By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
All these little annoyances tend to detract from a meal. But the fact of the matter is, the dockside setting, complete with 700 feet of space in which to tie up your Cigarette, and some exemplary dishes could lure folks in -- where Tugboat Annie's practically towed potential regulars off the premises.
For instance, when it comes to New England clam chowder brewed in Florida, I'm pretty skeptical. But Harbor Grille's version was a wonderfully silky broth, replete with plump clams and diced potatoes, celery, and onions that tasted as if they had been sautéed in butter first. You know that ad campaign where a guy drives to Maine from New York in his luxury car just for lunch? Ayuh, he couldn't get better than this.
We weren't quite as fond of a seafood pot pie, which seemed filled more with overcooked bay shrimp than anything else, but we were pleasantly surprised by a citrus-rum-marinated, grilled chicken entrée. More like a split rock Cornish hen, the caramelized bird featured a candied skin and slick, juicy flesh; a scoop of perfectly mashed, butter-softened potatoes were an intriguing textural counterpoint. I suppose I can't credit Chef Guerra for either the failure or success, since Zucker tells me the two sous chefs in the kitchen are respectively responsible for seafood and Continental dishes. But Guerra, who used to take toque honors at I Paparazzi in South Beach, specializes in Italian cuisine. His lasagna more than adequately demonstrates his skills: tender ribbons of pasta encrusted with nuggets of ground veal and ricotta cheese like so many mussels hugging a barnacle, bathed in just the right amount of fully flavored marinara.
The ricotta showed up again in the form of cheesecake for dessert, and it was a pleasantly firm version reminiscent of lemon rind. But the real star of the sweet course was the strawberry torte, which the waitress told us was purchased from "somewhere." Well, "somewhere" bakes a superb torte -- tiny berries gilded onto a luxuriously buttery crust. And I would return for a fine, generous meal of the rum-glazed chicken and the torte alone. But given the rust on that wine key, I just might get a tetanus shot first.