I have to hand it to Michael Fagien, the man behind the phenomenon known as Jazziz magazine and now Jazziz Nightlife, for opening a supper club with live jazz every night of the week.
He's been publishing his magazine since 1983, which distinguished itself by including a free CD in every issue. In May, Fagien expanded the Jazziz brand to open Jazziz Nightlife at Mizner Park.
It was no doubt a huge undertaking, with close to 12,000 square feet of space. The venue offers seating for close to 500 people in seven dining areas, including the Stage Left Lounge, the Flute Bar, the Ella Room and the big Live Room. Diane Schuur, Nestor Torres and Molly Ringwald are all on the Jazziz schedule. Some shows require tickets and minimum charges on food and beverage. But even during big-name acts, the club offers dining rooms where you can be seated without buying a ticket.
Fagien hired executive chef Justin Flit, who's worked with chef Daniel Boulud and, most recently, at Michael Mina's Bourbon Steak at Turnberry Isle Miami in Aventura. While there are some good ideas on this rangy menu — pizza, pasta, prime steaks, seafood, caviar — many don't succeed.
Who wants to eat a Caesar salad ($13) filled with dripping wet romaine leaves? The difference between seared foie gras ($19) and overcooked foie gras is skill. Unfortunately, skill is not on display at Jazziz Nightlife. And what was with the rectangle of cloying sweet-potato custard that accompanied the foie gras? It had all the subtlety of a Little Debbie snack bar.
That same flavor reappeared in parsnip soup ($12), which was so sweet that the creamy confection might as well have been sweet potato or pumpkin. I happen to like the taste of parsnips. Their flavor does not need concealment. I didn't mind the chunky prime-beef tartare ($12) with ponzu sauce, but the accompanying egg was as hard as a rock instead of lusciously runny.
From the wood-oven pizza and homemade pasta menu, we had a near perfect salami-and-broccoli-rabe pizza ($16), which we would have liked more if it had been crisper. But then came squid-ink gnudi with butter poached lobster and an interesting sunchoke-vanilla puree ($25). Gnudi are supposed to be tender, creamy and light. Dumpling-like. But at Jazziz Nightlife, they were rubbery, tough and not very good.
A straightforward, 14-ounce New York strip steak ($43) with whipped Yukon Gold potatoes was the best dish we sampled. There was nothing crispy about the crispy skin duck breast ($33) with farro. The breast was overcooked, and borderline tough.
A free-range chicken breast ($24), however, was anything but tough. I suspect it was cooked sous-vide style, whereby the breast is slowly cooked inside an airtight bag in circulating water. Artfully presented with Brussels sprouts, sweet-potato puree and apple butter, it would have been a much better dish if it had arrived hot instead of at room temperature.
Cooking for so many people in such a big space isn't easy. And we got to see plenty of Jazziz, because no matter where you're seated in the dining room, the hostess will take you on a circuitous route through the restaurant. We were told it was to give us a sense of the space, even though we ended up about 20 feet from where we'd started.
Dinner service at Jazziz was outstanding. Our waiter had a deep knowledge of the menu and the wine list. But there seems to be inconsistency among bar staff as to how to serve cocktails. While my dining companions waited in the bar as I dealt with finding a parking spot (the valet was closed), they were served cocktails containing a single large ice cube. One-cube drinks seems to be the rage these days. But when one member of my party ordered a second drink, they were served scotch in a glass filled with ice.
I have to believe that Jazziz the music venue, is much better than Jazziz the restaurant.
Mizner Park, 201 Plaza Real, Boca Raton
Hours: Dinner daily
Credit cards: All major
Bar: Full service
Sound level: Conversational without live music
Outside smoking: Yes
For kids: Highchairs, boosters
Wheelchair accessible: Yes
Parking: $6 valet