With so many places to dine in Boca, a restaurant’s gotta do what a restaurant’s gotta do to keep their name in the forefront of their fans and do whatever it takes to lure new ones in. This was the case for me and Yard House. I received an invite from the PR firm representing the restaurant to come check out some of their new menu items as well as their new collection of handcrafted cocktails that launched earlier this month. The Yard House nearest me is the one in Mizner Park in Boca Raton. I had been to Yard House in the past, but it had been a while.
Yard House, an award-winning restaurant known for its creative cuisine and vast selection of draft beer, debuted its collection of new handcrafted cocktails using premium spirits and its own house-made citrus agave blend coupled with seasonal fruits and veggies nationwide July 13th.
“The art of cocktailing has returned,” said Gregory Howard, manager of beverage for Yard House. “In recent years shows like Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire have given new life to long forgotten drinks. Just like a good meal, creating a great cocktail also requires using premium ingredients as well as a seasoned bartender who knows his or her craft.” Howard and his team collaborated with Executive Chef Carlito Jocson in creating the new cocktail collection, which includes:
Blood & Smoke – a blood orange and ancho chili spiced margarita made with Del Maguey “Vida” Mezcal, El Jimador Silver Tequila, Ancho Reyes, Monin Blood Orange, house-made citrus agave and aromatic bitters poured into a salt-rimmed glass
Bourbon Berry Sour – made with Buffalo Trace Bourbon, house-made citrus agave, Dekuyper Razzmatazz, orange bitters with fresh raspberries for added sweetness
Hibiscus Rose – a refreshing herbal and botanical gin martini featuring Bulldog Gin, St. Germain & Lillet Blanc with orange bitters and Monin Hibiscus
Sidecar – this classic cocktail steps into the 21st century with D’Ussé VSOP Cognac, Cointreau and house-made citrus agave poured into a glass rimmed with sugar
Cucumber Citrus Tonic – a spa-like drink made with Bulldog Gin, Aperol, house-made citrus agave, tonic, freshly-sliced cucumber and orange plus orange bitters
“Just like food and fashion, cocktails are constantly evolving,” added Howard. “Pop culture tends to play a role in what is currently trending. Look what Sex and The City did for the Cosmopolitan a decade ago.”
The moment we stepped inside, I was instantly reminded that they keep the temperature set really cool in there, so if you get cold easily, here’s a tip: bring a sweater or jacket. That said, once we ordered their awesome cocktails, our internal body temperatures began to rise, lol! Soon after being shown to our table by the friendly hostess, our server Cassandra came over to introduce herself and presented us with our menus. Following came Lisa, our head server and Associate GM, Christian. Christian was eager for us to try some of their new menu items and asked if it was okay for him to have a bunch sent out. Uh…let me think about it…heck yeah! I love it when the restaurant takes the initiative and presents us with their own tasting menu.
The first two cocktails that Christian had sent out for us to try were the Bourbon Berry Sour and the Cucumber Citrus Tonic. Admittedly not much of a Bourbon drinker, I was certain that I would end up with the Cucumber Citrus Tonic, which with its fresh bits of orange and cucumber was rather “spa-like”, but I surprised myself by commandeering the Bourbon Berry Sour. The combination of the sour mix, the Razzmatazz and fresh raspberries made it palpable and quite a nice concoction.
Off to a great start, Lisa began to deliver the “House Previews” (the featured new menu items): Nashville Hot Chicken, Crispy Duck Wings, Deviled Eggs and the California Roll.
The Nashville Hot Chicken was Ah-mazing! Be forewarned: it does have a little bit of a kick to it. A self proclaimed wimp when it comes to heat, I still enjoyed it immensely. I have really been working on toughening up my tastebuds in order to build up a better tolerance and I think it has finally paid off, lol! I like the thought that went into the creation of this dish very much. The chicken was seasoned and cooked perfectly and came with a side of sweet potato pancakes (a nice twist from the overplayed chicken & waffles). Sides of buttermilk dressing and honey hot sauce, the consistency of syrup were offered as well as pickles and crispy sage. Every component on the dish played nicely together to create a cohesive and tasty dish.
Another really cool new item was the Crispy Duck Wings. I never heard of such a thing but what a brilliant idea. The wings were topped with a delicious maple glaze and sesame seeds and came with an herb salad.
Another popular item found on many menus these days are Deviled Eggs. Here at Yard House, of course theirs are prepared with a unique twist. Candied bacon (which is always a hit with me on its own or as a topping), spicy tomato sauce (now this is definitely different), sweet chili and chives. Although I applaud them on their creativity, to me the sauce made it a little too runny and was a bit messy in execution.
The star of the night was the California Roll. I have to admit, being an expert sushi eater, I usually pass on California Rolls seeing them as the roll of choice for amateurs. But hold your horses guys…this one will blow your taste buds away, I promise! First of all, they break out of the traditional 8 piece roll. Served atop a disc of crispy rice (yum), are layers of crab, tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, serranos, masago, nori, mirin soy and cilantro. It gets two thumbs up on creativity and taste for sure.
Founded in 1981, by Jay Brown and Mark Jay Katzenberg, (the two “Jays” who combined their names to form the brand that has become synonymous with Deli) TooJay’s has become a Florida institution, serving diners traditional delicatessen fare for 35 years. Now in 26 restaurants throughout the state, the original location was established on the island of Palm Beach, where it is still open and flourishing today.
In addition to all your favorites from corned beef piled high on thick slices of freshly baked rye to classic Reubens and chicken noodle soup; TooJay’s offers a host of lighter entrées as well as a diverse catering menu, a famed selection of freshly baked desserts, and homestyle comfort food entrees.
I was recently invited to dine at TooJays to experience their brunch. My friend had never been to a TooJays before and for me, it’s been a while since I’ve had something other than my usual bagel, lox and cream cheese – so this was something that we both were looking forward to. Upon our arrival, we were greeted warmly by the hostess who, once I informed her we were there for our 10:30am tasting, smiled and acknowledged that Eddie the GM was expecting us. Eddie came by to say hello and after we were seated let us know that we were free to try whatever we wanted from the menu. Our server Macie soon came over and asked if she could get us started with some coffee or Mimosas. We graciously accepted her offer of Mimosas. We were off to a good start. The breakfast menu had lots of interesting items to choose from and was categorized as follows: Omelettes & Eggs, Morning Specials (primarily a variety of French Toasts & Waffles), Breakfast Sandwiches & Wraps, Fish Platters, Baked Goods & finally A la Carte (offering everything from bacon, blintzes, corned beef hash to fruit salad). Although not on the breakfast menu, my friend and I decided we were interested in trying TooJay’s chopped liver, served with a side of veggies.
The chopped liver was presently nicely but the texture was a little too dense in our opinion and seemed to lack a little in flavor that maybe I’m used to in the way my mom has always prepared hers using tons of grated onions and chicken fat.
We decided to create our own omelette next selecting corned beef hash, spinach & provolone cheese which came with a side of home fries. This omelette was delicious. The corned beef added a nice little crunch element inside and provided the right amount of saltiness which played nicely with the spinach and cheese. We really enjoyed this dish. The home fries, although we had asked for them to be cooked well done/crispy didn’t quite live up to our expectations. The potatoes, in my opinion, had a heavy, dense consistency, although the grilled onions and peppers added a nice flavor.
The Nova Salmon Benedict caught my eye. It was made with poached eggs on an English muffin (which did an excellent job mopping up all that wonderful Hollandaise sauce in its nooks & crannies) with smoked Nova salmon, red onion, tomato & capers, topped with Hollandaise sauce. Another outstanding dish. A wonderful cross between a lox, bagel & cream cheese and an eggs benedict!
To get a full range of what this famous deli has to offer, I insisted that my friend try one of their sandwiches. We chose the classic hot pastrami which was seasoned, cured and piled sky high and served on our choice of bread, thickly sliced challah. This dish delivered on all accounts.
Although we were sufficiently satisfied from all that we had eaten, Macie asked us if we’d like to try any of their desserts. We had to try the famous Black & White cookie, how could we not?!?
As we were on our way out, we were each presented with a little surprise, a bag with assorted rugelach to enjoy later that day (or in my case the next morning). What a sweet and thoughtful gesture!
My friend and I had a really great experience at TooJays and I am thankful that I was invited to come in and really take a look at what these guys are doing here. My eyes have been opened and I can now see that they are way more than the bagel, lox & cream cheese and deli sandwiches that I have come to associate them with. Click here to take a look at their menu and see for yourself and you just may become a fan (or bigger fan) as well!
The menu at TooJays is really quite extensive. Beyond the numerous delicious traditional and classic delicatessen breakfast, lunch and dinner favorites, you’ll find a number of classic comfort food items reminiscent of a good ol’ diner. Enjoy a Mimosa like we did to kick start your morning or enjoy a glass of wine or beer with your lunch or dinner. TooJays has it all.
TooJay’s has locations in these areas:
Palm Beach, Jupiter, Boynton Beach, Boca Raton, Plantation, Coral Spring, Wellington, Stuart, Vero Beach, Melbourne, Orlando, Lake Mary, Ocee, Altamonte Springs, The Villages, Tampa, Lakeland
The TooJays that I visited is in Boca Raton, located at 2240 NW 19th Street #700
Waterstone Resort & Marina, a new, art-deco inspired waterfront resort with sophisticated coastal design and breath taking 180 degree views of Lake Boca and the Intracoastal Waterway (formerly the Boca Raton Bridge Hotel), recently welcomed Executive Chef Matt Mixon, who brings with him a new creative passion, innovative culinary vision and a new menu to Waterstone Resort & Marina and the onsite restaurants, Boca Landing and Waterstone Bar & Grill.
With a French and Italian family background, Chef Matt brings a new direction and creative cultural influences to the cuisine offered at Waterstone Resort & Marina. A graduate of the world-renowned Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France studying advanced culinary arts, Chef Matt went on to become chef de tournot at PGA National Resort & Spa and banquet sous chef at the Boca Raton Resort & Club before joining Waterstone Resort & Marina.
“Mixon has a deep passion for what he does combined with superior education and experience,” says Greg Kaylor, Waterstone’s General Manager. “We are excited for him to join the Waterstone team and add his influences from his French and Italian heritage to our cuisine.” As executive chef, Matt will oversee all food & beverage outlets, including meetings and special events’ catering, weddings, in-room dining and the poolside dining at Waterstone Bar & Grill.
I toured the property when it first opened and had been back once for dinner, but was super excited when I received an invite from Waterstone’s PR firm to come back in and try out some of the new menu items since Chef Matt took over as Executive Chef.
Boca Landing restaurant provides guests with upscale dining in an art-inspired, water-centric atmosphere. Orchestrated with local ingredients, fresh flavors and dynamic textures, the menu features seafood caught off of Florida’s coast which is then prepared with influences from Chef Matt’s French and Italian heritage. The menu showcases creative small plates, a selection of fish and meats, prepared old school and delectable made-to-order side options which are easy-to-share.
Soon after we were shown to our table, Chef Matt came over to say hello and informed us that while we were free to order anything off the menu, if we were up for it, he’d love to present us with a tasting menu. We were definitely up for it, who wouldn’t be?!?
While we waited for Chef Matt to come out with the first course, my companion and I took a look at their Specialty Cocktails menu list. My companion decided on the Rhubarb Whitney, comprised of Grey Goose, cucumber agave, fresh lime and rhubarb bitters. I wasn’t sure if I’d like it because of the bitters, but I tried it and it was surprisingly very light and tasty. I ordered the Marina Champagne Cocktail made with JP Chenet Brut, ginger liqueur, strawberry puree and fresh mint. Not only was this a gorgeous looking drink but it tasted soooooooooo good!!! So much so that instead of switching to my usual beverage choice of wine with dinner, I stuck with this cocktail.
Our server, whose name also happened to be Matt, was very attentive to our needs and brought us out a cone of house made chips with a side of house made smoked fish dip. We were told that this is compliments of the house and is brought out in place of bread. Nice!
Chef Matt soon arrived with our first plate, a trio of some of their most popular apps. House madeBurrata and Arugula Salad with Roasted Pepper, Basil and Balsamic Glaze; Black Kale Caesar made with Parmesan & creamy anchovy-black pepper vinaigrette; Fresh Crab Salad made with blue crab, arugula, hearts of palm, avocado & citrus vinaigrette. I liked each and every item on this plate. The textures and flavors were all incredibly well thought out and worked really cohesively together. The burrata was so fresh and creamy. My companion thought the kale salad was a little overdressed, but I thought it had the perfect amount. My favorite item on this plate might have been the crab salad though. The combination of the hearts of palm, avocado and crab was fantastic and I loved how the citrus gave it that extra punch of brightness really elevating the dish.
Next plate that Chef Matt presented us with was a trio of seafood specialties. Mofongo jerk mahi; Mango glazed salmon; Dijon panko crusted snapper.
Whenever I see the word “jerk” in an entree’s description, I know there’s likely going to be a level of heat that’s going to be a little too intense for my sensitive taste buds. One can never rely on someone else’s take on how hot something is or isn’t, it’s all relative. Case in point: I asked Chef Matt if this dish was going to be hot and he reassuringly nodded his head no. One bite in and I was fanning my mouth and reaching for my water glass. LOL! So, for those of you who like the heat/spiciness of jerk, you will want to give this one a try for sure. Now, I’m a huge fan of mofongo and I really enjoyed this component of the dish. I thought the salmon was season and cooked to perfection; I particularly enjoyed the light char on the top of the fish and the mango glaze. What took me by surprise was the yellowtail snapper. The dijon panko crust was amazing and the fish was so flavorful. I haven’t had snapper very often, preferring instead other fish like Chilean Sea Bass and Salmon, but when given a preparation like I had with this dish, I just may have to give it more plate time. Well at least here at Boca Landing. This snapper was, simply put, “delicious”.
While I had stuck with my Marina Champagne cocktail, my companion decided to switch to a glass of wine. He was in the mood for a Chardonnay and asked our server Matt for his recommendation. We were both impressed by what followed. Matt came back with a glass, told him what it was, where it was from and then proceeded to share with him some of the tasting notes as well.
Our final plate consisted of meats: a grilled filet mignon with a foie gras sauce and a pork belly. When I heard the words “foie gras” my eyes opened up real wide. I love me some foie gras, only I had envisioned a little heartier portion of this delicacy to appear on my plate but that was probably due to my own wishful thinking and not hearing the part about it being incorporated into the sauce. Still, the meat was season and cooked well and the sauce added depth to the flavor. The pork belly was very rich and by that, I mean fatty. But isn’t that what’s expected when one orders pork belly? Of course we weren’t expected to eat the whole thing (thank God), but the little bit we did eat was sooooo sinfully good.
At this point, as you can probably imagine, I am getting extremely full and out walks Chef Matt to see if we left room for dessert. I hesitantly said yes with the condition that he brings us out something small to try.
This is what he brought out. “The Beast”…There is NOTHING small about this dessert! (Thanks Chef Matt, hahaha) The fresh and warm chocolate chip cookie on top is paying homage to the Doubletree cookies that guests are treated to on their pillows each night. Row after row of this ginormous cake layered with chocolate and chocolate fudge, cookie crumbles, strawberries and then two scoops of delicious gelato; I was going to need a wheel chair to roll me out of there, or on second thought, having a room there would come in pretty handy (perhaps next time).
Before finishing dessert we were visited by yet another Matt (can you believe it? Three Matts in one night, all looking after us, what are the odds?) This one was the owner of the hotel. I had met Matt when his company had first purchased the property and I came for the media tour. It was nice to see Matt again, he’s a genuine, down to earth guy and you can tell he really takes an interest in the hotel and the restaurants, his staff and his guests.
My friend Edward, another server there at Boca Landing, offered to take us around the outside for a little tour. My companion hadn’t been to the property before and the first time I came the pool area hadn’t been finished yet so it was really a good idea and quite lovely as the sun was just setting.
Boca Landing has Happy Hour EVERY DAY from 4 – 7pm at the bar with half off Well Drinks, Featured House Wine & Draft Beers with select bar bites such as gourmet flatbreads, guacamole & chips, the half beet salad & hummus from $5-8.
To take a peek at their full menu, click here. For more info on The Waterstone Resort & Marina, click here.
I recently attended a media/blogger luncheon for the newly reopened Yoko San, now under new ownership/management, in Downtown Boca. The event was organized by Yoko San’s PR firm, Transmedia Group and guests were escorted to the small room to the left of the entrance where we each took a seat around the two hibachi tables. Soon after the guests had arrived, Corey Simpson, Yoko San’s new owner was introduced. Corey, an affable gentleman from the Island of Jamaica, is a new restaurateur, who had started out as an investor in Yoko San who took over full time operations when the restaurant reopened the end of January under new management. One could easily tell that Corey’s main objective is to ensure that each and every guest that visits Yoko San has an exceptional experience.
Our first course was miso soup followed by salad with ginger dressing; not surprising, pretty traditional and served at just about every hibachi restaurant. I’m torn between yearning for a fresh new take on the traditional Japanese soup and salad- something completely unique from what every other restaurant of this kind serves and the feeling of keeping with tradition; knowing that people have come to expect and count on these staples when they come to a place like this. What’s your take on this? Are you a traditionalist or someone who prefers more modern twists?
Next, a couple of trays of sushi (spicy tuna roll and CA roll) were brought out. To me, they were pretty standard, nothing that really delivered a WOW factor. They do have quite an impressive list of sushi rolls on the menu however, so I will have to come back and try some of the more exotic offerings.
Finally the Hibachi Chefs came out and the show was about to begin! Chef Victor proceeded over the table where I sat, where he began to humor us with his funny takes on “Japanese Egg Roll” and “Butter Fly” (you’ll have to sit at one of the hibachi tables there to fully appreciate these jokes). We each were given two shrimp, fried rice, hibachi vegetables and chicken & steak for our main course. There are lots of combos to choose from; just take a look at their menu to see what I mean. Everything that we were served on the hibachi was terrific. Midway through service, the Chefs switched tables and we now had the opportunity to experience Chef Billy’s charm. He’s quite the character and we’ll just leave it at that. I highly recommend you make a reservation for one of the hibachi tables, it’s quite the experience.
Corey had shared with us that they have quite the international collection of chefs back there in their kitchen. Vietnamese, Thai and somewhere else I cannot recall. He said that it’s both wonderful and challenging at the same time as sometimes he can’t understand a word that’s spoken when he goes back there, lol!
Yoko San is open for lunch, dinner and brunch on Sundays. They also have weekly special events such as Brazilian Nights every Friday night with Live Music and Drink Specials. Happy Hour drink specials every day from 5-8pm. Also every Monday, Thursday, Saturday & Sunday from 8 – 10pm- buy 2 cocktails/beer or wine and receive a sushi roll for FREE! Ladies Nights Wednesdays- Ladies enjoy 1/2 off sushi from 7 – 9pm and Free drinks from 9 – 11pm. Finally, Latin Night Thursdays – for more information on these events, please visit their website or call them at 561-430-3565