The 2-month-old Meat Market is the most enchanting restaurant to open in Palm Beach County in years. Like the original Meat Market on Lincoln Road in Miami Beach, the Palm Beach edition glows a glamorous amber.
As New York-based Studio ABM Design did in Miami Beach, designer Anthea Bosch-Moschini channels a 1970s Halston vibe with camel leather banquettes, brass-link chain screens and bleached oak paneling. Thin horizontal strips of mirror are used to great dramatic effect on the walls, and from the ceiling hang blown-glass lighting pendants that float like Lawrence Welk bubbles. It's altogether quite sexy.
I wondered if Meat Market would go with the same bare tables that work so well in South Beach. They did. While it seems like a small thing, it's one more sign that the Palm Beach crowd is not only younger, but also no longer tethered to old ideas about restaurants. Out with the fusty!
Like the Miami Beach restaurant, the 135-seat Meat Market Palm Beach offers service at the highest level. But it's neither dictatorial or haughty. "Friendly" and "caring" are words I rarely use to describe service in a restaurant whose signature steaks start at $42 for a 16-ounce prime rib-eye. But those words work here.
Meat Market is a very expensive restaurant, but owners David Tornek and chef Sean Brasel will succeed by doing just as they've done for six years in Miami Beach. They have another year-old location in Puerto Rico.
The menu opens with exceptional modern raw-bar offerings such as octopus carpaccio ($19): transparently thin slices with baby radish, heirloom beans, pickled mustard seed and tiny potato chips. The ceviche special ($15) one night was made up of shrimp, salmon, compressed watermelon, cilantro, chili, red pepper and an interesting sesame-balsamic reduction.
Why aren't lamb ribs on more restaurant menus? The meaty Asian barbecue bones ($19) here are lightly sauced with hoisin and served with papaya slaw. Crab and lobster cakes ($19) indeed taste like crab and lobster. So often, they taste more of bread crumbs. The biggest surprise among the appetizers, however, was whole roasted cauliflower ($19). Brasel created this dramatic dish especially for Palm Beach. I'm quite a fan of cauliflower in all its guises, but roasting gives it a bit of caramel sweetness. The whole head is brought to the table on a bed of cauliflower puree with lemon, parsley, capers, a bit of Parmesan and olive oil. We ordered it as a side dish with our steaks.
Salads are elegantly presented. The so-called Stacked Caesar ($12) features both romaine and kale, along with just the right amount of creamy Parmesan dressing. Mango wedge salad ($14) deliciously adds fresh mango to candied bacon, blue cheese crumbles, walnuts and chopped eggs.
Beef offerings run the gamut from wood-grilled American Kobe meatloaf ($24) with bacon, mango-barbecue sauce, crispy onions and truffled mashed potatoes to an outstanding 30-ounce Australian Kobe beef tomahawk rib-eye ($85). Every cut seems to have its own story, whether it be the simple certified Angus 22-ounce bone-in rib-eye ($55) or a 32-ounce center-cut dry-aged porterhouse ($90) from Creekstone Farms in Kansas.
No restaurant makes a consistently better steak than Meat Market.
With so many steak options, the best choice may be the Meat Market Gourmet Meat Sampler, featuring a filet with marrow butter, a Kobe Wagyu filet and a blackened marinated New York steak. It's not only delicious, but very clearly illustrates the differences between each cut.
Fish eaters ought to head directly to the char-broiled branzino ($32), with its crisp skin and moist flesh served alongside tomato and fennel stew. There's also an interesting cedar paper salmon ($33) with candied-jalapeno-orange glaze with star anise and cinnamon. It sounds almost Christmas-like.
There are 10 house-made steak sauces ($2), including A-100 steak sauce, Cabernet reduction, au poivre and chimichurri. There is no such thing as a bad side dish at Meat Market, whether it be crispy Brussels sprouts with bacon and almonds ($9) or Gouda tater tots ($8). There are almost too many choices.
Then, comes dessert and again there are too many choices. But we decided on a Key lime cheesecake ($11) that perfectly paired the characteristics of two of my favorite desserts. The chocolate macadamia bar ($12) combines chocolate and macadamia mousse with caramel Anglaise, roasted macadamia bark and brown-sugar ice cream. The balance of nutty to sweet is perfect. A dessert called chocolate temptation ($12) features classic chocolate molten cake with coco nibb tuile and salted-caramel ice cream that nicely tempers the richness of the chocolate.
While Palm Beach and Miami Beach may have very little in common, they both now have dibs on the best steakhouse in South Florida.
191 Bradley Place, Palm Beach
Cost: Very expensive
Hours: Dinner nightly
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Can be noisy
Outside smoking: No
For kids: Highchairs
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: Free valet