate enough to hit the eatery at the 72-hour mark and were treated to eight joined riblets that had been perfumed with a veritable flock of rosemary, garlic, and thyme. The lamb, roasted to a delicate medium-rare, was accompanied by a filling trio of side dish "shepherds": herbed roasted potatoes, sauteed shredded red cabbage, and a host of (somewhat soggy) garden vegetables that included cauliflower, broccoli, and squash, all dusted with fresh dill.
The vegetables and red cabbage also partnered the roasted half duck ("The Ugly Duckling," naturally), which boasted succulent meat under a crisp plum-color skin. A gravy boat of special "duck sauce" (stewed apples and prunes) contrasted splendidly with the game bird, and two starches, boiled potatoes and roasted candied potatoes, lent the dish an authentic Danish air; these garnishes often show up with goose in Denmark.
Six fish dishes are offered, including red snapper baked with shrimp and red snapper baked in a paper bag with butter and vermouth. I was more interested in the fish that swim in northern climes, including Norwegian salmon grilled with Bermuda onions, and English Channel Dover sole. I got lucky with the sole, which had just come in fresh; Isaksen can't always get it here in the States -- not even frozen -- because the competition for it in Belgium and Holland is so great. I paid market price ($25.95) for the pleasure of consumption, but it was worth it. First grilled, then baked, the whole fish was boned (and beheaded) after cooking. The sweet, boneless flesh was then layered with spinach rife with pearls of garlic and decorated with the paprika-coated backbone of the fish. (The server will remove the bone for you and will also slice up your rack of lamb if you wish.) Yellow rice and the medley of vegetables seemed negligible in comparison to the sole.
I'm sorry to report that the meal didn't end happily ever after; the night's only real disappointment was dessert. By the time we'd finished our main courses, they'd all but run out of everything. Gail Isaksen did unearth a cream puff and a dollop of chocolate mousse for us, but I found the custard lumpy, the pastry stale, and the mousse heavy. She assured us that the selection of homemade Danish sweets will increase with the customer count. I can understand her reasoning, but I can't help but think it's a shame to skimp even when clients aren't a certainty. After all, it can't be right to leave a story unfinished just because you don't know how many people might read it.
If the rack of lamb hasn't marinated for 72 hours, John Isaksen will refuse to serve it.
The Little Mermaid.
505 NE 5th Ave., Delray Beach, 561-276-6900. Dinner Tuesday-Sunday 4:45 to 9:30 p.m.
Roast half duck
Rack of lamb