Selecting this year’s best tables in Palm Beach County was particularly challenging—a testament to our area’s growing reputation for remarkable dining. Here are the 10 tables at the top of the local food chain.
Little Moir’s Food Shack | Jupiter
The chocolate “Whoiswhatzit.”
No, Food Shack (561-741-3626) doesn’t take reservations, and yes, you’ll probably have to wait. It’s noisy, and the decor resembles a ramshackle beach bar. Yet ever since Mike Moir left the Reef Grill and opened this place in 2002, it’s been packed from opening to closing. Part of the secret is absolutely fresh seafood prepared in clever ways (Moir likes to say this is a farm-to-table restaurant, and his farm is the ocean). The other part is a laid-back island vibe that will make you forget the stresses of daily life. Moir’s kitchen is a culinary think tank, and on some evenings the list of daily specials is longer than the menu itself. There are more beers than wines on the list, and that only adds to the fun.
Sushi Simon | Boynton Beach
North of the Border roll.
It’s one of the mysteries of the universe: In a place with as much quality seafood as South Florida, why isn’t there better (or at least more authentic) sushi? Sushi Simon (561-731-1819) is the antidote for the ho-hum sushi bar and the all-you-can-eat buffet; one visit will demonstrate why diners come to this narrow storefront from all over Palm Beach County and beyond. While you can find the same selection of “designer” rolls elsewhere, Sushi Simon stocks a treasure trove of delights for the connoisseur: scallops from Hokkaido, blue fin toro, uni, Japanese kampachi and snapper, and ama ebi (sweet shrimp grilled with the heads on). Accompany it with premium sake, an inventive cocktail or a wine from the short list.
Chops Lobster Bar | Boca Raton
Chops’ ahi tuna tartare.
While many competitors are still languishing in the nineteenth century, the southernmost outpost of the Buckhead Life Restaurant Group, Chops Lobster Bar (561-395-2675), has brought the steak house concept into the twenty-first with an impressive selection of fresh and carefully sourced seafood such as Maine scallops, Florida black grouper, pristine ahi tuna, whole Dover Sole and oysters from both coasts. Of course, should you want a steak, you won’t be disappointed: You’ll receive a hefty cut of USDA Prime, aged 48 days and cooked to perfection, including all the classics—filet, New York Strip, bone-in rib eye and the “Porterhouse Experience” for one, two or three. Add elegant, clubby surroundings and a noteworthy wine list, and you’ll understand why Chops has become the success story of Boca’s “new downtown.”
50 Ocean | Delray Beach
Whole belly clams.
In many ways, 50 Ocean (561-278-3364) incorporates the best aspects of dining out in Florida: elegant surroundings, creative food and a spectacular view of the sand and surf. Have a drink at the backlit quartz bar, gaze at the pictures of Hemingway and snag a table on the outdoor observation deck. Chef Blake Malatesta’s menu is full of surprises: crispy whole belly clams, briny and artfully fried, that will transport you to New England; roasted chicken soup with egg noodles and root vegetables; Korean-style short ribs; Belly and Biscuits (pork belly with buttermilk biscuits and white chocolate-pepper gravy); and a strong selection of “dock-to-door” seafood. During the Sunday brunch, don’t miss the build-your-own Grey Goose Bloody Mary bar, featuring more than 30 different garnishes to customize your eye-opener.
PB Catch | Palm Beach
PB Catch’s the appetizer sampler.
Just how innovative is PB Catch (561-655-5558)? For one thing, it has the finest raw bar in the area—a vast expanse of crushed ice containing a dazzling selection of bivalves from all the best venues throughout the United States and British Columbia. For another, the restaurant has developed and trademarked something called Seacuterie, a proprietary method of curing and smoking seafood similar to charcuterie; selections include salmon pastrami, Szechuan cured kampachi, and lemon and oregano cured swordfish. Burgers and steaks are also available for non-fish fans. PB Catch was the brainchild of Thierry Beaud and Reid Boren, proprietors of Pistache in West Palm, and Chef de Cuisine Aaron Black has seamlessly taken over from Julien Gremaud.
For tables five through one, head to page two.
Coolinary Café | Palm Beach Gardens
North County foodies are praying Tim Lipman doesn’t change. He’s a chef who works every day, who fosters a spirit of teamwork and creativity among his employees and whose enjoyment of his work is obvious from the moment you step through the door of Coolinary Café (561-249-6760). Not surprisingly, Lipman is an alumnus of Little Moir’s Food Shack. Although the two restaurants are different in style, the atmosphere is similar. Tim’s menu embraces dishes ranging from rabbit tacos and homemade sausage to shrimp udon and an earthy flatbread adorned with fresh cheese, chard, oven-dried tomatoes and spicy sopressata. The wine list is short but interesting and well chosen. To get the most from this experience, sit at the counter of the open kitchen and watch the culinary team members ply their trade.
La Sirena | West Palm Beach
Insalata di Mare
In their West Palm Beach establishment La Sirena (561-585-3128), Marcello and Diane Fiorentino have created a shrine to classic Italian cooking: The ingredients are pristine, the flavors are simple and direct, and the elegant atmosphere is highlighted by impeccable, friendly and relaxed service. Marcello’s family hails from the island of Capri, and his fish is cooked to perfection, but so are other favorites such as penne in a reduction of porcini mushrooms, veal Zingara (in a sauce of artichoke hearts, tomatoes, shiitakes and prosciutto di Parma) and his moist, juicy rendition of suckling pig. The more than 900 selections on the world-class wine list encompass the best of Italy and California, including hard-to-find bottles and vertical selections of prestigious estates. Every plate that emerges from the kitchen passes through Marcello’s hands, ensuring a level of quality rarely found elsewhere.
Buccan | Palm Beach
Although more than three years have passed since its opening, Buccan (561-833-3450) continues to delight. Chef Clay Conley’s menu changes frequently, but a core of dishes remain, including sashimi of hamachi and squid ink orecchiette with sausage, conch, basil and chilies. Most of the options here are small plates, encouraging grazing and sharing, and the menu categories are simple and clear (Raw, Green, Crispy, Wood-Fired, etc.). The wine list offers a bevy of carefully selected bottles, and there is a creative list of sake and original cocktails as well. Buccan allows the diner to craft an experience that suits him or her as an individual and was one of the first restaurants in Palm Beach to do so. And after business hours, you’ll likely find your investment banker at Buccan’s popular happy hour.
HMF | Palm Beach
The Rainbow Roll
When The Breakers announced it was closing its flagship restaurant, L’Escalier, and converting the space into a cocktail lounge, globe-trotting gourmets were astonished. But after a dramatic renovation by acclaimed designer Adam Tihany, it was clear this wasn’t Grandpa’s cocktail lounge. The room is open and inviting, and the menu is an endless assortment of temptations—more than five dozen carefully crafted small plates, faithful to the cuisines they represent. The room is dedicated to reviving the classic era of the Palm Beach cocktail culture, but don’t overlook the delights of one of America’s finest wine lists, compiled by Master Sommelier Virginia Philip. HMF (short for Henry Morrison Flagler, the railroad entrepreneur who built The Breakers and opened Palm Beach for tourism) puts the evening in the hands of the customer; you can stop in for a cappuccino and a snack or spend three hours indulging in a dining experience you won’t soon forget. (561-290-0104)
Café Boulud | Palm Beach
Maine Peekytoe Crab
Café Boulud (561-655-6060) is delivering a more satisfying dining experience today than at any time during its 11-year history. For starters, consider the setting: You may dine in the sleek, classy dining room or on the outdoor terrace of the Brazilian Court Hotel and Beach Club, surrounded by fountains and lush vegetation. Executive Chef Rick Mace took over the kitchen last year and improved the food, if that can be imagined. All the Daniel Boulud classics remain (torchon of foie gras, chilled peekytoe crab salad, duo of beef tenderloin and short ribs) along with amazing dishes such as fork-tender octopus à la plancha and a grilled loup de mer that seems lighter than air. The lengthy wine list is overseen by sommelier Mariya Kovacheva, and the service is warm and precise. Don’t miss the $25 prix fixe lunch menu, easily the best value in Palm Beach.