East Is Eden

My love affair with Nick Morfogen

The same went for the shrimp, which was lighter and tangy-er but no less fascinating in the way it revealed itself. Morfogen never gives away his game in the first bite. You ease your way into one of his creations the way you might begin an affair — tenderly, delighting in what you learn as you enter more deeply. It's not enough to think "citrus," because the lime and the kumquat assert their own gregarious flavor notes — they're as different as two little, round, acid-heavy fruits can be. Where the avocado aioli is voluptuous, the relish is sharp and snappy. And instead of using the frilly cilantro — which looks a bit like very young tarragon — as a garnish, Morfogen has given the dish a good solid salad of the stuff, plated on top of everything else; you can tease out these delicate, sultry threads so they run through every bite and lend their texture and perfume.

The ceppo pasta was the most conventional of the three appetizers, but it was still a bottomless well of pleasure. If the shrimp was the coloratura, and the foie gras a great dramatic mezzo soprano, the ceppo was the bel canto baritone, ranging through the dark notes of a slow-cooked ragu, of primordial fungi in the porcini and black truffles, in the long-aged flavors of Parmesan and mature English peas. It felt timeless and eternal. The groupings of each appetizer were harmonious in their tone, strange in certain bright peaks of unexpected flavorings. The ceppo, dense, chewy tubes, held up to this very serious sauce.

Of our entrées, the grilled filet mignon was the highlight ($37). Which may be a phrase you'll never hear from me again. I never order filet, it bores me — but let Morfogen add this flavorless cut of meat to his vocabulary and he's suddenly spouting poetry. Interesting ideas — broccolini crisped up so it's all about the texture — and, as if one green weren't enough, sautéed spinach filling out a sauté of yellowfoot chanterelles and Nueske's bacon. There are slices of roasted fingerling potatoes. And the whole thing is set in a cabernet reduction that practically defines the term — this sauce has been reduced until it has the force-field of a high-gravity star.

Joe Rocco

Location Info

Map

32 East

32 E. Atlantic Ave.
Delray Beach, FL 33444

Category: Restaurant > Contemporary

Region: Delray Beach

Details

Open Monday through Thursday 5:30 till 10 p.m., Friday and Saturday till 11 p.m. Call 561-276-7868.
32 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach

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I loved my pork tenderloin ($27), although it was fractiously anti-seasonal — yams, apples, and grapes, over salted braised greens mined with slivers of bacon seemed like a weird offering for a balmy tropical night in March. The Queen snapper ($28), rubbed in a Japanese togarashi 7-spice mix (chili pepper, roasted orange peel, yellow and black sesame seeds, Japanese pepper, seaweed, and ginger) had lost a good deal of its moisture, and the cold rice salad it sat on, tossed with pickled ginger, mango, and peanuts, I'm sorry to say, felt a little prosaic.

My pen is going to run dry before I can finish this love letter properly — with all due encomiums for homey desserts (pear crumble, $9; creamy cheesecake topped with a second story of creamy whipped cream, $10). I haven't begun to start on the service (professional, knowledgeable); the noise level (intense); the crowd (older in the dining room, younger at the bar, youngest on the patio — including everything from a six-foot tall black Amazon who was either a fashion model or a drag queen to somebody's dear old granny). Not that I'd ever criticize — but maybe it's time for a bigger restaurant? With better acoustics, so we can actually hear ourselves waxing ecstatic over the fonduta and the Barolo-tangerine vinaigrette? Morfogen is outgrowing his space.

I have no intention of letting him outgrow me.

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