[REVIEW] Coolinary Cafe Palm Beach (Fl) Restaurant Review
So much of Palm Beach dining is old, stuffy, pricey and pretty boring. Every menu has a porterhouse, a variety of seafood platters, gratin potatoes and steamed hericot verts. Now, there is nothing wrong with that- hell, I love a good steak frites. But by the end of my holiday I am yearning for a tiny little taste of innovation.
Stepping again away from tradition, I decided to plan a dinner at a spot we had never seen or heard of before my little pre-trip research.
Owned and operated by Tim and Jenny Lipman, Coolinary Cafe is a farm-to-table restaurant with a strong Southern influence. I would have been drawn to take the 30 minute trek by either of these features, but put together, CC really had be intrigued.
Located in the middle of a high end plaza, CC is probably one of the smallest spots in the strip. Seeing as they don't take reservations, and the place was full on a Monday night, I can imagine this being a bit of a nightmare for weekend dining.
Despite it's popularity, I never felt uncomfortable, or crammed in there. Actually, the room is quite spacious considering their limitations. We were sat at a table along the wall with the list of their local farmers and producers above our heads, and a good view of both the open kitchen up front and the bar.
Drink-wise, CC offers a good selection of wine and beer, but don't have any cocktails. A bit disappointing for me, because that's always my preference, but I was glad I was forced to go the wine route because our servers recommendation was spot on. I had the Dr L 2011 Riesling (Germany) and he did the Grayson Cellars 2011 Chardonnay (St. Helena, California), both were perfect choices.
With regards to food, they were out of a few of our top choices, but was easily able to choose amongst the regular and nightly specials. We had:
Lump Crab Salad with Avocado, Mango and Jicama
This was just okay. It was a little sloppy, underseasoned, and a bit skimpy on the crab. Having said that, I thought the textures were really delicious, and had it had a little squirt of citrus and a good pinch of salt, it would have been a great dish.
Crispy Flatbread with Fresh Cheese, Spicy Sopresseta, Chard and Oven Dried Tomatoes
In contrast, this was insanely good. Addictive, even. The flatbread was impossibly crispy, the cheese was luscious and creamy, the sopresseta had a satisfying kick, and the tomatoes- oh those tomatoes. I have never tasted anything quite so sweet and bright, especially in contrast with the spicy meat. Super delicious.
Indian Spiced Flounder Salad with Greens, Radish, Jicama, Roasted Eggplant, Apple, Lemon Basil Dressing
This was the loser of the bunch, and it came from their nightly specials menu, so hopefully we were one of the few tables to have had it. The flounder was unappetizing looking and lacked all flavour. I guess the za'atar was just not enough to disguise the lack of salt. The salad really wasn't much better. I was looking everywhere for that lemon or basil flavour, but instead could just taste raw radish- a bit sulfurous and unappetizing. We communicated our concerns and the manager was very understanding. No harm done, that just meant more room for dessert.
Boneless Southern Fried Chicken, Grilled Lemon, Coleslaw and Jalapeno Cheddar Waffle
Now, this on the other hand was delicious. Apparently, the fried chicken is their signature dish and after a taste, it was obvious why. The chicken was incredibly moist inside and had a super crunchy batter that stayed in tact with each bite. The slaw was light but well balanced, and the waffle was pillowy and substantial. I liked the touch of heat and the subtle pungency of the cheese to balance out the sugary drizzle adorning the works.
Carrot Cake Waffle with Cinnamon
Another winner. Like the savoury waffle, this one was warm and fluffy inside and golden brown outside. When smeared with the cinnamon cream cheese icing, it really did taste like a lighter, more playful version of my childhood favourite. Yum!
So for 3 glasses of wine, 2 apps, 1 main (the other was comped), and 1 dessert, the bill came to about $100 including tax and tip. The meal probably really did embody the essence of "hit and miss" but I would definitely return for my favourites- the flatbread, chicken and carrot waffle. Thanks CC for a refreshing change of pace from the traditional PB establishment. See you in 2014!