Cooking by Numbers

Has Pineapple Grille been damned with great praise?

If this were just one instance of a valiant but ultimately failed experiment, I might be tempted to let it go (well, maybe not, at that price.) The sea bass was my second entrée on my second visit, and the kitchen had long since abused my trust to the point that our differences were irreconcilable. I'd previously ordered one of the "Grille Specialties," Lorelei yellowtail with lime pepper sauce ($21.04), specifically because the menu promised locally caught yellowtail snapper. The fish was pure mush, the lime pepper sauce very bitter, and it was finally inedible. That I'd barely been able to touch it was clear enough to our darling, solicitous server, who comped our dessert to ease the pain.

So what's the problem? I'm going to hazard a guess that the kitchen is trying too hard to do too much. Maybe after nine years, Chef Bruner is bored and wants to fool around a little. I don't blame her a bit. But she's doing nine or ten nightly specials, in addition to an extensive regular menu, and these specials change significantly every night. The difference between Thursday and Saturday is the difference between egg rolls and empanadas, escargot and crab Napoleon, flatiron steak and short ribs of beef. If she'd take any one of these dishes and really perfect it, she'd be doing us all a favor. As it is, she just appears to be floundering in a sea of bottled hoisin sauce.

Our appetizers were further examples of insufficient attention. Crab and roasted corn chowder ($4.18) had been started, I'm guessing, from a powdered soup base -- it had Cheney Brothers written all over it. There wasn't any crab in it either. (This is the third time in three weeks, at three restaurants, that I've ordered a crab item entirely free of crab meat. Is there a worldwide crustacean shortage?) It was so salty, I was blown up like Kirstie Alley for two days afterward.

Joe Rocco

Location Info

Map

The Pineapple Grill

800 Palm Trail
Delray Beach, FL 33483

Category: Restaurant >

Region: Delray Beach

Details

Lunch 11 a.m. till 2:30 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; dinner Monday through Sunday from 5 p.m; Sunday brunch 10 a.m. till 2:30 p.m. Call 954-265-1368.
800 Palm Trl., Delray Beach

Another small plate, aquacate ($6.47), fried avocado with organic greens and chipotle mustard vinaigrette, made us a bit happier, although that was one pricey slice of avocado. Parmesan-crusted artichoke hearts ($7.76) were served with an unpleasant mayonnaise "dipping sauce" (I'm hazarding that it came straight from a jar). Terrible. Flubbed details like this can just ruin a meal.

You couldn't pick out a single flavor note in our short ribs with "zingy" cumin citrus barbecue glaze ($20.96) -- not the cumin, not the citrus -- and they were also oversweet and salty. An entrée portion of crab cakes ($17.14) was better, rolled in macadamia nuts and bread crumbs. It's served with a corn and black-bean relish you've probably seen in other restaurants and in store-bought jars, but it's pleasant enough, and the crab cakes were crunchy, spicy, just about right. Grille entrées used to be served with a green salad, but the practice has been discontinued -- Tobias says to keep prices down. I'd resume the salads and skip the stale bruschetta that begins every meal if I were pinching pennies.

But why should they have to pinch pennies? The place is jammed every night; you can't get in without a reservation on weekends. Don't these loyal customers deserve better? I paid $9.44 for a glass of Gran Marnier after dinner, to which a 75-cent surcharge was tacked on because I drank it straight up. Jesus. Who drinks Gran Marnier on ice? Do we infer that mixed drinks don't contain a full shot? Any way you slice it, it looks tacky.

Maybe the crowds throng Pineapple Grille for the good crab cakes, the interesting wine list, and the truly paradisal atmosphere. Or maybe they're under Tobias' black magic spell. But numerology isn't going to help this place. Somebody here needs to get real.

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