Okay, so we’re having a little fun with headlines here. But in the year since Jim Leiken came down from New York to take over the kitchen at Café Boulud (301 Australian Ave., 561/655-6060), the cozy, intimate restaurant in Palm Beach’s quietly elegant Brazilian Court hotel has put some of the most finely crafted and subtly exciting food around.
Now Leiken and company are doing something a little different. For the months of July and August the café’s regular menu is being supplemented by roster of inventive Mediterranean dishes, in celebration of the Big Apple debut of Boulud Sud (pronounced Sood, meaning “south”).
At most restaurants in these parts, “Mediterranean” is just another way of saying Italian with feta and black olives. But at the café’s Boulud Sud “pop-up” they’re taking this Mediterranean thing seriously, with dishes featuring the bright, intense flavors of Provence, Morocco, North Africa, Greece, Spain and, yes, even Italy.
I was lucky enough to get a preview of many of the dishes—more than I’ve got room to describe here—and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend any of them. Among the highlights. . .
Terrific Sicilian sardines escabeche, doused with a little fruity olive oil and set off by toasted pine nuts and white raisins. Tender octopus grilled “a la plancha” with Marcona almonds, arugula and Spanish Jerez vinegar. A tux and tails version of humble falafel with bright-tasting English pea hummus and silken babaganoush. Ridiculously good little bricks of molten-textured duck confit wrapped in crispy kataifi (fine threads of shredded phyllo) with lusty date chutney.
But wait, there’s more.
Impeccably fresh swordfish with saffron aioli, crispy coins of chorizo and minuscule “laughing bird” shrimp. Harissa-spiked lamb loin with sweet ‘n’ sour grilled eggplant and yogurt. Mint-chocolate pavé (sort of like the world’s most elegant mint-chocolate sandwich) with chocolate sorbet. Ethereal crème brulee infused with apricot and star anise. And did I mention sommelier Mariya Kovacheva’s sauve Provencal cocktail, a light and refreshing blend of lavender-infused gin, Cointreau and dry vermouth with a lavender-flavored sugar rim.
If you haven’t guessed by now, this is big time, big city fare—definitely not the same ol’, same ol’—prepared by a seriously talented chef at the top of his game. You don’t want to miss it.