On a crisp day in Delray Beach, it doesn’t get much better than this: a waterfront view, rosé sipping and tapas noshing, and snippets of rumba adrift on the patio.
No, it wasn’t a bad way to meet Che, the 3-month-old restaurant perched on the Intracoastal in Delray Beach. The fact that it was still Happy Hour when I got there made the intro even better. That’s the magical period when the restaurant serves 5-buck delicacies such as eggplant chips, long, crispy shavings stacked in surreal patterns.
The sparkling view and delicious starter gave me the feeling that this place would be a good one. Then the server felt the need to overshare. That was moments after he dropped an F-bomb at me – in a good way, I suppose. He used it as an adverb to qualify the word “amazing,” which he used to describe the steaks.
When my dining companion arrived, I brought her up to speed.
“Our server says the steaks are ‘f#*% amazing.’ He’s also ‘f#*% hungover.’”
He was charming in the way your party friend from college is charming. But, yes, he was clueless. When I asked about the terrific, smooth and smoky red dipping sauce served alongside Che’s hearty, overstuffed empanada, he said it was a classic Argentinian chimichurri.
It was a delicious twist on the classic condiment, but for the most part, chimichurri is green, a hand-minced garlic, herb and oil sauce. The server told us chimi is always red in Argentina and green in Brazil. Charming, but mistaken.
Condiment theories aside, this was a tasty empanada (two for $9), its crispy fried crust encasing chopped premium beef studded with chopped olives, peppers and egg. And we couldn’t get enough of that smoky red sauce. It was served with a lightly dressed tangle of arugula and sliced baby tomatoes.
This empanada shares the menu with other starters that reflect Che’s South American and Iberian roots. The concept was dreamed up in Buenos Aires and brought to being in Spain by sibling restaurateurs Daniela and Martin Sujoy. Some 15 years later, they have a “Che” family of 15 related restaurants in Spain.
The Spanish influence on Che (a Rio de la Plata expression which can mean “hey!” or “bro,” among other things) declares itself in a Galician style octopus appetizer ($11), a gazpacho starter ($8), a plate of cured Iberico meats and cheeses ($15) and a classic seafood paella ($48 for two).
The Argentine inspiration is told in classics such as morcilla (blood sausage, $9), provoleta (grilled provolone, $12) and a heap of grilled steaks, ranging from $29 for brochettes to $64 for a 24-ounce butterflied South American NY strip. We landed somewhere near the middle, ordering the “George V” filet steak ($43), an 8-ounce prime South American tenderloin served with caramelized onions and veggies in a red wine glaze, with a side of potato gratin.
To my eyes, 8 ounces never seemed as robust. This filet towered above the veggie sauté. It was large enough to share. It was not as buttery as one might expect from a filet cut, but the steak was tender, a true medium-rare beneath a smoky char.
In the non-beef department, the grilled Pacific King Salmon ($30) did not disappoint. It was prepared medium-rare as well, revealing a moist interior. The salmon is served with nicely grilled asparagus and a black trumpet mushroom risotto that proved better in flavor than in texture. I prefer a creamy, more loose risotto. This one had the consistency of clumpy rice pudding.
All this in a menu that also includes wood-fired flat breads ($12). The menu’s range makes this an ideal waterfront spot. You don’t want a steak? Have a fig-blue cheese flat bread and a glass of wine. The setting is outstanding.
The waterfront Delray Beach location, which inhabits the former Hudson at Waterway East property, is the Sujoy family’s first U.S. location. And it is a beauty, with crisp, white walls and chairs, velvety teal booths and banquettes and simple wooden deck touches. Che infused light and just the right amount of teal blue into a dim space.
Now those shimmery waters outside find their reflection in the restaurant’s furnishings. The view, it seems, begins inside and flows outward. The minds behind the restaurant’s décor maximized the visual gifts of the place.
What a lucky thing for local lovers of Argentinian and Spanish foods: a place where the empanada comes with one of the best views in South Florida.
ADDRESS: 900 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach
PRICE RANGE: Moderate to expensive
NOISE LEVEL: Lively, but conversation is possible.
FULL BAR: Yes, a full liquor bar; separate bar areas.
HOURS: Open daily from 11 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
CREDIT CARDS: Major cards accepted
RESERVATIONS: Dinner reservations are strongly suggested.
WHEELCHAIR ACCESS: Yes
WHAT THE GRADES MEAN:
A — Excellent
B — Good
C — Average
D — Poor
F — Don’t bother