Best New Restaurant - 2000
Readers' Choice: Stir Crazy/Samba Room (tie)
If we could judge best new restaurant by pedigree alone, Zemi would still win. Located in Towne Center, this handsome, trendy spot is owned by executive chef John Belleme and manager Allison Barber, both of whom are veterans of a Dennis Max restaurant, Max's Grille in Boca Raton. The connection to Max is convenient, since Zemi itself used to be Nick and Max's and, before that, Maxaluna. In fact Stephen O'Leary, the former pastry chef at both Nick and Max's and Maxaluna, has stayed on at Zemi. What all this boils down to is simple: chili-crusted shrimp pizza, roasted bobwhite quail and homemade duck sausage, homemade goat-cheese ravioli with pancetta-sage butter; and day-boat scallops with braised oxtail and sweet potato-parsnip mashers. Then, to wash it all down, you can order the truffle chocolate cake, which is garnished with peppermint whipped cream and vanilla-mint syrup, an ideal way not just to end a superb meal but to freshen your breath at the same time.