The dining scene on the island has gotten a little hotter with the introduction of Buccan, the new haute contemporary American dining experience situated on South County Road. Spearheaded by chef Clay Conley, Todd English protégé for 10 years and former executive chef of Miami’s super-chic Azul, Buccan is a chef-driven restaurant, a concept more often seen in culinary hubs like San Francisco or New York City.
Buccan, which is Caribbean in origin and refers to the wooden framework used to fire and smoke meat (it's also the root of buccaneer), is an apropos name for this region and the restaurant, which not only offers the seafaring flavors of the Caribbean but also a wood grill and brick oven that burns oak logs in the corner of the kitchen. “Anything off of that wood grill has such a distinct flavor,” says Chef Clay Conley, who, with partners Piper Quinn and Sam Slattery, is principal of Buccan. The restaurant itself has an open, laid-back beach feel, a nice urban touch in Palm Beach, with an open kitchen that has two high-top chef tables acting like courtside tickets to a Heat game.
The menu mirrors not just the flavors Conley finds intriguing (“the menu is basically everything I like to eat”), but his dining habits as well. “When I go out to eat I like to order small plates,” says Conley. “You get to try a lot of different stuff that way, and really see what the chef can do.”
On a trip to Buccan, diners will find a menu of small, very reasonably priced dishes that merge so many different flavors and regions. Conley grew up on a farm in Maine, and there are items on the menu that pay homage to his New England roots, namely the Rhode Island-Style Crispy Calamari and the Hog Dog Panini. His travels and a stint at English’s Tokyo restaurant had a heavy influence as well: “I love Japanese and Southeast Asian flavors,” says Conley, who has merged East and West with items like the Korean shortrib tacos.
There are also a number of full-sized entrées and pasta dishes on the menu, as well as a raw menu that has guests clamoring for Buccan’s most popular items: tuna and steak tartares. Conley has a way of bringing big, bold flavors and merging them with subtle, delicate tastes.
Sourcing local farms for produce and ingredients, Conley tries to keep the menu as sustainable and local as possible, letting the seasons dictate the mood. To get the full range of Conley’s cooking exploits, diners will have to come back regularly and often. “I get a little restless,” says Conley, who created a core menu that is subject to change on a whim. “We come up with stuff daily for the menu—sometimes out of necessity, sometimes through inspiration. We did a lobster taco that was inspired by a Taco Bell experience; inspiration can come from anywhere.”
Since the December opening, Buccan has seen steady business nightly, with plans to open for lunch and Sunday brunch later in March. “We have had great feedback, which is always encouraging,” says Conley, who can be seen nightly working in the open kitchen and raw bar. “People really seem to be enjoying the restaurant.”
To watch Chef Clay Conley prepare the Hot Dog Panini and get the recipe, click here.
To get the recipe for Clay's tasty Korean Short Rib Tacos, click here.
350 S. County Rd.
Palm Beach, FL 33480