CORRECTION: Hours are Tuesday through Sunday from 3:30 to 11 p.m.
Fries and caviar.
The first is fast-food comfort fare, served and enjoyed in myriad ways, from the passenger seat of your friend's ride after a night out clubbing or as the preferred side to almost any dish. All you need is a bit of ketchup or mayo and they're good served alone too.
The second is a more exclusive choice, salt-cured fish eggs that command a hefty price, perfect for when you're feeling fancy or maybe have someone to impress. The rarest comes from cold-water beluga sturgeon that
However, if you are the kind of person who thinks these two things would go gloriously together — an intriguing combination of highbrow/lowbrow — you can try such a compilation at 3-month-old restaurant Fries to Caviar Garden Bistro & Bar, a concept dreamed up by Jimmy's Bistro chef-owner Jimmy Mills.
"The name 'Fries to Caviar' doesn't mean we specialize in fries and caviar," says Mills. "It's the idea of offering guests a little bit of everything, from simple food to the traditional classics."
It's an approach that allows Mills — a global traveler and classically trained chef — to branch out from many of the menu standards he's grown accustomed to serving at 7-year-old Jimmy's Bistro in Delray Beach.
In late 2009, Mills opened his first restaurant, Jimmy's Bistro, a six-table boutique establishment with a clandestine location off Swinton Avenue and just a few steps south of Atlantic Avenue at the north end of Delray's downtown restaurant row. An 800-square-foot space that often requires reservations even in the height of summer, Jimmy's has done well over the years with its handwritten chalkboard menu, one where each dish sounds more like a gluttonous feast than the regular offerings of a cramped, low-key bistro.
While many dishes — from the homemade pastas and braised short rib to chicken-fried pork and a roasted half duck — have become locals' favorites, the only portion of the menu that changes daily is the fish, entrées that rotate with the fresh catch of the day supplied by Captain Clay and Sons Fish Market a few blocks north.
From the fully renovated space custom-designed by Mills
Inside is a spacious dining room accented with the same local artwork Mills established himself with at Jimmy's, colorful paintings on loan (and for sale) by William DeBilzan. Through a narrow entryway, an auxiliary bar opens at 3:30 p.m. for a happy hour at a 20-seat bar that allows the chef a chance to serve a number of creative cocktails (and more than just wine, as he does at Jimmy's) and gives guests the option of dining alfresco.
Others, like the salmon-roe-smothered fries plated with diced green onion and a light, vinegary cream sauce, are off-menu specials the kitchen will prepare if you ask politely. A separate menu lets guests order four types of caviar served several ways, including a few slabs of toast topped with ruby red, house-cured Gravlax.
Mills credits much of his love of cooking to a healthy youthful appetite and plenty of homemade victuals provided by his family's farm in West Virginia, pastoral environs where his mother made everything herself, from goat's milk cheese and soaps to cider and wine.
He later attended culinary school in New Jersey and — without any previous experience working in a professional kitchen — was able to land a job working with some of New York City's finest chefs.
In the early 2000s, Mills cooked inventive, energetic New American cuisine alongside Aureole's Charlie Palmer. He also built a foundation in boundary-breaking French fare with David Ruggerio, former executive chef for Le Chantilly, one of New York's haughtiest French restaurants.
"I started at the top, with some pretty amazing chefs," says Mills, who has also traveled to Africa and South America in search of inspiration. "And now I'm here."
At Fries to Caviar, you can start with one of five appetizers. The handmade pork and chicken pot stickers are presented in delicate folds of rice paper so thin you can see the contents
Then, of course, there's the lobster bisque. A tomato version is well-known to Jimmy's regulars, but the new one features an equally tasty seafood one, Maine lobster shells baked and then sautéed for several hours until they've given up every ounce of flavor into a rich stock. The resulting bisque is thick without being lumpy, mild without an overwhelming hit of brine, and rich enough that a single serving that arrives in a tall ceramic jar with Mills' signature pastry-puff lid is enough to fill you up without making you feel as though you've broken the calorie bank.
Of all the dishes, be sure to order the Spanish paella, once a favorite special that the original restaurant no longer serves. Mills brought it back into rotation for Fries to Caviar; it's an unctuous seafood broth flavored with saffron and mirepoix of white wine, butter, rough-chopped onions, peppers, carrots, and celery. Before serving, the kitchen prepares a generous amount of clams, mussels, and shrimp, tossing the ingredients into a pan where they're baked in the oven for several minutes, allowing the flavors to infuse every inch of rice until each grain is stained red and bloated from the seasoning, creating a cream-like consistency.
"I grew up eating food we'd grown ourselves, dishes made from scratch," says Mills. "There's no specific style, no quintessential element that makes Fries to Caviar one concept or another. Like at Jimmy's, it's just good food, made the right way, with the best ingredients."
Fries to Caviar Garden Bistro & Bar
6299 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Hours are 3:30 to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Call 561-617-5965, or visit friestocaviar.com.
- Lobster bisque $10
- Spanish paella $29
- Fries and caviar $12