Atlantic Grill (Delray) – Beautiful Spot Deserves Better

16-scallopsLocated on Atlantic Avenue in the beautiful Seagate Hotel, The Atlantic Grille offers dining rooms with both visual appeal and a menu with a varied set of options. We visited on Christmas Eve so my disappointing entrée may have some justification from a less than full kitchen staff. We were seated on the covered portico overlooking Atlantic Ave., and I would suggest asking for this location in the future, since the only ambient noise comes from other tables, the music from the main dining rooms was filtered out when the doors are closed.

I ordered the Iceberg Wedge for my first course and the Pan Seared Scallops for my entrée.

The wedge was very traditional, with the quartered head covered with a creamy Gorgonzola cheese dressing, halved grape tomatoes and bacon. After I sliced the wedge into bite-sized pieces and mixed, it was a perfectly balance salad, the kitchen added just the right amount of dressing and bacon to lightly cover each bit. If you are looking for a bold cheese dressing, you will be disappointed as the dressing was a milder version of a Gorgonzola dressing, which I prefer.

When the scallops arrived, I was a little taken aback. The photo above is exactly how it arrived. There were five medium-sized scallops, not very large, haphazardly thrown on the plate atop the tiniest portion of parsnip puree I have ever seen. The haricot vert sat alongside the scallops (also appeared to be thrown on the plate) with sherry-bacon vinaigrette drizzled over both. My first bite was disappointing. The scallop was cooked properly but it had cooled from sitting in the kitchen, it arrived at the table just above room temperature. The others were slightly overcooked (interesting since they were only seared on one side), they lost all of their translucence. That would have been overlooked if the sherry-bacon vinaigrette did not completely overwhelm the scallops, creating a bitter combination. Again, that might have been overlooked if there was more than a tablespoon of parsnip puree on the plate to counteract the vinaigrette with some sweetness. The haricot vert were slightly undercooked as well. Over all it was a very disappointing dish. On a positive note, I tasted my wife’s pasta with shrimp in Marinara sauce and the shrimp were really well prepared.

Service was friendly and efficient throughout the evening.

Overall, I was disappointed in The Atlantic Grille but I am giving it some slack because it was Christmas Eve.

 

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Flakowitz vs. Bagel Twin – Clear Winner is Flakowitz

Each visit to Florida entails several visits to Flakowitz, and I have grown quite fond of their novey, creamed herring and bagels. This year when we arrived my MIL informed us she ran out of time and went to Bagel Twin for round #1. I was not as fond of the selections, but let me just describe the differences, since this cuisine is very much subjective and incredibly subject to very forceful opinions.

Novey – I found the novey from BT much saltier and the slicer was less than careful. The slices were long (some approached close to12”) and the thickness ranged from medium to way too thick. I prefer thinner slices about 6” so a simple fold-over covers a bagel half.

Herring in cream sauce – Two points. The herring was more pungent at BT and the texture was firmer. The tail end of each filet was very tough. The cream sauce from BT is also much thinner and less flavorful that Flakowitz. The onions from Flakowitz are also a little sweeter. To fully enjoy the full flavor of the Flakowitz herring it needs to sit in the container for 24 hours for the flavors to meld, BT required at least 48 hours.

Cream Cheese – I give a push to the difference. The Flakowitz is a little easier to spread, but both were excellent.

Bagels – Even though the name is Bagel Twin, I prefer the bagels at Flakowitz. I actually prefer the bagels at the place on the northwest corner of Jog and Boynton Beach Boulevard.

Given my choice, I would definitely choose Flakowitz over Bagel Twin.

 

Japango (Delray Beach) – Quantity versus Quality

This restaurant is located in the mall on the corner of Lyons and Atlantic and extremely convenient for pre- or post-movie. We were seeing the 700 show and reserved a table for 530. The menu is quite large with pan-Asian cuisine, from Pad Thai to Curries to sushi, plus a few items that added other influences.

For my appetizer I ordered the tuna pizza and the chicken Pad Thai for my entrée, described on the menu as chopped tuna, shallots, avocado and veggies on top of crispy tortilla with wasabi cream, eel sauce and wasabi tobiko. The combination had decent flavor, nothing to write home about but a middle of the road combination. To call the crust a crispy tortilla is a stretch, it was more the bottom half of a foccacia.

For my entrée I ordered the Pad Thai; rice noodles stir fired with chicken, peanuts, bean sprouts and egg in a sweet, tangy sauce. When it arrived it floored me with its size. There was enough for two, possibly three people to share. There was more than a pound of noodles smothered in a sauce that is best described as borderline awful. The flavor was much too sweet and the texture was grainy. The was a teaspoon of crumbled peanuts on top of the mountain of noodles. This was more quantity than quality. I tasted one of my companion’s maki, this too was borderline horrible. The sushi rice was flavorless, no vinegar at all and the fish was not much better.

Service was exceptionally friendly, almost as if they understood the low prices reflected the “get what you pay for” theory.

Overall, I would definitely take a pass on Japango, buy a bigger bucket of popcorn in the theatre.

China Garden (Delray Beach) – McD Quality Dinner

Disclaimer – We visited on Christmas Day and I want to give them all of the benefit of a doubt I can. The staff was incredibly friendly during our dinner from 515-645.

There are few options on Christmas Day and China Garden on Military Trail was our choice. We did take-out from there last year and it was an absolute nightmare after the movie so this year we decided to switch it up, dinner early and then the movie. We secured a 5PM reservation and were told to and did arrive at 445. The restaurant blocked off a couple of the parking spots directly in front of the restaurant and filled them with chairs and a table for people to relax while waiting for their table. There was a young man doing a great job with information and procedures out front. It’s Florida so there were a few self-important people that asked the young man, did not like the answer, and then just walked by him into the restaurant, but they returned to the front after they were told the same information inside. Without a reservation he told people that 9PM was the earliest they would be seated. Everyone waited outside until their name was called.

We were seated at 515, not bad, and were quickly asked for our drink and soup order from Wonton, Egg Drop or Hot & Sour. Server had a high level of energy and made a few jokes, nicely done. For the Holiday there was a special menu that included a soup, egg roll or rib, entrée, dessert and a soda or glass of wine. Most prices were $20-25. The most often ordered entrees were included in the four page menu with a few specials on the page one. Take outs were available from the regular menu. The female server arrived to take our dinner orders, she was much less friendly, but efficient.

I ordered Hot & Sour soup, Egg Roll and General Tso Chicken. Soup was fair, not too hot, not too spicy, OK flavor but the ingredients were all in little pieces. The egg roll was pretty bad, small in size and mostly fried dough versus filling. Instead of individual sauce packets there was a metal canister with the duck sauce. It was pretty gross and was sticky on almost the entire exterior. I used my napkin the best I could to wipe clean. The spring roll looked similar and the spare rib was a measly, tiny rib. Everything looked pretty naked on the plate.

The General Tso arrived. Six large fried chicken nuggets sitting in a pool of sauce. China Garden used white meat versus dark (major kudos for this) and it was really well cooked, crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. But it was tepid, as if they cooked a large batch earlier, allowed to sit and then just added on top of a one of the sauces that was ladled onto a plate. The sauce was cool approaching cold. It had OK flavor. That was their version of General Tso Chicken, some previously cooked, cool fried chicken nuggets in a pool of cold sauce. We passed on dessert.

Overall, it was a mediocre dining experience. Given the circumstances I think they did a great job in keeping people calm and serving them on the busiest day of the year. When the kitchen is less in the weeds I hope they would be more focused and the food would arrive hotter and would be more than large chicken nuggets with sauce. But given the number of people looking for their meals, I will give them a free pass on the night.

Hudson’s (Delray Beach) – Monday, Monday…Blunder, Blunder

After a fabulous meal last year I was excited to return to Hudson’s. The reservation was for Monday and I always fear Monday nights as many chefs are off, and this visit confirmed that fear. It was a rough night in the kitchen, not only for our table but those around us who were complaining to the manager about the slow service. Watching the lack of food leaving the kitchen, they were sending whatever, whenever at the beginning until our table sent back 80% of the orders and then the manager intervened and there was nothing for quite some time thereafter. The first half of the evening was a mess.

Our party of five arrived a couple of minutes late (under 5 minutes), yet there was no table for five set. We waited while they rearranged a couple of tables, placed the plates and settings on the table and we were finally seated. We ordered a flatbread while we looked through the menu for our dinner selections. The menu describes the flatbread as roasted butternut squash, ricotta, sage, sunflower seeds and purple kale. It arrived and after one bite I knew that the Chef was not in the kitchen. There was no way this product met his standards. The squash was flavorless, there was no kale, the melted ricotta was already turning hard and there was zero seasoning. It was a far cry from the wonderful flatbread of the previous year.

For my entrée I ordered the Hudson Burger medium-rare with bacon (there was another burger order at the table). My wife ordered the salad with shrimp, as did her mom. The Hudson burger contains the patty, caramelized onion marmalade, and fontina, served with lime & black pepper pommes frites. For an addition $1 you can add bacon, which I added. When they arrived I cut my burger in half and it was beyond well-done, the other burger was equally incinerated, and we returned both to the kitchen. My wife asked me to taste the shrimp and it was inedible, completely overwhelmed by salt. Our table of five sent back four entrées, two burgers and both shrimp dishes. When I asked the server if the chef was in the kitchen she replied, “Chef Paul is off tonight.” No surprise.

Round 2 of both were properly prepared. The Manager approached to see how the re-fires were and said that the Chef cooked it himself, and she offered to buy us desserts. The meat was excellent, but the other ingredients were not so. The bacon was a touch salty, and the caramelized onion marmalade was from caramelized and further from marmalade, more quickly sautéed onions, crunchy and pungent and slapped on top of the burger. The kitchen added some iceberg lettuce and a scant slice of tomato that covered one-half of the burger. It was too bad the kitchen failed miserably on the first burger and the toppings on the second were diner-quality. Too bad as the meat deserved better.

For dessert I ordered the apple crumble with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. This was also very disappointing. It was better described as a bowl of crumble with a few slices of apples tucked underneath. I ate the ice cream, fished for the apples slices and a little crumble and called it a night.

The server was wonderful, she was pleasant throughout and handled the kitchen disasters with grace and charm. After I spoke with the manager about four out of five entrées being unacceptable, she professionally intervened, there was a hiatus and then the food started arriving at nearby tables. Major kudos to her, without her I think the entire restaurant would have packed up and left.

Obviously it was an incredibly disappointing visit to Hudson’s, the wheels fell off the kitchen, and it required a manager intervention before the ship was righted to at least move the meal from inedible and unacceptable to serviceable.

 

China Gardens (Delray Beach) – Great Owners Serving Very Good Food

China Gardens is located in a northbound strip mall just south of The Boys of Military Trail in Delray. There is ample parking for the restaurant that probably seats around 60-70 people. The owners were on-site when we did take-out on Christmas Day. They were fantastic in handling a very difficult crowd and an overabundance of orders and egos, and for that reason alone I would give them my business. The menu includes every variety and desire of a Cantonese restaurant. The food ranged from excellent in certain dishes to OK in others.

The best of the order was the Hot & Sour Soup. It had a great flavor with a vinegary taste with just a hint of spice. The Fried Dumplings were also excellent, but they were the smallest dumpling I have ever seen. The skins were thin and the filling had great flavor. The egg rolls were pretty good. The skins were thin and the filling was basic egg rolls without any mini-shrimp. I did not like the ribs. They were boiled first and were soggy and bland and then crisped under the broiler before placing on the plate. I would avoid these.

The Moo Shu Pork was very good. The only issue was they also included shrimp in our order. We did see this before the one member of our family who has a shell fish intolerance ate any. Given the frantic nature of the kitchen that night it was perfectly understandable that some orders may have been mis-cooked.

The General Tso Chicken was good. To the benefit of the restaurant the pieces were quite large and they used white meat as well, which I really liked. The breading was thing, again a positive, but the sauce was a bit lacking. I would have preferred a little more flavor. The fried rice was a bit underseasoned and flavored, it was more bland then I prefer.

Overall I was pleased with China Gardens. The soup was a stand-out and if you choose specific items you can design a very good meal. And with the owners as personable and professional as could be, I would definitely return.

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