In a city thick with trendy tasting menus, pricey gastropubs, and crafty concepts, deciding where to dine out in Delray Beach can be almost as grueling as battling the in-season crowds on a Saturday night.
Luckily, Delray's dining scene is expanding beyond the eastern downtown area. The 2-month-old Apeiro Kitchen & Bar, for instance, is located in the Delray Marketplace shopping plaza where Atlantic Avenue meets Lyons Road just west of Florida's Turnpike.
The modern-Mediterranean establishment was birthed almost by accident, after Rapoport caught wind the plaza was looking for another dining option to add to the marketplace's open-air space next door. Rather than wait for a new concept to take shape, he jumped at the chance to take over the corner lot.
But he didn't want just another eponymous place serving burgers and pizza. Instead, Rapaport sought to partner with a chef who could bring a breath of fresh air to Delray Beach. A few weeks later, he met executive chef-owner David Blonsky.
Six years ago, you would have found Blonsky in Chicago kitchens, shaping a style and technique emblematic of the city's progressive culinary scene and working alongside such talent as acclaimed chef Rick Tramonto and pastry chef Gail Gand. Before relocating to Florida to head his own project with Apeiro, Blonsky worked as corporate chef for DineAmic, the group behind spots like Bull & Bear and Siena Tavern, where he and former Top Chef contestant Fabio Viviani worked side by side to execute a similar Med-style concept.
While Blonsky may hail from one of the country's most influential food-forward cities, he's positive that Florida isn't far behind the culinary curve. With Apeiro, you get the sense he wants to show South Florida what that means, with dishes crafted around what he terms "simple ingredients and clean flavor."
"My goal with Apeiro is to open people's minds to a different style of cooking," says Blonsky, whose plan is to expand the concept alongside Rapaport. "The food scene is getting more progressive here, but I want to introduce my own flair and my idea of what Mediterranean food should be."
Step through Apeiro's doors and you're immediately greeted by a wood-burning oven framed in tile and white-washed walls. Follow the geometric-patterned floor to a seat at the spacious bar nearby, a well-lit and well-provisioned space where you can order wine by the glass, beer, or a handcrafted cocktail. Across a short divider, you can take a seat at one of the high-back, olive-green booths for a more formal, sit-down meal.
Blonsky has assembled a rather large menu, split into several categories and offering gluten-free and vegetarian dishes. Depending on how often you dine out, the selections can either be overwhelming for first-time patrons or a good excuse to come back for a second round.
It begins with small plates (both hot and cold) and options like cheese platters, salads, and soup. Vegetarians will gravitate toward falafel served with pickled vegetables, or the trio hummus, eggplant, and pistachio spreads. Meaty options include the Moroccan-spiced lamb ribs ($16). Blonsky tells us they're rubbed with a vibrant spice blend including turmeric, allspice, and a hint of brown sugar and smoked over hickory and pecan wood chips. Before they're served, they're given a final slick of tangy-sweet rosemary fig barbecue sauce and plated over a bed of greens.
While meats and seafood are locally sourced, many dishes display a number of imported ingredients, including stracchino, a young, creamy Italian cow's-milk cheese with a mild and delicate flavor. Blonsky pairs it with a salty, thin-sliced prosciutto and a potent fig balsamic reduction with the bunuelo small plate, his take on a Latin fritter made with airy puffs of phyllo ($12). Or try the burrata, which arrives beside a bright pop of cherry-tomato jam and toasted slabs of homemade ciabatta ($15). You won't need it until you break open the soft outer shell, which barely contains the sweet liquid beneath as it rushes across the plate.
Flatbreads compose yet another section of the menu, made with a homemade, lavash-style dough that is pan-grilled before being baked in the restaurant's wood-fired oven. Grilled and roasted selections come next, from the half-roasted chicken and seared wild salmon to flame-licked lamb chops. The whole roasted branzino is a Mediterrenean must, served here with a traditional aqua pazza -- the Italian word for the lightly herbed broth used to poach the fish.
In addition to kebabs and sandwiches that highlight house-roasted and shaved-to-order meats, the menu also features several pasta dishes. Here, Blonsky's handmade orecchiette is a hearty dish -- and perhaps the only vestige of the chef's Chicago repertoire of cooking rich, indulgent fare ($18). Each tiny ear-shaped pasta is cooked to al dente and tossed in an earthy saffron, fennel, and lemongrass cream sauce with cuts of spicy, house-made, lamb merguez sausage.
Before you're done, the server will present a dessert menu. If you don't like overly sweet, the citrus olive oil cake with Meyer lemon jam will do. Or try the bomboloni, a do-it-yourself dessert with puffs of pastry dough that can be topped or filled with a choice of three tiny squeeze bottles containing salted caramel, bavarian vanilla, and Nutella chocolate ($12).
With so many decisions to make -- and so much food to choose from -- it's hard to tell where Blonsky's true genius lies. Is it the modern-take small plates? His meat and seafood entrées? That handmade pasta? Or those fresh-baked pastries?
The menu will take yet another incarnation when Rapaport and Blonsky open a new location later this summer. Despite the restaurant's early stages, the duo already have their sights set on Miami, where they'll open at 3252 NE First Ave., just down the street from Bocce Bar and Sugarcane Raw Bar Grill. The menu will offer many of the same dishes, says Blonsky, but also include items tailored specifically for the South Beach crowd.
"Things happen for a reason, I truly believe that," says Blonsky. "And right now, this is the right place, and the right time, for Apeiro."
Apeiro is located at 14917 Lyons Road, Delray Beach. Call 561-826-1790, or visit apeirorestaurants.com.
Nicole Danna is a food blogger covering Broward and Palm Beach counties. To get the latest in food and drink news in South Florida, follow her @SoFloNicole or find her latest food pics on Clean Plate's Instagram.
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