Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Michelle Bernstein @ The Omphoy Palm Beach

We recently took a trip "up north" to Palm Beach for a quick and local getaway. It feels different up there (less treffic, less people, lots of classy old folks with sweaters tied around their shoulders) and it's a nice escape from the craziness of Miami. We stayed at the recently-opened Omphoy Hotel which is a dark, zen-like place that represents a new direction for Palm Beach - less staid, more hip. All the in-house dining is run by Miami favorite Michelle Bernstein so we were excited to see how the sassy Latin chef had adapted herself to the new WASPY digs.

The dining room faces the ocean which at night is pointless since that's like overlooking a vast sea of blackness but it's probably a nice spot for a daytime wedding reception. The main restaurant is only open for dinner (during the day you dine downstairs at MB Terrace. More on that later). The decor is in keeping with the rest of the hotel - dark woods, royal blues, plush chairs. It's not as cozy as Michy's or as warm as Sra. Martinez but it definitely feels more formal. The first things we noticed when we went up for dinner was that the restaurant was packed. Granted, it was a Saturday night and it's a hot new restaurant, but it seems that Michelle has won over the Palm Beach set. We sat next to a couple that seemed SO Palm Beach (i.e. the guy had a really obvious toupee). Turns out it was the mayor of Palm Beach and he commented to a neighboring table that it was his third time there since they opened.

In terms of the menu - apparently she's still tweaking things in the kitchen but it seems like she's got the greatest hits of Michelle Bernstein on there with a few new creative additions. The crispy sweetbreads, white gazpacho, croquettas (spinach and feta), roasted bone marrow, fried chicken with all the fixings and braised short ribs.

We started with the tuna carpaccio topped with foie gras "snow" and diced apples. This was one of the best dishes of the night. It was a delicate portion but it had big flavors. The tuna was lightly dressed with soy and sesame oil that cut the richness of the foie gras shavings. The apples added a refreshing finish.

Next was the buratta with fried green tomatoes and luscious heirloom tomatoes. Nicely composed and pitch perfect. The black cod in dashi broth was another great dish with very subtle flavors that came together well - the buttery fish with a crisp pan sear, flavorful mushroom broth and hefty side of bok choy.

We also tried the Malaysian curried snapper and found it less compelling - the sauce lacked something, spice, complexity...something. It just didn't pop.
Desserts were fun - a trio of hot chocolate-filled homemade donuts with a cafe con leche pot de creme and the "dreamsicle," a chocolate mousse cake served with orange creamsicle ice cream.

We had two lunches while there (we missed breakfast as I slogged my way through a 9am Core Fusion class, a class I think should be renamed Core Refusin') and they were more of a mixed bag. Daytime eats are served on the second floor lobby and oceanfront terrace. The terrace is a lovely al fresco patio and the indoor dining room serves as seating for the O Bar and reminded me a bit of Kelly Wearstler's style at the Viceroy though not as rich and textured.

The highlights off the lunch menu were the Greek salad and roasted half chicken over Israeli couscous, both were flavorful and satisfying. The falafel wrap was disappointing with dry, dense falafel. Admittedly, I am a falafel snob having grown up on the stuff and gorged on it on frequent trips to Israel but we found ourselves dousing it in the tzatziki sauce just to give it some flavor and moisture. The fish and chips were also a bit bland but the hand cut fries made up fir it.
It's too early to judge as the restaurants have been open just over a month and Michelle is running quite an empire these days but so far it looks like Palm Beach is getting a taste of what we Miamians have known all along, MB is quite good at what she does.


Frodnesor said...

Palm Beach really is in a different universe from Miami, isn't it?

Some things about that tuna dish (which looks great) sound a little familiar. Hope you're OK with me borrowing the picture, if not let me know and I'm glad to take it down.

sara said...

Hey Frod, no worries, I'm flattered you thought the photo was good enough to repost ;-)
And regarding the similarity of the dish, very interesting. I wasn't aware that Chang and Ripert were doing tuna and foie but the flavor combo works. Didn't Picasso say the best artists are those that steal?

Frodnesor said...

Thanks. It actually borrows a bit from both of them I think. Ripert's dish combines tuna with foie (though I've heard it may no longer be on the menu at Le Bernardin) and Chang's doesn't involve tuna, but freezes the foie and shaves it into "snow" (paired with a reisling gelee, lychee & pine nut brittle).

SteveBM said...

Nice finally meeting you today after I dont know how many years of knowing the "internet you" haha. Those sardines at Lou's Beer Garden were the bomb.

I love the Palm Beach Mayor showing his socialite side. Such a scene up there haha.

sara said...

BM - fun meeting you too! How was the Slow Food dinner? looking forward to your report. next time we go to Red Light!

Anonymous said...

Nice pictures, and great to see the foodie passion that brings us to travel outside of our immediate vicinities for good food :)
fyi, we lunched at the MB's terrace at the omphoy today. Wanted to share the experience as it was really stellar. We had the following:
(1) skirt steak - tasted as good, if not better, than michy's. very tender with really complex, fresh chimmichurri on the side. also, the fries tasted like they were fried in duck fat...simply (no herbs) but really airey and crispy at the same time
(2) butter poached lobster buccatini with a diablo sauce - this was incredible. the tomatoe "diablo" basil sauce was shoulder to shoulder in quality and freshness as that of the scarpetta tomato/basil spaghetti. the bucattini was perfectly al dente. and, the lobster portion was plentiful too.
Each of these entrees were $22...which was a great price, considering scarpetta charges us $24 or so for the pasta, sauce, sans lobster.
For desserts, we had a carrot cake with root beer essence and ginger ice cream - amazing and my girlfriend (carrot cake lover) declared it the best c/cake she's had. we also had an almond cake with 3 scoops of home made ice cream.
Only thing that could have made this any better would have been michy's croquettas :)
Living in Boca, we will definately be returning often to this more casual bernstein incarnation for amazing lunches on the water !