REVIEW: Water view at ‘Che’ elevates a simple empanada

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.

Perched on the Intracoastal: Che in Delray Beach. (Contributed by Che)
Perched on the Intracoastal: Che in Delray Beach. (Contributed by Che)

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.’”

At Che, a view that screams "Delray Beach!" (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)
At Che, a view that screams “Delray Beach!” (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)

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.

Che's overstuffed empanada. (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)
Che’s overstuffed empanada. (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)

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.

Eggplant chips on the patio at Che. (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)
Eggplant chips on the patio at Che. (Liz Balmaseda/ Palm Beach Post)

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.

Grass-fed South American rib-eye steak at Che. (Photo: Alissa Dragun)
Grass-fed South American rib-eye steak at Che. (Photo: Alissa Dragun)

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.

Pacific King Salmon is served with risotto. (Photo: Alissa Dragun)
Pacific King Salmon is served with risotto. (Photo: Alissa Dragun)

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.

Soothing tones: Che's decor seems to flow outward. (Photo: Alissa Dragun)
Soothing tones: Che’s decor seems to flow outward. (Photo: Alissa Dragun)

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.

Fresh look: Che took over the old Hudson space. (Photo: Alissa Dragun)
Fresh look: Che took over the old Hudson space. (Photo: Alissa Dragun)

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.

REVIEW

Che Restaurant

FOOD: B

SERVICE: C

ADDRESS: 900 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach

TELEPHONE: 561-562-5200

WEBSITE: Delray.CheRestaurant.com

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

High marks for Highland Beach seafood restaurant: Latitudes gets an A

James King is executive chef at Latitudes in the Delray Sands Resort. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)
James King is executive chef at Latitudes in Highland Beach. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)

It’s a good sign when a hotel restaurant is bustling, so much so that reservations are strongly suggested, if not required. And it’s an even better sign when that restaurant is busy despite heavy competition from neighboring hot spots and some of the county’s most popular dining districts.

Sandwiched between the hum of Atlantic Avenue in downtown Delray Beach and the stir of eastern Boca Raton’s dining hub, Latitudes is a local sensation. Yes, it doesn’t hurt that the seafood-centric restaurant is perched by the ocean and that daytime views are sparkling.

But I’ve seen my share of empty or half-empty oceanfront resort restaurants. Located in the Delray Sands resort in Highland Beach, Latitudes is decidedly different. And there is one culinary reason for this: Executive Chef James King.

The former Four Seasons Resort chef is well known for creating dishes that are both stunning and delicious. His attention to detail and refined hand is evident in even the simplest dishes.

King arrived at the Delray Sands shortly after the resort (a former Holiday Inn) underwent an extensive remodeling in 2014. He has given the place cuisine to match its sleek, new look. Now it not only reflects the colors of the sea but the flavors as well.

It is here that his team serves some of the best coastal cuisine in the county. It begins with a selection of chilled seafood starters that carry global flavors.

Seared scallop carpaccio is served at Latitudes. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)
Seared scallop carpaccio is served at Latitudes. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)

Find interesting local-meets-global touches in the Scallop Tiradito, a sashimi-like dish that’s scented with saffron, key lime honey, citrus, fried olives and micro cilantro. The Corvina Ceviche brims with kicky Peruvian yellow pepper. The Mini Ahi Tuna Tacos ($15) pack a punch of Asian flavors, thanks to wasabi aioli, citrus-soy vinaigrette and a tangy ginger-scallion salad.

A local favorite is King’s Tuna Poke, a raw yellowfin tuna dish he calls “a hot, hot seller.” His rendition of the Hawaiian classic takes its sweetness from mango, its crunch from macadamia nuts, its deeper hits from fish sauce and rounder flavors from sesame seed butter. (That’s the gray swoosh on the plate.) He adds crispy wonton chips to help scoop up all the goodness.

Tempting tuna: Ahi poke is popular at Latitudes in Highland Beach. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)
Tempting tuna: Ahi poke is a popular starter at Latitudes. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)

Those craving a warm starter will find yummy comfort in Latitudes’ Lobster Bisque ($10), a version that’s not overly rich. Deepened by a touch of smoked paprika oil, the bisque is swimming with lobster chunks.

Not all good bites here are seafood-centric, as evidenced by the Braised Short Rib Empanadas (two for $15), fried hand-pies overstuffed with ancho chile-spiced beef and served with pickled red onions, a swirl of chipotle aioli and a thimble of herb-y, garlicky chimichurri dipping sauce. One empanada – or even half of one – is large enough for an appetizer.

An appetizer that’s large enough to be an entrée is the Scampi Style Maine Lobster and Shrimp ($16), a large soup bowl filled with shrimp, lobster chunks, peas and slivered garlic in rich, saucy scampi goodness. The dish is served with toasted ciabatta slices and a large wedge of lemon for brightening the bite (not that it needs any adjustments). This might have been my favorite bite of the night.

Entrée options are well varied, ranging from “simply prepared” fresh fish served with a choice of flavorful butter, sauce or relishes. For those who want something more than simple fish, there’s a simply Grilled Seafood Trio ($32) that combines a fillet of local fish with tiger prawns and jumbo scallops. A light citrus beurre blanc is offered for dipping along with fresh veggies and roasted garlic mashed potatoes. The entire combo, a popular dish on the menu, is pristine and perfectly cooked.

Not so simply prepared but just as delicious: the Crab Crusted Florida Grouper ($35), a moist fillet made even more flavorful by a layer of toasty-golden crab. It’s served atop a creamy white polenta with a toss of sweet corn and smoked bacon, braised baby spinach and whole carrots. A pool of Florida citrus butter deepens and pulls together the flavors.

Branzino in parchment is a specialty dish at Latitudes. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)
Branzino in parchment is a specialty dish at Latitudes. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)

And there’s a Branzino in Paper ($30) that takes the moist, flaky factor to another level. Because it’s roasted in parchment, the fillet’s delicate flavors are amped. It’s given a Mediterranean treatment with Israeli couscous, Kalamata olives, roasted fennel, confit tomatoes and Meyer lemon tanginess.

It was this dish that became our vehicle to learning about the quality of service at Latitudes. When it was first presented to our table, the paper seemed slightly burned. When the server opened the package, parts of the fillet appeared to be overcooked. A taste of the edges proved our hunch. But before we could say much, our server spirited the fish away.

“I can’t leave it here,” he told us. “This is not an example of who we are or what we do.”

Moments later, he returned with a perfect dish.

Amid the weekend night bustle, this server made sure our glasses were filled, our table was cleared of empty dishes and our whims were met.

All this in a setting of soothing lines and leisurely chatter. The dining room was filled with a mix of diners, a crowd that skewed more Boomer than young hipster. It’s a sexy spot, nice for date night or special occasions, particularly when it’s early enough to catch the last of the day’s sunlight.

It’s a good place for lingering over dessert. At our table that dessert was a batch of hot, puffy beignets ($7) with a blueberry compote and a bourbon creme anglaise, and a dense, sinful praline tart ($9) that made the feast complete.

Ocean view all day: patio seating at Latitudes in Highland Beach. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)
Ocean view all day: patio seating at Latitudes. (Bruce R. Bennett/ The Palm Beach Post)

REVIEW

Latitudes

FOOD: A

SERVICE: A

ADDRESS: At the Delray Sands Resort, 2809 S. Ocean Blvd., Highland Beach

TELEPHONE: 561-278-2008

WEBSITE: LatitudesDelray.com

PRICE RANGE: Moderate to expensive

NOISE LEVEL: Lively, but conversation is possible.

FULL BAR: Yes, a full liquor bar; separate bar area. Happy Hour is served Monday through Friday from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m., with drink and small plate specials.

HOURS: Open daily for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sunday brunch is served from 10:30 a.m. to 2 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

 

New waterfront restaurant opens in Delray Beach

Che has taken over the former Hudson at Waterway East in Delray Beach. (Contributed)
Che has taken over the former Hudson at Waterway East in Delray Beach. (Contributed)

A rare Argentinian-owned restaurant has landed on the banks of the Intracoastal in Delray Beach. Che Restaurant opened Monday in the sprawling space formerly occupied by Hudson at Waterway East.

Dreamed up in Buenos Aires, the restaurant concept was brought to life in Spain by brother-sister restaurateurs Daniela and Martin Sujoy. On Spanish soil, they built a Che empire of 15 related restaurants in 15 years. (They include Che Pizza & Pasta, Che Asador Argentino and Che American Style).

Related: Best waterfront restaurants in Palm Beach County

Now comes their first U.S. location in Delray Beach’s buzzy dining district: a restaurant that’s described as part modern steakhouse, part casual international eatery. “Che” is a multipurpose expression common in the Rio de la Plata region. It can mean “hey!” or “bro,” among other things.

“For Delray Beach, we wanted to pay homage to our Argentinian roots while highlighting European inspiration,” said Martin Sujoy via news release.

Che offers various types of paellas similar to this one. (Mia Yakel/ Cox Newspapers)
Che offers various types of paellas similar to this one. (Mia Yakel/ Cox Newspapers)

The Sujoy family got its start in the food industry in Argentina, where they managed country club concessions before opening a financial district restaurant that grew into a catering operation.

At Che Delray, expect dishes with Argentine and Spanish accents on the menu. There are Argentinian classics like choripan (chorizo sandwich), Buenos Aires-style pastas and grass-fed South American steaks with chimichurri sauce. Inspired by Spain, there’s Galician-style octopus and paellas. On the side: sparkling waterfront views.

The Sujoys hired Spanish interior design company Paco Pleguezuelos to breathe new life into the 8000-square-foot space. The result is a sprawling restaurant with inside/outside dining areas and two bars, with plenty of room for large parties in between.

Hours: open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

Che Delray Beach: 900 E. Atlantic Ave.; 561-562-5200; CheRestaurant.com

 

 

Al fresco dining spots offer view of paradise

Diners enjoy the waterway views at Guanabanas restaurant in Jupiter. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)
Diners enjoy waterway views at Guanabanas in Jupiter. (Richard Graulich/ The Palm Beach Post)

A good view is lemonade for the eyes. Even if it’s brutally hot outside, a good view will lift you from the swelter.

Whether you’re seated before a dramatic seascape, atop a sweeping veranda or in an intimate courtyard, a view adds a sense of place to your dining experience. Your view drops you in the middle of a certain paradise. That’s the essence of al fresco dining, the sense of place.

HERE ARE SOME OF THE BEST AL FRESCO DINING SPOTS IN THE COUNTY.

FacebookFeast

Critic’s pick: best waterfront restaurant this week in Delray

A waterfront view from Deck 84 in Delray Beach. (Contributed by Jerry Rabinowitz)
Boaters often bring their fresh catch to Deck 84, Delray Beach. (Contributed by Jerry Rabinowitz)

South county pick: DECK 84

Restaurateur Burt Rapoport has created more than a simple waterfront eatery at Deck 84 – he has created a kind of waterway hub, where boaters can dock and drink or bring their fresh catches to be cooked.

Boat or no boat, you’ll find a taste of the ocean at this 5-year-old restaurant in the bar bites (the popcorn shrimp are delicious!), soups, large plates, sandwiches and tacos.

Related: Best waterfront restaurants in Palm Beach County

A waterfront view from Deck 84 in Delray Beach. (Contributed by Jerry Rabinowitz)
A waterfront view from Deck 84, Delray Beach. (Contributed by Jerry Rabinowitz)

The seafood dishes share the menu with American pub classics in a setting that embraces the water view – the place is among the top 100 al fresco dining restaurants in America, according to OpenTable.com.

Open every day, Deck 84 serves lunch and dinner daily; a weekend brunch is served as well.

Deck 84: 840 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach; 561-665-8484; Deck84.com

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda

Critic’s pick: unpretentious bistro fare in Jupiter waterfront setting

CafeDesArtistesSIGN

North county pick: CAFÉ DES ARTISTES

This waterfront café, which is celebrating its 10th year in business, offers a solid menu of French bistro classics (escargot, foie gras, entrecote and plenty of frites-worthy entrees).

Expect food that’s nicely prepared, but not pretentious. Dinner can be a pricey affair, but the splendid setting (at the Jupiter Yacht Club) and warm service will give you a reason to splurge.

The café will celebrate Beaujolais Nouveau Day on Thursday, Nov. 19, pouring the new wine at dinnertime, starting at 7 p.m.

Bonus: If you stop in during happy hour (5:30 to 7 p.m.) that day, you get two glasses of Beaujolais for the price of one.

Café des Artistes: 318 S. U.S. Highway 1, #101, Jupiter; 561-747-0998; CafeDesArtistesJupiter.com

Twitter: @LizBalmaseda

 

Critic’s pick: Hudson Delray hosts ‘Nauti Hallow’s Eve’

Halloween inevitably inspires spooky cocktails. (Cox Newspapers)
Halloween inevitably inspires spooky cocktails. (Cox Newspapers)

South county pick: HUDSON DELRAY

Halloween night at this seafood-centric spot in Delray Beach comes with a water view. In addition to its full menu, served in the dining room, Hudson is throwing a “Nauti Hallow’s Eve” bash Saturday night. The party starts at 6 p.m. on the newly revamped outdoor bar.

Related: The best Halloween events in Palm Beach county

For the occasion, the eatery is serving a special “Fangtastic Flatbread” ($8), made with roasted butternut squash, ricotta, sage and sunflower seeds. For the pairing, there will be appropriately spooky sips, like Pumpkin Smashed Martinis ($8), Jack O’Lantern Shots ($3) and Witches Brew ($5).

A view of Hudson at East Waterway in Delray Beach from the Intracoastal. (Contributed)
A view of Hudson at East Waterway in Delray Beach from the Intracoastal. (Contributed)

Diners and revelers are invited to dress up and take part in Hudson’s “mischievous” costume contest.

Hudson, at Waterway East: 900 E. Atlantic Ave., #22, Delray Beach; 561-303-1343; HudsonDelray.com

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda

 

Restaurant of the week: seafood with a water view in Delray Beach

The jumbo lump crab cake at Hudson restaurant in Delray Beach on June 2, 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
The jumbo lump crab cake at Hudson, Delray Beach. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)

South county pick: HUDSON DELRAY

There’s nothing like a sparkling water view to remind us we live where many others vacation. Add a menu of expertly prepared seafood dishes and you’ve got a destination spot.

Executive chef Paul Niedermann inside Hudson restaurant in Delray Beach on June 2, 2015. (Richard Graulich / The Palm Beach Post)
Executive chef Paul Niedermann.

Hudson Delray presents a solidly American menu with notable flair, thanks to executive chef Paul Niedermann, a past winner of “Hell’s Kitchen.” His lemony, olive oil-poached shrimp hum with hints of jalapeño and his crab cake rendition is chock-full of crab meat.

Those delicacies come at a price – this is not an inexpensive eatery. But with a newly debuted outdoor bar, Hudson has rolled out drink specials to greet football season. They’ve got game day covered on their many TV screens and promise to pour you a free draft beer if you wear your team’s football jersey.

Happy hour is also a good time to check out the outdoor and indoor bars – it runs from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. every day, serving half-price drinks.

Hudson, at Waterway East: 900 E. Atlantic Ave., #22, Delray Beach; 561-303-1343; HudsonDelray.com

TWITTER: @LizBalmaseda

FBTeasePinaColada