The area in West Palm that flanks Dixie Highway has long been known as Antique Alley for the preponderance of antique and vintage furniture stores. As far as dining goes, it was a vast wasteland, until recently. Several new restaurants have popped up in the past couple of years and the latest, Basque in the historic Hotel Biba, has got to be one of the best dining experiences, not just in the area, but in all of South Florida. What’s even more amazing is that the majority of the food is prepared and served out of a food truck.
This is not just any food truck, it is a 22-foot mobile kitchen, custom designed by executive chef Miguel Rebolledo and marketing executive and hospitality consultant Manuel Bornia. The pair solved a problem facing Biba Hotel owners Ali Amirniroum and Morad Amirsaleh, when they converted one of the earliest motor lodges in the country into a boutique hotel; there was no room for a kitchen and dining room necessary for such an upscale property. Since Hotel Biba is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, renovations had to meet strict guidelines. Their solution; turn the chic and intimate main building into a bar, with a small dining area and turn the 4,000 square foot courtyard into an outdoor dining room complete with a retractable cover. Necessity was more than the mother of invention here, it was the stimulus for one of the most unique dining concepts in the area.
Of course, none of that would matter if the food didn’t live up to the surroundings, and it does so admirably! The menu focuses on Spanish tapas, entrees and paella primarily prepared in the food truck (salads and other cold dishes are prepared in a small pantry in the bar room and a great deal of prep work is done in an off-site commissary). The menu is designed by Rebolledo, whose previous credits include stints at Spain’s famed El Bulli, once deemed to be the world’s best restaurant, Jose Andres’ food truck, and Pepe, in Washington D.C.
The tapas menu consists of fourteen dishes, ranging from classics, such as; dates with applewood-smoked bacon, grilled shrimp and scallops, patatas bravas, croquettes and tortilla Española, the traditional Spanish omelet, to more modern interpretations of the oeuvre, such as; dragon fruit tuna tartar, sautéed rainbow cauliflower, and Japanese eggplant tempura.
If you like octopus (and even if you think you don’t) you must try the grilled octopus salad. Far from the rubbery seafood too often served, the octopus literally melts on your tongue. This dish would win over even the pickiest eater. Tapas and starters range in price from $6 to $24 and are meant to be shared.
Diners who prefer an entrée portion can opt for the Platos section, which include crispy local lion fish, salmon papillote, and carne asada. Paella options include Paella La Floridian (featuring local shrimp, clams, fish, and calamari as well as a vegan version, and fideo, similar to paella but subbing tiny pasta for the rice. These dishes range in price from $29 to $34 and serve two to four people as an entrée. Basque’s menu features 18 vegetarian items, 12 of which are vegan.
No matter how you make your way through the menu, you must order the restaurant’s signature dessert; Oops! I Dropped the Ice Cream. The dish arrives looking as if someone did, indeed drop their ice cream cone in the sand. The plate is coated with a butter cookie mousse topped with small scoops of house-made chocolate-honey and pistachio-cheesecake ice creams and topped with quince cream. The dish is $10 and is big enough to be shared, but you won’t want to.
The full bar offers an innovative, hand-crafted cocktail program, red, white and rosé sangria, a reasonably priced, approachable Spanish wine list, and frozen cocktails. Basque is also the exclusive Palm Beach County purveyor of Spain’s Estrella beer.
320 Belvedere Rd., West Palm Beach
Death or Glory
116 NE 6th Ave, Delray Beach
Death or Glory, is another new spot located in an historic property; Delray Beach’s Falcon House. The trendy spot has opened a tiki patio along the north side of the building, and to celebrate, will be offering monthly tiki dinners. The next tiki dinner will be Apr. 25, with subsequent repasts scheduled for May 30 and June 20. The four-course tiki dinners feature a pupu platter of appetizers, tuna poke and Spam fried rice, and dessert all paired with tiki cocktails. Cost for the dinner is $65 and reservations are suggested.