By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
By Sara Ventiera
The meal fell apart during the main course. After the kitchen's quick response with the appetizers, we anticipated a similar presentation of entrees. Forty-five minutes later, three arrived, but the fourth, sea bass, didn't show up for another few minutes. The sea bass is prepared only one way, as a thick fillet braised in a basil bouillon and propped over fragrant fennel root. Unfortunately it had to be sent back. The menu warns that the kitchen prepares fish "slightly underdone," but this fish was downright raw, ice-cold in the middle and rubbery.
Which leads me to a pet peeve: I appreciate the suppleness of sushi-quality tuna, the tenderness of rare salmon, the juiciness of an underdone swordfish steak. But, trend or no, not all fish tastes best bloody in the middle. Given more fire the sea bass was returned only a tad more cooked, which made it edible but not enjoyable, with parts of it still too chewy.
"Chewy" wasn't the word for the next two selections, which we feared would result in extensive dental work. One dish consisted of two inch-thick slices of pork loin roasted in a barbecue sauce and garlic confit. The confit part of the recipe couldn't be identified, but the barbecue sauce was rich and tangy. The pork loin, however, was hard and dry enough to build a house on. And the veal mignon, two smallish sections of beef, was also construction material. The veal was au jus and grilled with red onion, but the smattering of sauteed onions laid on top did nothing to soften the overdone meat. Both meat dishes were arranged over heaps of sauteed leaf spinach, which featured salt as its main ingredient.
The best dish was the pasta of the day: farfalle, or butterfly-shaped noodles, dressed with pencil asparagus and chunks of tomatoes and featuring beautifully succulent rock shrimp. A pleasant, buttery sauce united the pasta with the shrimp and vegetables.
Ranging from $4 to $5, the side dishes were a uniform travesty. Gray in color, the Parmesan risotto tasted as if it had been sitting around for a while. Ditto the potato-onion tart dusted with bacon stale enough to roof that pork-and-veal house. Tamarind baked-beans were firm pintos, but the infusion of tart tamarind was overwhelming, causing the mouth to pucker. And the pencil asparagus, in a smooth and artful balsamic glaze, were missing their feathery tops.
We tried to soothe our still-hungry souls with two special desserts, but the attempt failed. The chocolate-chip sour cream pound cake, a mini bundt covered in chocolate, was refrigerator hard, although a blast of orange-y Grand Marnier sauce and icy tangerine sorbet were refreshing partners. Blueberry cobbler, described by our server as traditional, was more like a granola bar, grainy and barely fruity, topped with a scoop of blackberry sorbet.
We had plenty of time to contemplate and discuss the disastrous meal after we paid our check and waited patiently for the valet to get our car. Finally, he drove down the ramp -- in the wrong car. When we made no move to get in, he double-checked the number, realized his mistake, and reversed his way up the ramp. Another valet jogged after him -- to make sure he got it right this time, I suppose.
"Rookies," he called over his shoulder. "What can you do?"
Train them -- as a celebrated chef-owner should his kitchen staff, especially if he's not going to be around enough of the time to make sure they get it right.
230 Sunrise Ave., Palm Beach, 561-366-4000. Breakfast and lunch Tuesday-Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Dinner nightly from 5 to 11 p.m.
Charred beef skewers with peanut sauce
Crisp oysters with remoulade