In South Florida, a view of the water can take you a long way. New to the scene, 50 Ocean not only delivers on the view but also offers a level of food, service and ambiance that surpasses expectations.
Many of those expectations are based on 50 Ocean’s location atop Boston’s on the Beach in Delray. For more than three decades, Boston’s has been the quintessential waterfront joint—a place to gather in bathing suits and flip-flops, shake the sand from between your toes, watch a football game and pound a brew or two. Many cynics doubted the second floor of the building could be transformed into an outpost of graceful dining.
Take the private elevator to 50 Ocean, and one view of the room tells you the cynics were wrong. From the elegant ceiling of pecky cypress to the backlit bar inlaid with quartz and agate, the space is impressive. However, all the money spent on decor does not call attention to itself—it merely complements the stunning ocean view and the remarkably good food.
At lunch, a starter of crispy whole belly clams ($16) may transport you back to New England; tender and briny, lightly breaded and fluffy, they are garnished with red pepper crème and an Asian slaw. Coconut shrimp, one of the great culinary clichés, is perfectly executed as well: barely touched with coconut and delicately fried to remain fresh and juicy. Fish tacos ($16) are delightful, filled with crunchy pieces of mahi and a julienne of vegetables.
Those belly clams are also available at dinner and are equally hard to resist. The tropical seafood salad ($12), another good option, is a mix of greens, asparagus, avocado and pistachios, accompanied by a combination of delicately cooked lobster, shrimp and crab. As an entrée, the sesame-crusted ahi tuna ($29) is a thing of beauty: two large pieces of pristine, sushi-grade tuna, served rare, escorted by a soba noodle salad and baby bok choy. Speaking of defying culinary clichés, it doesn’t get much better than 50 Ocean’s surf and turf ($48). A grilled and perfectly undercooked Maine lobster tail is paired with a flavorful filet mignon.
This is one restaurant where settling on a dessert (particularly if it’s being shared) is a difficult task, but the Flights of Cake ($9) is an excellent way to conclude. Four miniature glass ramekins allow you to sample house-made versions of tiramisu, strawberry shortcake, black forest and carrot cake and to leave sated but not overwhelmed.
Service is friendly and enthusiastic, chatty without being intrusive. Staff members are happy to enumerate their favorites and offer a rundown on the menu without being asked. They are conscientious in their follow-up, backed up by observant management.
The lounge area is dimly lit and sexy, festooned with pictures of Hemingway that recall the glory days of Key West. While the list of specialty cocktails is impressive, the selection of spirits is fairly basic, and the wine list focuses on California brands in general distribution. By the glass, Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc ($11) and Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches ($13) are as good as it gets.
There is no doubt 50 Ocean is a distinctive addition to the Delray dining scene. Open since the fall, the restaurant is now hitting its stride. Reservations are strongly advised.
WHERE: 50 S. Ocean Blvd., Delray Beach (561-278-3364, 50ocean.com)
OPEN: Lunch Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; dinner Sunday through Thursday, 5-10 p.m., Friday through Saturday, 5-11 p.m.; Sunday brunch, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.
FOOD: Contemporary seafood
ATMOSPHERE: Stunning ocean views
SERVICE: Friendly and enthusiastic
DRESS: Upscale casual