By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
By Sara Ventiera
Soups as well resonated with the necessary knowledge of cookery. One night, I sipped at a tasty puree of broccoli that was based solidly on the vegetable rather than dairy products; another visit yielded a smooth split pea that had the satiny texture of having been passed through a food mill. If soup and salad don't seem all that exciting, look for appetizers such as garlic-driven escargots, oysters Rockefeller that actually taste like shellfish rather than creamed spinach, and whole California-raised artichokes, which are large and tender and boast leaves that don't poke your palate with irritating little points.
If I'm not ordering my roasted chicken mainstay for an entrée (as a cook myself, I'd love to know how they get that skin so crunchy but keep the poultry so slick and juicy underneath), I usually opt for the osso buco. I've had this white wine-braised veal shank here on and off over the years, but I've never had it more redolent with carrots, tomatoes, mushrooms, and onions than I did a few evenings ago. Though rather large, as if purloined from a cow rather than a calf, the veal was unbelievably succulent. I was most thrilled with the fact that, old-fashioned though it might be, the center of the bone featured a marrow fork, which I employed to extract the pearly, fatty, wonderfully rich interior of the shank.
Granted, the regular menu can seem a little dull in comparison to the numerous dry-erase board specials, which boast fish and shellfish prepared in ways that range from curry to scampi. I found the blackened salmon, which carries a warning of spicy!written in red pen next to it, more highly flavored with a host of spices than zippy with cayenne. But there's no denying its expert execution, the large flakes of fish separating easily from one another, pink-red and supple. Whole trout meunière also pleased us, primarily for the succulence of its boneless fillets, which separated from the skin without a fight, but also because of the restrained nature of the buttery sauce. A tuna fillet, dressed with tangy-sweet mango salsa, showed some pedigree as well; though not sushi-grade, the tuna, requested rare, was seared white on the outside and was red and juicy on the inside.
The cooks do make an occasional misstep: On one such occasion, beef Burgundy was dried out and stringy, and a recent sampling of meat loaf revealed a pasty, slightly lumpy sauce. But even when the main course is not to one's liking, the vegetables and starches can't be faulted. Broccoli and asparagus remain this green only in one's own kitchen usually, and mashed potatoes and basmati rice are authentic and satisfying. A third side-dish alternative, the nightly vegetable soufflé, is worth the indulgence; the night I tried it, the zucchini soufflé was light and fluffy.
The Weston location has yet to become as busy as the North Miami Beach one, a plus for the custard-tart devotees; the creamy pie, topped with impeccable blueberries, kiwi, and strawberries, is usually still up for grabs by the end of the meal. We would have preferred an apple tart served as is, since a stint in the heat caused the pastry crust to wilt. Still, the warm, thinly sliced apples passed muster with the pickiest Northeastern pie lovers at my table. No doubt the Gourmet Diner will do the same with every member of its newly acquired community, Marlboro Man excepted, of course.