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For instance, there's the "chophouse" steak salad, deliciously fattening and satisfying on every level, from flavor to texture. The salad takes on a timbale shape, with a succulent slice of strip steak wrapping an interior of chopped greens, bacon, chopped tomato, and lumps of sharp and savory blue cheese. The whole thing was united by a creamy garlic dressing and festooned with crisp tobacco onions, which added a crunch as if to a casserole. Best of all, perhaps, because the serving was large and the proportion of lettuce as compared to the sturdier ingredients was minimal, the leftover salad kept beautifully in the fridge for lunch the next day.
In fact, no matter what you order, you're bound to have much more than enough. A bowl of linguine with little-neck clams partnered with garlic crostini was a marathon runner's dream. Juiced with a garlic, parsley, and white-wine broth, the pasta tasted homemade, and the dozen clams that rimmed the bowl had been carefully poached to open like just-perfumed invitations.
We didn't have as much success with a newer menu item, the veal "telephono." The pounded meat was fork tine-tender, and the mozzarella that melted over it was as smooth as a con man. But the tomato sauce that also dressed the veal had too much of an herbal kick, and the fresh fettuccine under it had been overcooked. The addition of "oak fire" peppers, though, offset the too-bright basil with some smoky robustness.
The adjectives "oak fired" and "wood oven" are sprinkled liberally throughout the menu, referring to the restaurant's extensive hardwood- and coal-burning appliance, which is featured in the theater kitchen. The treatment is applied to items ranging from side dishes like asparagus with ricotta salata to rotisserie chicken to roasted mushrooms or beets. Most notably, the grill is utilized for steak house-styled cuts of meat, including a bone-in rib eye and center-cut filet mignon.
When it's not Italian or steak house, the menu is a mixture of contemporary dining favorites including caramelized onion-crusted sea bass and mustard-glazed salmon cooked on a cedar plank. No doubt these are house favorites. But Manero and company might want to start experimenting with some bolder dishes, for two reasons. For one, some of the fish on the menu is once again close to endangerment, such as the line-caught swordfish, or even extinction, such as the sea bass. For another, as word about this posh quality spot spreads further than Palm Beach County limits, those who are willing to hit the highway for a good meal will undoubtedly prove to have more adventurous palates. Indeed, our server, who was wonderfully trained and extremely personable and energetic, told us that the average age of the clientele has been steadily dropping, directly opposite the collective distances of their travels, since the restaurant opened in June.
Crème brûlée, as windowpane-in-winter perfect as it is here, might not be the ideal choice for those who have gone out of their way, but it certainly will appeal to the devout. To my mind, the raspberry yogurt and angel food cake parfait was far more interesting, not to mention pleasantly light and tangy after such a rich and filling meal. But of course, the choice of how to end one's meal is as open to interpretation as the name of the restaurant. Which is why next time, I'll probably close with the wedge of rich, oven-baked, truffle macaroni and cheese, a donation to my own particular cause -- sleeping it off.