By Jan Norris
Lionfish, the coronavirus-delayed seafood restaurant on Atlantic Avenue, has opened to what appears to be capacity, now with restaurant restrictions lifted.
The restaurant, spawned in San Diego, serves up its namesake catch — whole lionfish fried and in ceviche — along with other sustainable seafood choices. Its menu is approachable for all who come, according to Scott Diel, marketing director for the restaurant’s parent company, Clique Hospitality.
“We have wagyu beef for those who want meat, and vegetarian offerings, too. Salads, and small plates to share,” he said.
It’s trendy, leaning toward West Coast U.S. preparations, with Asian flavors mixed in. The thin beef slices are cooked at the table on heated lava rocks.
Catch as catch can, however: The lionfish, a sweet, flaky, non-oily fish, often sells out. “It only has about a 20% yield” — all the chef can get off each bony carcass, says Diel, so it takes a lot of fish to cover the orders.
The invasive fish decimating Florida reefs are easy to catch — spear-fishermen simply swim right up to the slow swimmers — but they are difficult to handle and clean because of their poisonous spines. The market for them is still sparse.
Originally set to open in spring, the restaurant was locked down while the virus rules were in place. While on the four-month delay, the principals redesigned the food and decor of Johnny Brown’s, the bar and grill popular with locals that they acquired next door to Lionfish.
During the lockdown, chef Johnny Demartini, a Delray veteran of Max’s Harvest and Death or Glory, worked with managing partner Craig O’Keefe and general manager Sean Fundiller to fine-tune menus, the wine list and staffing to be ready once restrictions were lifted, Diel said.
“We made the decision not to open with a limited menu or takeout — we wanted the guests to get the full experience. We think it was worth waiting.”
The build-out of the former Luigi’s pizzeria transformed the room from a dark, red brick-lined space into a sleek open room with white brick and painted ceiling — one that hides a treasure, Diel said. It’s a vintage Tiffany stained glass semi-dome, covered up, but still intact behind the new decorated ceiling.
Crowds have surprised them, and extra staff was hired to handle diners.
“We didn’t know what to expect,” Diel said. “We were expecting maybe 50 or 60%, but we were packed when we opened.”
People were ready to get out at last, he said, and eager to try the new spot. “Imagine what it’s going to be like once we’re back to more normal circumstances.”
Lionfish, 307 E. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach. Phone 561-639-8700; www.lionfishdelray.com. Open for dinner daily at 4 p.m.; brunch at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday by reservation.
Thanksgiving is still iffy for people who choose not to hold big family affairs indoors. Some are planning to move their traditional meals outside — an easy move in South Florida.
Some ideas for holding dinner outdoors:
Don’t fuss. All the fancy linens, china and glassware — use only if you have stable tables, a lot of help to carry it in and out, and trusted hands to do it. Don’t use family heirlooms that are more easily broken in a picnic or poolside setting.
This really is the year to use pretty plastic plates and serving ware (the dollar stores and party stores are great for these) and natural decorations and to keep preparations simple. Do use real flatware. Plastic forks and knives just aren’t adequate.
Have a potluck: An outdoor dine-around is convivial by nature, and most guests like to participate. The host provides the main dish. Consider buying a smoked turkey, or cooking your turkey on the grill. Spatchcock it first (go to YouTube for instructions) to have it done in time. For only a few guests, consider making Cornish hens or a turkey breast. Either way, carve meats at the last minute so they stay warm.
Have help to serve the food individually if a buffet setup is risky for your group.
Prepare for South Florida bugs and have a Plan B for weather: Have covers for your foods to protect them from insects, citronella candles for mosquitoes, and borrow a canopy or big umbrellas to set up under if rain is a threat.
The golden rule: If you’re an invited guest, RSVP and commit as soon as possible. It’s rude to keep a host guessing — especially this year.
Thanksgiving is also a big day for restaurants in South Florida, but changes in 2020 may affect how many will serve traditionally.
Some eateries are doing away with the usual buffets, but going for multicourse served meals, set up with outdoor seating.
The Farmer’s Table in Boca Raton is planning a patio feast, a three-course traditional Thanksgiving meal, inside and outdoors in its courtyard Thanksgiving Day. Choices include those for vegetarians and vegans; cost is $59.95 for adults, $29.95 kids 10 and under. Reservations are required. A takeout dinner for people who want their food at home also is available; visit www.dinefarmerstable.com for details.
Taru at the Sundy House in Delray Beach also plans Thanksgiving outdoors in its acclaimed garden. Chef James Strine will prepare a Thanksgiving Day “buffet” — served from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Turkey, ham, salmon and prime rib are among the entrees; traditional sides and starters are featured. Cost is $75 for adults; children under 12 are half price. Reservations are suggested through www.sundyhouse.com.
Also new at Sundy House is an omakase pop-up called Kojin. It is available for only 10 diners per meal, two seatings per night, Thursday, Friday and Saturday with reservations a must. The chef prepares a dinner with the menu “left up to the chef,” as it is translated from Japanese. The Asian-profile meal is prepared in one of the guest suites on the property. Cost for the dinner is $100 per person, with a $25 deposit required.
Caffe Luna Rosa in Delray Beach will prepare Thanksgiving at its alfresco restaurant on the beach. Chef Ernie DeBlasi will have organic roast turkey and all the trimmings as a menu choice for $29, along with other special entrees as well as the regular menu on Thanksgiving Day. Reservations are strongly suggested; www.caffelunarosa.com.
It’s greenmarket time, but COVID-19 has interrupted their schedules and canceled at least one.
Protocols set by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and cities will affect how goods are presented, as well. Expect individual sealed samples rather than tastes from communal dishes, if they are offered, and sealed foods will be more prevalent. Market vendors will pack fresh produce for shoppers rather than offering open bins, in some cases.
The Delray Beach GreenMarket, now open, celebrates its 25th season. It’s in Old School Square Park, and the 60-plus vendors are set up to follow all the protocols in place for outdoor gatherings. Masks are encouraged for shopping, as is social distancing. This market is known for its gluten-free offerings among its fresh produce and prepared foods.
The newly named Lake Worth Beach Waterside Farmers Market will reopen Nov. 14. This is its 15th season beside the Lake Avenue bridge at A1A, northeast side. A variety of produce, fresh flowers, baked goods, plants and handcrafted goods are at this dog-friendly market. Breakfast is available on site, and there’s live music, as well.
Emily Lily, coordinator for Boca Raton’s Greenmarket, said this year has proven too iffy to do a market in the fall, and by spring, it’s too late. “It takes a lot of planning,” she said. Organizers decided to suspend the market altogether this season.
While its farm stores will be open, Bedner’s Farm Market in Boynton Beach decided to cancel its fall activities on the farm. “A difficult decision,” its website says, made to protect customers and staff.
In brief: Old dogs, new tricks: That’s the move from longtime restaurateur Henry Olmino of Mario’s on Ocean Avenue in Lantana. He recently took the plunge in the middle of the pandemic to open Fire and Ice, a casual spot serving pizza, wings, pastas and other comfort foods at 707 Lake Ave., Lake Worth Beach. Open for dinner daily, and Sunday brunch. ... Meals on Wheels is selling Thanksgiving pies made by area chefs for its annual Pie It Forward fundraiser and has added Delray Beach as a pickup point. Pies are on sale now for $30 and $35. Pickup is Nov. 24 at Duffy’s, 1750 S. Federal Highway, Delray Beach. To order, visit www.mealsonwheelspalmbeaches.org.
Jan Norris is a food writer who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org