Several recent restaurant additions -- all newly-opened within the past six months -- are bringing more dining options to West Palm Beach.
215 Clematis St.
No, no one is swearing at you -- we promise. The owners of FUKU have already heard that one enough, we're sure, after the Florida Department of State Divisions of Corporations denied their trademark request in April.
After plenty of drama over its name (FUKU means "good fortune, wealth and prosperity" in Japanese) FUKU -- with all the proper approval -- is finally slated to open Wednesday, Aug. 29, according to part owner and first-time restaurateur, Paul Ardaji.
FUKU will feature a "hip, trendy" menu with a Pan-Asian theme covering Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai and Japanese cuisine served up by a team of executive chefs. The menu covers all the bases, and if the sushi, sashimi and dim sum don't fill you up, there's always your choice of omakase, a 5 or 7-course tasting menu prepared upon request.
The two-level space has been given a chic, modern decor with clean lines. FUKU -- like next-door neighbors Feelgood's Rock Bar and Grease Burger Bar -- is a long, lean area that has been split between the lengthy bar at the entrance, compact dining area in the center, and sushi bar at back.
The restaurant is designed to be flexible: fine dining establishment by day, sexy late-night lounge upstairs by night. It's not a club, Ardaji told Clean Plate Charlie, but it will have a more relaxed vibe once the DJ comes on, blasting out the latest hits from a second-floor exposed boot until the wee hours of the morning.
200 Clematis St.
Bar Louie -- the "eclectic urban bar" chain with four Florida locations -- has made its return to the West Palm area, this time choosing a multi-level corner spot off Clematis St. as its new digs.
One of the best Sunday Funday spots to be had downtown, on a recent weekend afternoon the place was packed -- like no walking room packed -- and every outdoor patio table was snagged.
Here, it's more about drinking than dining, a spot with a lively bar scene that focuses on handcrafted signature cocktails, 20 wines by the glass, and a robust menu of import and microbrew beers.
The food, traditional American favorites, includes an equally large selection of small plates, large plates, sandwiches, salads, flatbreads and burgers should you need something to sop up all that drinking.
308 Clematis St.
Kabuki has been around for quite some time now, but you could have easily missed it from the outside.
Inside, however, you'll find a modern Asian eatery with a menu that includes both cooked and raw (sushi) dishes, with a focus on Thai-style small plates.
Belly up to the long bar -- which features an even longer list of wallet-friendly happy hour specials on food and drink that average at about $5 -- and you'll soon discover what makes Kabuki one of the better spots to lunch, (or to grab an early drink and a quick bite) off Clematis.
The same goes for late-night, when the "reverse happy hour" goes into effect from 11 p.m. to midnight, with $3 sake bombs and reduced liquor and cocktails.
The drink menu itself offers specialty drinks that utilize the bar's extensive sake selection and full liquor bar. Down for a dare? Try the wasabi martini, made with actual wasabi paste, lemon juice, and garnished with nori. It will prepare your palate as you mull over a choice of more than 30 small plate options with highlights that include Kabuki's signature pineapple fried rice, and rolls like the e-nana, the first sushi roll I've seen pairing shrimp tempura, spicy tuna, asparagus, cucumber, eel and -- yes -- banana.
The Wine Dive
319 Clematis St.
Is it a dive? Not at all. Is there wine? Plenty -- 40 reds and 20 whites by the glass, dispensed by the ounce from a sophisticated dispenser system where argon -- a noble gas -- keeps open bottles good for more than 30 days. The result is an impressive array of vino in a casual-chic setting from nearby Roxy's Pub owner John Webb.
The server's favorite slogan: "Not So Snooty" -- which they proudly proclaim on t-shirts. That means you'll never feel out of place, under-dressed, or pressured to order an expensive wine.
Instead, be prepared for what comes out of the kitchen, what is termed American tapas although it fails to fall into a neat category. Helmed by a team of four brilliant chefs -- Jeff Whitney, Michael Obermeier, Louis Kuilan, and Naya Manali -- the menu is an amalgamation of funky, creative "American-style" tapas plates that deliver a hint of what each chef is all about. The kitchen staff are passionately devoted to their work, and have come up with some real winners.
Take Whitney's Kurobuta (think of it as the Wagyu of pig) slow-roasted pork belly (above), a plate served with three generous cuts topped with a vibrant sugar beet apple slaw and a basting of housemade BBQ. It's an impressive take from the former Dolce de Palma
cook, who learned from the talented kitchen staff at Anthony de Palma's critically acclaimed (but now closed) West Palm eatery. It's a dish that's hard to share, just like staff picks including the duck confit grilled flatbread pizza with housemade apple-BBQ sauce and fresh thyme; fried chicken for two served with a Tabasco-honey mustard slaw; or an equally handsome plate of seared-to-perfection U-10 sea scallops topped with a brandy-infused roasted corn and pepper salad.
If you prefer dessert (and one that's not in a glass) order the "Hot Damn Doughnuts," fried Louisiana-style. They're served with an intense housemade cinnamon Schnapps ice cream, then topped with candied bacon and syrup.
Live jazz Thursday rocks, and Sunday brunch offers a special breakfast menu and bottomless $10 mimosas
340 Clematis St.
Just as palm sugar is used as an alternative sweetener, Palm Sugar in West Palm Beach is Clematis' alternative pan-Asian restaurant.
The menu combines street food-style tapas plates with Asian comfort foods -- everything from Thai isaan-style flank steak and Japanese udon soup, to Chinese char siu bun and Vietnamese pho.
Palm Sugar Owner Sang Chirdchid -- an engineer by day and manager of his own establishment by night -- told us he opened Palm Sugar to bring a taste of Asian street fare to Florida.
"I travel all over [for work], to places like Hong Kong, Korea, Thailand and Singapore. These dishes are the kind of thing you would see the people of those countries eating."
Take the quail egg wonton skewer (above), one of the many unique treats you'll find on the street food menu alongside equally oddball Asia grill options like chicken hearts and gizzards, to the more familiar pork belly, skirt steak, and prawn -- all under $5.
Grab a seat and your first served several sprawlng menus: one for lunch and dinner, one for drinks, another for specials, and a final sheet with tapas-style street food selections. The menu is designed to be grab-n-go for take-out patrons, or a casual sit-down for those who wish to stay for a longer service.
The restaurant itself is a fresh take on the interior -- what was once a tropical themed blue and white-walled oasis from former occupants Bahmama Mama's is now a dim-lit, modern cafe with "palm sugar" printed in red and black across the walls. The only thing that remains from Mama's: the u-shaped bar where diners can hang out and enjoy one of the signature sake cocktails or martinis, sake, beer and grub.
End your visit with a trip to the restaurant's dessert bar on the far left wall, where cupcakes and other baked goods are displayed in a specialty case and available all day to order-in or take-out with a cup of coffee or surprisingly creamy bubble tea.
Honorable Mention: Five Guys also recently opened at 330 Clematis St.
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