Dorsia (Boca) – Still the Best in the Neighborhood

16-chicken-saparielloWe returned to Dorsia and this is still one of my favorite restaurants in the area. From the minute you enter, the owners are welcoming, friendly and have a personal interest in all of the guests. It is like eating at a friend’s house. The service was flawless, prompt and knowledgeable on both of our visits.

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On the first visit the server mentioned that the special for the evening was an Eggplant Ball. I did not completely understand the server when he stated the dish and I thought it was strips of fried eggplant with sauce and cheese. When it was delivered in a bowl versus a plate I was not sure what it was until I took a forkful and saw it was an eggplant meatball minus the meat. It was soft and full of great flavor. The sauce was fantastic, great deep rich tomato flavor. The eggplant ball was a great choice; it is a little heavy for the start of a meal, but it was fantastic.

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My entrée on the first visit was the Ricotta and Spinach Cannelloni. Make sure you have a hearty appetite if you order this dish. I struggle calling it cannelloni versus manicotti since it was a spinach-ricotta cheese stuffed pasta tubes topped with a tomato-meat sauce. Call it whatever you would like, I call it delicious. The spinach was fresh, not frozen, and when combined with the cheeses was delicious inside the pasta cylinders that were the perfect thickness and texture. The sauce was more a meat sauce Ragu with a small smattering of meat versus a thick and meaty Bolognese, but again, call it what you like it was superb.

On the second visit I ordered the Chicken Scarpariello. The server asked if I would like cherry peppers on the side. I thought that was a great idea and agreed. The dish consisted of a half a bone-in chicken cut into several pieces with red peppers, sausage slices, roasted potatoes and onions. The flavors were delicious. I did add a small piece of cherry pepper to one bite and these were extremely hot peppers, be forewarned if you are thinking of ordering them in the dish. The only drawback was the white meat was a little overcooked. Likewise, to manage expectations, the size of the half chicken was more a size of a Cornish Hen, just a head’s up, but it was more than generous as an entrée with all of the additions.

For dessert, we ordered the Tartufo, vanilla and chocolate ice cream covered in a chocolate shell with a little chopped hazelnut in the core. It was pretty basic but a good ending to the meal with a really good and generous single espresso.

This is still one of my favorite restaurants in the Delray area.

Seasons 52 (Boca) -Stick with the Flatbreads and Desserts

dessertsOur annual pilgrimage to Seasons 52 was interesting and not in a positive manner. As in previous years, we arrived for our reservation and the hostess escorted us to the noisy bar area. I just do not understand why the hostess failed to ask if we had a preference for the bar or the dining room. We declined and asked to sit in one of the dining rooms, a quieter part of the restaurant.

We shared the tomato and Mozzarella flatbread and the chicken pesto flatbread. I really like their flatbreads, they are the best items on the menu. The tomatoes were super sweet and the crust was crispier than previous years, and did not crumble apart after each bite. This year the chicken was moist and the arugula was also a good topping.

The shrimp and grits is more aptly described a shrimp mish-mosh. Throw a little grits on a plate. Then over-season some shrimp and sauté with tomatoes, chorizo and pancetta and throw on top of the grits. Just a bunch of competing flavors, each too much for the others. Best part was the tomatoes. There is very little on the menu that is worth ordering.

Desserts were brought over. I chose one with a bunch of different chocolates and a little cake. I really like this approach to dessert, order one or two to finish the meal.

In addition, our utensils were dirty, as well as the napkins. Service was novice. The server was obviously very new and management failed to train him adequately, he was very unfocused, just going through the motions. When asked what the evening’s ravioli was filled with, he responded, “nothing.” Really? I mentioned this on the way out and they thanked me and gave a certificate for the next visit.

On the drive home, we discussed having a few flatbreads and dessert the next time we go. Not a bad idea.

J. Alexander’s (Boca) – Sleek Spot with Challenging Food

16-burgerFrom the outside, this restaurant looks like an upscale Florida version of a NJ diner. Once inside, the enormous four-sided bar separates two dining areas with more a pubby feeling than NJ red p-leather booths. The menu ranges from a few unappealing appetizers, many salads and sandwiches, plus entrees. All of the food is prepared in the large, open-viewed kitchen in the rear.

On the first visit I ordered a bacon-cheese burger medium-rare with tomato and pickles plus fries. The menu stressed hand formed chuck daily so I was expecting a very juicy burger. It arrived already cut in half to show it was prepared properly. The first item I noticed was the size of the bun; it was incredibly tall and overshadowed the exposed patty, tomato, pickle, and the single slice of melted cheese; the bacon was hidden under the bun. The second item was the lack of juice extruding from the burger, even though it was chuck and cut immediately after leaving the griddle.

A quick taste of the meat. It was OK but had a bitter aftertaste. It was medium in grind with decent richness. The folded and hidden slice of bacon was also pretty good; the bun was OK but much too large. The two slices of tomatoes were excellent. Overall it was an OK burger but should have been juicier if it was chuck. The fries were horrible. The shoestring variety were cooked a little too long and then the kitchen doused them with salt, head snapping back amounts.

16-tacosOn the second visit I ordered the steak tacos. A swath of sour cream sauce was first shmeared onto three large soft tortillas and topped with a slice of steak, shredded lettuce and Monterey Jack cheese and finished with a little pico de Gallo salsa. The steak was prepared to medium rare. After one bite, I knew this was not for me. The steak was covered with a seasoning package that was both overwhelmingly salty and incredibly spicy. The salsa was also spicy. My wife offered half of her burger and when I tasted it, it was not even as good as the OK burger from the first visit, with a spongier consistency than my first visit. The server and manager asked if I would like something else, and they did a good job, but I chose to call it a night.

Overall Alexander’s exterior of a NJ diner rang truer with the food than the decor. An OK burger, very over-seasoned tacos, but fries that would never be served in NJ.

City Fish (Boca Raton) – Choose Carefully

A visit to a restaurant is for the food, the service and a couple of hours to relax and have time with family and friends. When a restaurant places a group of five at a round table for seven people the last of these desires pretty much goes out the window. Our visit to City Fish included that unfortunate occurrence. We asked for a smaller table immediately behind the one we were assigned and were declined. Yet 30 minutes later another group of five were given that table.

After we were seated and drink orders taken, two large baskets of bread and two large plates of butter are brought. The bread was warm and was very good, and the butter was spreadable. I ordered the snapper with sweet potato mash and seasonal vegetables. Others at the table ordered the scallops, the lobster frites, a crab cake and my wife wanted grilled scallops and shrimp with a salad. This would have met the requirements of the Fresh Catch and Salad Platter, but the server insisted she order the shrimp and scallop pasta Alfredo without the Alfredo (think Five Easy Pieces). She did not want pasta, but ordered it as well as a side salad. It was an arduous ordering process.

My Snapper and mashed sweet potatoes were delicious. Two large fillets were sautéed perfectly and the sweet potatoes were true to their name. The vegetables were significantly undercooked, borderline raw. Likewise there was little seasoning (easily fixable) and no lemon wedges (again easily remedied). The scallops were even better, seared on one side, to a rich golden brown, cooked throughout and sweet and delicious. My wife’s shrimp on the pasta was, unfortunately badly prepared, and inedible. It appeared they were first boiled, then sautéed and were drastically overcooked. The server was spot on, removed it from the table and the bill. The lobster frites looked pretty bad, the smallest piece of overcooked lobster I have seen in quite some time I was told it was delicious. The crab cake also looked very good.

Overall, I was very pleased with my fish and mash, and the scallops were fantastic, but the rest of the food looked pedestrian or was inedible.

Mario’s Osteria (Boca) – Stick with the Pastas

Mario’s Osteria is located on Glades Road in Boca Raton, just east of I95, sharing feeding duties in a mall with PF Chang’s. The traditional red sauce Italian is mixed with a southern Florida feel. Instead of red-checked table cloths and candles burning in wine bottles, the décor balance hard woods with enormous metal chandeliers. The menu is extensive, with one side comprised of appetizers, sides and pizzas while the reverse side offers Paninis, pastas, meats, fish and chickens. Your traditional selections of parmesans, meatballs, baked pastas are all available.

I was told the portions are quite large so I ordered a Veal Parmesan, served with a side of pasta and Marinara sauce. Others ordered the Cavatelli with Chicken Meatballs (to share) and a Shrimp Scampi.

My veal arrived and it was breaded, fried, topped with melted cheese and a little Marinara. The pasta was a regular side portion with Marinara. The veal was very overcooked, some bites were incredibly chewy. The flavor of the meat was good and the scant sauce was good, but not great. The pasta was also overcooked, and again the sauce was good.

The Shrimp Scampi and the Cavatelli portion were quite large. There was probably 8 ounces of pasta on each, the two chicken meatballs were enormous and there was a tremendous amount of shrimp on that order.

Service was outstanding, friendly, helpful and spot on with his checking in.

Overall Mario’s is a good choice if you are looking for a decent red sauce restaurant.

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Dorsia’s (Boca) – Great Find for Outstanding Food

Dorsia is located on North Federal Highway in Boca Raton just north of Congress on the southbound side. It is a small storefront in a six store strip mall and valet parking is available. Once inside the scenery changes to a well-appointed restaurant with white tablecloths, a bar that seats 10-12 and service that is friendly, brisk and knowledgeable. This is a family run establishment and the care for the customer is felt in the interaction of the hostess (probably the wife) and the chef in each of the dishes.

We decided on a single course for dinner and I chose the Squid Ink Linguine with calamari, shrimp, tomato, white wine, and garlic. I was expecting the ring shaped calamari but when it arrived the calamari was presented as juliennes with five medium-large shrimp. While the server was asking others if they required Parmesan cheese I tasted the dish. There was no need to add another component, this was a delicious dish. The house-made pasta was soft and still maintained a delightful bite, the shrimp were sweet and perfectly cooked and the calamari were nicely prepared. The flavors were fantastic. This was a great pasta.

For dessert we shared the chocolate mousse pie. Please order this silky wedge of deliciousness. The texture was wonderful. With a cup of espresso, it was the perfect ending to the meal.

I highly recommend Dorsia over so many other places in Boca that have glitz over food. This is the best meal I have eaten in Boca and struggle with thinking of a better restaurant in the area. Thank you for proving my point to my relatives that small family owned restaurants prepare food at a different level than the so-called fancy chains.

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City Fish Market (Boca) – All Glitz with Cafeteria Food

City Fish Market is located on Glades just off and the Florida Turnpike. It shares a common driveway with the Hilton. Valet parking is available. The valet was excellent and very quick both when we arrived and when dinner was completed.

I ordered the “New Orleans Seafood Gumbo” for my appetizer. It contained chicken, Andouille sausage with a scoop of Jasmine rice plopped in the center. The portion was more rice than soup, contained a few pieces of chicken and one slice of Andouille. I did see a small piece of okra as well. It was a fairly weak imitation of a great NOLA tradition, which no restaurant in New Orleans would ever serve.

For my entrée I ordered the “Atlantic Black Grouper” and for my sides I selected the fresh vegetable medley and the whipped sweet potato. When it arrived I could only stare. There was zero thought behind the presentation. The kitchen slopped some sweet potato purée on a plate, added a few florets of broccoli and cauliflower plus a one inch carrot segment and placed the fish on the empty portion of the pate. It was presented like a bad college cafeteria. The fish was well prepared and maintained its texture. That was the only positive. The sweet potato purée was disgusting, overwhelmed with maple flavor, it was way too sweet and had the texture of baby food. The florets were half-cooked and the carrot segment was barely cooked, more raw than cooked. This was one of the worst prepared fish dishes I have ever eaten.

Another member of our party ordered the Lobster Roll. This was an embarrassment to the classic New England dish. There was barely any lobster meat in the roll and the kitchen threw some French fries on the plate. I have seen more care taken at a roadside lobster hut.

I ordered the Molten Chocolate Cake for dessert. There is a new standard for the worst recipe and execution. The cake was dry and there was zero molten, there was a hole in the center of the cake. The exterior was coated in sugar and was horrible. My suggestion is throw away the recipe.

Overall, the only positives I can say of City Fish is the staff. The valet parkers and our server were outstanding. On the other hand the kitchen staff treated the food and the presentation like a bad roadside diner, giving the impression they just did not care about quality of what they served, throwing undercooked and badly executed recipes on a plate with zero care about the visual. At these prices the quality should be significantly better.

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Season 52 (Boca) – Stick with the Flatbreads and Desserts

Another year…another return visit.

This restaurant really has the formula perfected. It is not great food, but the formula creates a great atmosphere to enjoy not bad food…stick with the flatbreads and the desserts and manage your expectations with the entrées.

We were given a table in the bar area and I would strongly recommend not sitting in this room if you wish to carry on a conversation. The piano player was performing covers to soft rock classics and was capable of ruining each version with his loud interpretation. These songs sold millions of copies, try to stay somewhat true to form. When he was on break, it was incredibly pleasant.

We ordered two flatbreads, the “Roasted Roma Tomato” with fresh mozzarella cheese, Parmesan and ribbons of basil as well as the “Artichoke & Laura Chenel Goat Cheese” with leaf spinach, balsamic onions and roasted peppers to share. This year they were perfectly prepared and I should have read my previous reviews and ordered a few for my entrée. The tomatoes were sweet and just a touch of cheese added a little saltiness. The artichokes were vinegary (probably out of a jar) but it still delivered great flavor. This year the flatbreads were crispy, as they should be.

For my entrée I ordered the “Lemon and Herb Roasted Whole” with Meyer lemon, thyme, broccolini and crushed roasted potatoes. The fish was overcooked and dried out. The cavity was stuffed with lemon slices, thyme and a bay leaf and these did impart flavor into the fish. The potatoes were somewhat tasteless, well prepared but would have benefited from a little seasoning. The broccolini was delicious…it was the best part of the dish.

My wife ordered the “Shrimp Scampi Skillet” with roasted plum tomatoes, parsley and garlic butter served over bruschetta. This is not a good description. This was incredibly unappetizing and was more bread, shrimp and red sauce. The idea that the red sauce on top of the medium sized shrimp was roasted plum tomatoes is imaginary versus reality.

Dessert is always fun at Seasons 52 with the visual menu and the small sizes. I ordered a chocolate and a carrot cake. The carrot cake was good but nothing special but the chocolate dessert was spectacular.

Service was friendly but the server made a major blunder. All but one in our group (my wife) was finished with their entrée. The server arrived and asked if we wanted dessert. Two people (I was one of these two) told him that we were not all finished. His response was to begin removing dishes, including my wife’s and she was still eating. That was unforgiveable. In the car home my wife and I both agreed that we should have ordered a few flatbreads and desserts and she was floored by the actions of the server.

Overall it was a fun evening, but the kitchen needs to focus on menu descriptions and not overcooking the entrees.
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Chops Lobster Bar (Boca Raton) – Bad Night Personified

It was an interesting visit to Chops Lobster House in Boca Raton, and it was not because everything was perfect and delicious, quite the opposite. Other than the General Manager who finally handled the situation in a brilliantly professional manner, each of the other stops in our visit were more sink-holes than successes.

Atmosphere – Oustanding. Almost a clone of the Oyster Bar at Grand Central Station in NYC. Soft lighting, and a beautifully designed interior gave the impression that you were about to experience a wonderful dining experience. Each of the staff was dressed in ties and it was a delightful throwback to the NY Steak House era. I give major points to the designer of the space and the entire decor.

Food – Basically inedible. This is one of the most expensive menus you will find with entrées hovering from $25-60 in the a la carte section, but they offer a very well-priced fixed price $49 three course menu during the week. The choices on this menu are excellent and a great option if you would like a more reasonably priced dinner with smaller portions. I ordered the fixed price with French Onion Soup, the 12-oz lamb chop with a side of Brussels sprouts and mushrooms, plus the NY Cheesecake with fresh local strawberries. The soup was presented in a tureen, topped with melted cheese and the presentation was very nice. The rendition was not. The cheese was not a nutty Gruyere that I expected but was a milder combination of other cheeses and the broth lacked any depth of flavor. It was a bland interpretation. The lamb chop was plopped on the dish. Cutting this mound of meat was next to impossible and I asked if they could assist and they returned the chop to the kitchen where it separated the meat from the bone. When it returned there was a total of 2-3 ounces of meat plus an enormous bone. I then understood why my knife was struggling, it was not designed to cut bone. The meat on the filet side was excellent but a meagerly two bites and the strip side was so tough and I could not cut it with my steak knife. The Brussels sprouts were inedible, overly salted and way too much garlic. For others at the table the news was not much better. Almost all of the steaks were overcooked and I will withhold comments on a fried lobster tail. The Cheesecake was delicious (better than the chocolate cake) and was the best part of the evening.

Services – Abysmal. As much as the server was pleasant at the beginning of the meal in taking drink orders and explaining the specials, he failed miserably thereafter. The runners delivered most of the dishes to the wrong guest and we did a carousel to place the correct dish in front of the correct guest. One order of Petite Filet (requested pink inside) was delivered as a Surf and Turf. When we mentioned this to he server he argued with us that we ordered the S&T, not once, but three times. Then he told us to move the lobster tail aside and just eat the steak. Really? He finally acquiesced and re-fired the dish. Round 2 of that order arrived well-well, but everyone else was almost finished and we wanted to salvage some form of group dinner. Two of the other filets were also overcooked and one was sent back. It was a very staggered dining experience for the table. The runners constantly rushed around our table bumping my chair, I spoke to the MOD and asked him to tell the servers to stop, they continued to bump my chair and I need to tell each of them to please stop. One on them was incredibly unprofessional after this and aggressively grabbed plates from the table and gave me “that look” and then he slammed the dirty dishes into the dirty dish bin. When the server finally returned for coffee / tea orders, he only asked the people who did not send food back for their orders, neglecting the rest of the table. I struggle remembering a worse group of servers.

Management – Other than the General Manager, they were unhelpful. The people at the hostess station and the Manger on Duty nodded a lot and did nothing. Finally the General Manager stepped in (on my third visit) and she was fantastic, finally someone who cared and understood the hospitality business. She saw how badly her staff treated us, how horribly the kitchen prepared the meals and did the appropriate course of action, removed the meals from the bill. The top of the pyramid was the sole bright spot in the staff and she was fantastic.

Overall it was a horrible visit to what is supposed to be a great restaurant. Restaurants can have off nights, I understand, and how they handle the situation is important. The serving and kitchen staffs failed miserable on numerous occasions, and the only saving grace was the General Manager who I believe was truly flabbergasted in the horrific actions of so many of her staff.

Chops Lobster Bar on Urbanspoon