Friday, May 24, 2024

Dining Review: Boca Landing

Hollywood has nothing on Boca Landing.

Hazelnut Gelato

The celebrity denizens of Tinsel-town, whose relentlessly nipped, tucked and injected faces and bodies have seen more work than I-95, are rank amateurs in the makeover department compared to the stunning job done on the old Bridge Hotel and its one-time star restaurant, Carmen’s.

After a dozen months and more than $10 million, the worn, tired, bankrupt Bridge was reborn last May as the Waterstone Resort & Marina in a renovation as slick as anything on HGTV. And sad and frayed-around-the-edges Carmen’s, whose decor and menu were as dated as an IBM Selectric, was remade into a chic, contemporary marina-front restaurant with the kind of panoramic water views other restaurants can only drool over.

The heavy lifting on the menu was done by executive chef Steven Zobel, late of Fort Lauderdale’s d.b.a./Café, who replaced Carmen’s uninspired Continental-esque cuisine with a roster of small plates, many Asian-inspired, designed to appeal to slightly adventurous and more conservative palates. If you wore a bag over your head and managed to miss the restaurant’s remarkable physical transformation, you’d still know everything was different by the wickedly addictive Parmesan crisps and crunchy breadsticks immediately trotted out to your table, along with little ramekins of earthy truffle and bright-tasting red-pepper butters.

The Asian influence is most pronounced in the list of small plates, beginning with a good if fairly standard rendition of tuna tartare, cubes of rosy soy and citrus-glazed fish (which could have been better trimmed of sinew) atop a coarse mash of avocado with squiggles of wasabi aioli and a crown of wilted microgreens. The same sweet-spicy aioli made an appearance as a drizzle over an enormous portion of fried calamari, thick-cut rings as big around as truck tires yet remarkably tender, with crisp, gossamer-thin (rice?) flour jackets.

Plump, meaty PEI mussels arrived braised in a modestly spicy, robustly garlicky green curry-coconut milk broth. It was another generous portion, made somewhat less so by the number of unopened bivalves lurking at the bottom of the bowl. Duck confit was the least successful of the tapas, the apricot-glazed duck leg flavorful but lacking the plush, melt-in-your-mouth texture of a great confit. A pair of leathery crêpes and more wilted micro-greens weren’t much help.

Filet Mignon

There’s nothing Asian or particularly adventurous about filet mignon with crab and béarnaise, but when you’ve got gum-tender meat with surprisingly deep, beefy flavor topped with fat chunks of sea-sweet crab and an achingly luscious butter sauce that’s richer than the House of Saud, well … who really gives a shiitake?

Molten chocolate cake—plenty of the latter but not much of the former—was decent but nothing to text home about. The accompanying hazelnut gelato, on the other hand, was worth a full post on YouTube. Made in-house, it’s indecently rich and creamy in the way only gelato can be, laced with hazelnuts and so irresistible that we ordered another scoop, just to wallow in its cool, velvety, seductive luxury a little longer.

If every makeover went this well, we’d all look like Hollywood celebrities.

Rooms With a View

It’s impossible for any design to compete with Boca Landing’s spectacular views of Lake Boca and the Intracoastal, but this one certainly comes close. From the dramatic entrance of the hotel lobby, guests stroll down a long corridor lined with modern art on the walls and past a glassed-in wine room, lounge and large, U-shaped bar. From there, they step down into the main dining room, where massive plate-glass windows show off the postcard-perfect setting and an outdoor patio so close to the water that you can flick a breadstick off your table and watch it float away.


ADDRESS: 999 E. Camino Real, Boca Raton, 561/368-9500

PRICE RANGE: Entrées $26–$37

HOURS: Sun.–Thurs. 5–10 p.m., Fri.–Sat. 5–11 p.m.


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