By Nicole Danna
By Sara Ventiera
By Candace West
By Emily Dabau
By Doug Fairall
By Candace West
By Laine Doss
By Sara Ventiera
One suspects that Alan Duddle is thoroughly behind this fanatically tasteful interior design he apparently decorated the Flamingo with his own art collection. The setting is perfectly in tune with the menu, which, while never wildly creative, offers just enough stuff that you haven't seen before to keep you interested. The signature crab chowder($7.95), for instance, is perfectly yummy a dense bowl the color of a Florida sunset, chock full of crab and cream, laced with sherry in perfect proportions. Also "From the Turine" (this menu could use a spellcheck), we tried the beautiful Longchamp sweet pea soup a brilliant emerald green, blended satiny smooth and decorated with wavy lines of white crème fraiche (although the shredded carrots advertised on the menu were nowhere in evidence). It was fresh and grassy, presumably like the famous Parisian horseracing track it was named for.
Our arugula salad ($9.95) baby arugula, grape tomatoes, red onions, gorgonzola, and strawberry vinaigrette came from the kitchen so wilted and soggy we couldn't eat it. And the prices for salads are outrageous arugula, caesar, caprese, and Victoria salads range from $9.95 to $12.95, so if you like salad with dinner, be prepared to pay for it. I'm guessing this is to dissuade the figure-conscious from having greens as an entrée. But Flowers should either offer a tossed dinner salad for a reasonable fee or make sure their salads come to the table practically still breathing.
An appetizer of Scottish smoked salmon ($13.95), offered delicately flavored, meltingly soft, imported fish layered between little silver-dollar pancakes with a swipe of sour cream, sprinkles of dill, and a few capers. If we're getting technical, these pancakes, billed as "blinis" on the menu, aren't yeasty or porous enough to qualify, but we loved them anyway. More salmon is arranged alongside with a few curls of mixed greens. This dish makes a light, lovely appetite stimulant.
And you'll need your appetite for the substantial entrée portions. We sampled four and loved them all. Fiochi "money bags" ($17.95) wrap delicate homemade sheets of pasta into the classic shape like a cartoon bank robber might carry his loot in, only missing the gold $$ signs. They're stuffed with a fattening mixture of ricotta cheese and sweet, slightly chewy pears and doused in chunky, satisfyingly tart tomato sauce laced with onions and garlic, to cut this very sweet filling. Pine nuts are advertised on the menu but weren't in evidence. Delicious, even without them. Beer-marinated pork tenderloin ($21.95), a dainty morsel of lightly charred meat, came thoroughly infused with the scent of rosemary, tenderized by the beer, salty and sure-footed. A mound of carnival rice, studded with green and red peppers, and a silky bunch of broccolini, cooked to retain its crunch and color, made excellent accompaniments.
On our second visit, we ordered the Seafood Diablo (this, the pork tenderloin, and the salmon blinis are starred as "chef's specials.") Flowers' Diablo is my own ideal version of comfort food littleneck clams, fat shrimp, fresh scallops, and mussels tossed in a hearty, peppery tomato sauce, infusing it with their musky, seabed flavors, and this served over narrow, ridged quills of garganelli pasta that act like a sauce magnet. That tomato sauce is full of personality, sassy as a puttanesca, and if I had one meal to eat day after day on a desert island, it would be this one. Just writing about it makes my mouth water.
We also had an eight-ounce New York strip ($23.95), grilled to a juicy-pink center along with smashed potatoes infused with milk, butter, and pepper and more of that crunchy broccolini. The steak was fine with its light dressing of scallion butter but anybody ought to be able to cook a decent steak given a good piece of meat. This one was accomplished, not particularly distinguished just a dish to satisfy any meat-and-potato fan.
Over dessert a crumbly, French-style apple tart with almond paste and a shot of amaretto ($10) and a scoop of coffee ice cream served in a chocolate bowl with shot of Kahlua ($9) we eavesdropped on the next table: They'd sent back their chocolate cake ("It tasted like it was four days old"), and they'd been served only a single, stingy piece of bread with dinner. They were right about the bread it's a scrumptious, crusty sourdough that leaves you yearning for more we hadn't gotten enough of it either. Our coffee ice cream was forgettable and overpriced, but the apple tart was the kind of dessert you fight over for the last crumb. I can't speak for the chocolate cake our waiter had gently warned us away from it.
Our service had been lovely exacting degrees of friendliness and formality, with unidentifiable people sort of floating around. I couldn't figure out what they were doing, exactly like that elegant redheaded woman in flowing skirts except maybe infusing the place with a sense of gracious hospitality. One felt very taken care of. In fact, any more pampering and we might have drifted off to dreamland at our table, like Dorothy in the poppy fields of Oz or Ulysses' men among the lotus eaters. Such is the power of the Flower.