HMF Palm Beach Restaurant Review
Happy New Year y'all! Well, no doubt you are probably still nursing a hang over, and as a result, I'm going to make this simple and sweet. Before coming down to Palm Beach this year, I decided to do a bit of online research on the current restaurant scene instead of 100% winging it like we always do in PB. I have eaten at the Breakers resort a number of times now, in a few of their restaurants, but was intrigued by their newest edition, HMF. According to their website, HMF aimed to recreate the "golden era" of Palm Beach, with hand-crafted speak-easy style cocktails and sexy small plates. By PB standards, the menu certainly intrigued me as it drew from a variety of cultural cuisines, seasonal flavours, and even the popular food truck culture. Maybe most eye-capturing for me was the photo of the young server on their website, who had a distinct vintage style complete with pearls and a sexy pin-up dress (which I'm pretty sure I own). While nothing could compare to the eye candy I witnessed the other night at The Bazaar in Miami, the waitstaff at HMF alone are truly a site to see. Sadly, that's one of the best things about the place, second only to the stunning decor.
The massive room had an open concept, with tables spaciously scattered throughout the floor. I liked the comfort couches and massive cushy chairs that accompanied the round tables as it could encourage diners to stay and drink long into the night. Alternatively, one could have a lengthy nap as they waited for their food and drink to arrive, but we will get to that soon.
Service was friendly, but remarkably slow and faulty. It was clear that our poor server was being stretched to her absolute end, and that waitstaff had been chosen for their bodies more so than their skills. A few observations to illustrate: it took 2 hours for some of us to receive even our first dish (all of the dishes came at different times), no one greeted us or took any orders for 20 minutes after being seated, it was very hard to track our server down for water, cutlery and the bill, dishes were left uncleared for at least 15-20 minutes post-eating. Like I said, thank goodness for those lazy couch-chairs.
When it came to cocktails, HMF unfortunately did not live up to my expectations. There were a number of delicious sounding drinks on the menu that I would have been excited about trying, but after the excessive wait for the first one, I decided not to bother asking for another. I went with the Redhead (Ketel One Citron Vodka, Blood Orange Liquor, Cranberry Juice, Lime Foam), while he opted for a classic Old Fashion. The former was tasty but not as balanced as I had hoped, while the latter was a bit of a watered-down version of what we're used to enjoying back home.
As for food, it was recommended we go for 2 dishes per person. It was certainly a huge challenge to choose, just based on the length of the menu, but I decided to select all 4 from the Food Truck section. We tried:
Korean Short Ribs
These were a bit disappointing. Short ribs are so inherently fatty, there is no reason they these should be tough and flavourless. Alas, it happened. At the very least, these little meat morsels could have used an extra lather of sauce.
Duck Boa Buns, Blood Orange Ponzu
These buns were pretty delicious. The duck was tender and moist, and the ponzu sauce had just enough citrus flavour that it wasn't overpowering or too sweet.
So Cal Fish Tacos
These had a nice flavour, but my guess was that they had been sitting a bit too long under the heat lamp and the fried fish had become soggy in the process. Also, I know this is PB, but it's hard to justify $24 for 2 small tacos when the tacos back home at La Carnita are half the price and significantly better.
Wild Boar Empanaditas, Spicy Sauce
These were my favourite dish of the night. The pastry was cooked to golden perfection with a slight crispy exterior, and packed full of gamey meat. The boar was impossibly moist and tender, and it's mild gaminess was nicely balanced by the heat of the accompanying sauce.
So at this point, I could have easily enjoyed dessert, but the wait was a huge deterrent, and our party decided to head home. Me, on the other hand, well I made a b-line for the Ice Cream Shop for some Raspberry Cheesecake Frozen Yogurt. Yum. So for the 4 dishes and 2 cocktails, the bill came to $165 for the two of us. Yes, it was outrageous for what we ate and drank, and no, it wasn't exactly noteworthy. Having said that, I have yet to find many PB restaurants doing anything remotely similar, or even catering to a younger crowd. So I am totally willing to wait it out a year, hope the server's gain a bit more experience (and they get a few more of them to cover the busy weekend nights), and head back over for a drink or two.