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.
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.
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.