By David Minsky
By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
Seared yellowtail snapper featured a whole, curved fish on a big, square plate looking as if it had swum into light tempura batter and then fried itself in midmotion. The succulent fish was marked into easily removable portions that flaked into fleshy bitefuls boosted by spicy kimchee glaze and a squirt of basil purée. A dome of tepid black rice did little but visually anchor the festively colored sauces, while a piquant, vinegary, red pepper-flecked kimchee and napa cabbage slaw was so refreshing that I asked to take my leftover portion home with the remainder of the snapper. Only the fish was packed.
Zemi's wait staff was not particularly alert. Tables went unwiped between courses; servers were consistently unaware of who ordered what dish. On one occasion, we sat outdoors, and rain started to fall over a limited number of diners seated beyond the awnings' perimeter. I was one of those unfortunate few and like the others got up, moved my chair, and shifted my table setting. When paying $25 to $39 an entrée, you expect better.
Another sign that waiters might need more training came when I was charged $9 for what had been an $8 baked Alaska. When informed of this, our server promised to "check it out," adding that if I was indeed correct, he would make the adjustment. You'd think he would have known the price right then and there, as the menu contains just six prepared desserts -- each $8.
5050 Town Center Circle
Boca Raton, FL 33486
Region: Boca Raton
No quibble with the baked Alaska itself, a tasty, un-ignited twist on the classic, prepared with a base of flourless chocolate cake, scoop of mocha chip ice cream, and blanketing of toasted meringue -- the traditional cooked version, which is denser, creamier, and sweeter than the aerated frosting found on key lime pies. Pastry Chef Stephanie Wong's apple shortbread crumble was praiseworthy as well, fresh, hot wedges of the fruit baked with buttery crust and sided by cardamom ice cream and caramel sauce spiritedly spiked with rum.
Lemon poppy seed pound cake proved considerably less satisfying, the square of cake starchy and dull, the mascarpone and honey tuile tower on top a monument to the misprioritization of height and appearance over flavor. A frizzy, misshapen nest of golden spun sugar atop a side of berry-champagne sorbet looked like a hat Björk might wear to the Oscars -- fun, frivolous, and not to be eaten.
A few menu slip-ups are to be expected when a major restaurant changes horses in midstream; such transitions are tricky. The problematic service is more perplexing, but Zemi still remains a top-drawer dining destination with a top-shelf chef.