Best Of :: Food & Drink
The term New World may be heading out of favor, but it's a pretty safe bet that chef Oliver Saucy's innovative cuisine never will. As one of the originators of this style of cooking, which uses local ingredients and incorporates tropical influences from the Caribbean to Asia, Saucy produces an incredible complement of dishes. Because the menu changes daily, you can't depend on any single item being available on any given day. What you can expect is a reliance on regional fish such as grouper or snapper -- for good reason, since Saucy cooks it to flaky tenderness -- and a tendency to encrust it in anything from Vidalia onions to pistachios. A few heartier meat dishes, such as pesto-dusted veal chops, sate the carnivore, and there's always pasta, such as gnocchi or ravioli, on the menu. Go for anything oyster, since buttermilk-bread crumb ones are excellent and raw ones are superior. Since 1984, Café Maxx has been amazing its patrons, who expect -- and receive -- nothing less in the new millennium.
Don't say we never did nothin' for ya. Because if we had half a brain or one selfish bone in our body, we'd stay mum about Spicy Jenny's. This tiny, three-table storefront eatery, just off Lake Worth's main drag, is one of those little-known places so unfathomably good that we should just shut up about it, because the only good that will come of publicizing the place is that it will be overrun with hordes of lunchtime drones. So, just briefly: chicken thighs in Veracruz peanut sauce tempered with red wine, served over carrots and white grapes; pork chops in soy-ginger sauce with mango salsa and mashed potatoes; spinach enchiladas suiza. And those are just a few of the daily lunch specials. None is more than $6, and all are comparable to dishes you'd pay three times that amount for at any restaurant with amenities (like, say, table service). You want more? The best Philly cheesesteak in town, bar none; huevos rancheros that will leave you forever unable to eat the tepid eggs served at most breakfast joints; ham-and-corn chowder that will make you wish for a nice 30-degree day and a stiff wind; and oh, forget it. We're off to Spicy Jenny's right now, before you unwashed masses tarnish the place forever.
OK, so it's not much of a chain -- yet. This pan-Latin eatery, a conceptual sibling to T.G.I. Friday's, has only two other locations nationwide. Still, more are planned, including two in South Florida, and they're so uniquely suited to our region that we have no problem looking forward to more. Like everyday life in multicultural South Florida, the Samba Room menu puts various Hispanic dishes side by side regardless of country of origin. Where else could you find a ropa vieja sandwich next to Colombian arepas -- with a corn salsa, no less? Or wash down xinxim (Brazilian stew) with a Cuba libre? Granted, the Samba Room, named for a Brazilian dance, takes some liberties by fusing Latin ingredients with Asian ones and palming some Caribbean ones off on unsuspecting Anglos. But all in all, the place is good fun, especially late in the evening when the furniture is cleared away, the dancing begins, and the Samba lives up to its name.
If the aroma of fresh-baked cookies wafting from the café's kitchen doesn't clue you in, allow us to do so: Proprietors Dennis Williams and Ken Rzab make their own. And they're not just tollhouse toadies, either, although the chocolate-chip yummies here are so popular the boys sell 'em by the dozen. This pair gets into the groove with sweets both simple (try the brownies) and sophisticated (sample the cappuccino-chocolate-chip layer cake). And as for the peanut butter cream pie, it straddles the line between delicious and, oh, how about rockin' good. Talk about rhythm -- the sweets here make your taste buds do the tango.
What do you do when confronted with a horny green iguana? Drink it, and fast -- otherwise the aged tequila in this innovative martini might lose its just-shaken chill. Then, once you're sufficiently warmed, take time to examine the rest of the offerings at this splendidly creative Tex-Mex joint. This eatery on trendy Clematis Street has chile-napped winners in such items as chicken breast mole and tenderloin of pork with pumpkin-seed sauce. And you can't dismiss even what would normally be incidentals (that is, chips and salsa) in another restaurant, because every piquant sauce here is made on the premises. Indeed while the mixed drinks tame even the prickliest Mexican-food fans, the fare peps 'em right back up again.
Granted, the name's a little strange, perhaps just a bit too weird to be taken seriously. And the sushi part can easily seem like a backup plan for non-Thai food lovers or for those disappointed in the pad Thai, for instance. And yes, the place doesn't look like much more than what it was before chef-owner Todd Boonya took over: a classic roadside diner. But once you're safely ensconced in a booth and served steaming tom yum soup, a brothy blend spiked with lime leaves, lemongrass, and chile peppers, you'll just have to trust your palate. This is fine Thai dining indeed. Mee krob is exceptional, neither greasy nor too sweet, and curries are supremely well balanced. Ask for your dish spicy and you'll get it that way, which makes Eddie Hills and Sushi Thai not only a pit stop for quick Asian fare but a cure for the common cold as well.