Out with the old, and in with the new. That's the plan at longtime Delray Beach institution, Dada, when chef-owner Bruce Feingold rolls out a new menu on Tuesday, October 27.
The updated menu will be the first major overhaul in more than a year, says Feingold, who has given the entire menu a re-boot by adding dishes across the board, giving the American-style bistro a more global perspective.
"In the past 15 years we've always called ourselves modern American, but we feel like with the new menu items Dada has evolved into this new realm of world cuisine," says partner Scott Frielich. "There are dishes that represent everything from Mexico and Cuba to Morocco, the Mediterranean, and even the regional United States."
The updated menu includes five new appetizers, five new entrees, and — on the dessert section — the return of one of Feingold's famous cobblers. Before making it onto the menu, each selection was under careful scrutiny from then entire Dada team, says Feingold, a three-month process of narrowing down their favorite dishes before deciding on the final cut.
Many of the new dishes were specials at one time; others are new creations structured after partner Rodney Mayo, Frielich, and Feingold's favorite dishes.
The beginning — or Dada's small plates section — now features a variety of vegetarians and meat-lovers options, including the chef's take on Mexican street corn, lamb and pork meatballs, and a blackened okra dish served with a house made avocado butter, cornbread, and puffed quinoa.
But it's the watermelon steak, what Frielich says was at one time a popular special that made it into heavy rotation, that takes the spotlight. It's Feingold's take on a vegetarian dish for meat lovers. A fat "steak" of watermelon rubbed in sugar and sea salt, then pan roasted. Flavors locked in, from there the steak is doused in a basil pesto oil, topped with local nasturtiums, and plated with a delicate sheep's milk feta cheese.
"I wanted to create a dish with a rolling flavor profile," says Feingold, who begins work at 7 a.m. each day in Dada's 800-square-foot kitchen alongside a staff of 15 to prepare for the nightly rush. "It starts with the peppery, garlic of the pesto and moves into the clean, crisp taste of the watermelon, and finishes with the smooth, creamy feta."
From the "middle" — or main plate section — comes a variety of dishes that cover a range of cuisine. You'll now find chicken harissa (a fiery Moroccan spice paste) plated with a honey vinaigrette, kalamata olives, and red onion radish salad; and Berber tagine spiced eggplant (a modern tagine recipe made with just vegetables, seasoned with Moroccan spices) served with minted yogurt and a curried chickpea tomato stew.
The dish that gets the most love, however, is the new blueberry grilled cheese (pictured above), which joins Feingold's famous seven cheese grilled cheese. Rather than do away with the beloved original, the team decided adding a new-and-improved take was the better option. To do so, they taste-tested dozens before arriving at the final combination: a basil and balsamic blueberry compote paired with muenster, and wilted spinach between thick-sliced sourdough bread baked up according to the chef's own recipe.
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Don't worry: most of the restaurant's old standbys and best-sellers are still there, including the daily gazpacho and tomato bisque, Dada dates, crab cakes, braised short rib, shake-n-bake pork chop, and butternut squash ravioli.
"After 15 years, I can say I'm very happy with the way I'm cooking now. My objective with these new menu items is to keep the ball rolling, and we've definitely evolved into a more global influence with some of these dishes," says Feingold. "I don't want anything here to ever be mediocre. Anyone can do mediocre. If anything, I want my mediocre to be ten times better than someone else's best."
Dada is located at 52 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach. Call 561-330-3232, or visit dadadelray.com.
Nicole Danna is a food writer 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 the BPB New Times Food & Drink Instagram.