Avalon Steak & Seafood (Delray Beach, FL)
The evening began with my wife and I driving north on 95 to Delray Beach, to a restaurant entitled Avalon Steak and Seafood. We adorned some of our nicer date night attire, for an evening of classical dining with a modern twist at a not so classical looking steakhouse. A staircase leads you up into the eatery. It almost gives you a Hollywood vibe. As you rise above the rest of the places on the street, to dine at an elevated level, figuratively and literally.
As we ascended the stairs to the all-white décor, we were greeted at the door by a gentleman who led us to our seats. It was all very old worldly. He shook my hand, complimented my wife and me on our clothing. He put one hand on my shoulder and extended his other palm to guide us to our table for the evening. The restaurant was all white with pops of color from emerald green plants and the contrasting dark wine bottles behind the long white and grey marbled bar. It had the feeling of dining in Nantucket on a perfect spring evening. Large photographs on the walls. Couples coyly canoodling closely in the corners. Whispers wistfully wafting through the wind. The subtle laughter of diners and the sounds of wine glasses being swirled and clinked filled the background acoustics around us. The music played classic rock and pop hits from the 80s & 90s. The entire environment was conducive to feeling relaxed and at ease. Far removed from the heavy design of wine-colored drapery and dark wood paneling and lowlights of the yesteryear steak houses. Avalon is the antithesis of the old ways.
As we sat, our server Scottie, most likely the best server in the town, greeted us and brought us our warm bread and sparkling water. He ran over the menu as if he had written it himself.
Describing down to the smallest minutia all that embellished the plate. He then politely withdrew to give us a moment to decide our next course of action. As my lovely lady and I sat reviewing the options, I was approached by a server from Milano in a fashionable blazer.
“You’ll either love it or hate it!” I was told by the man from Milano, Italy. “There is no in-between!” he said with his Italian accent. The sharply dressed man in the Bordeaux checkered blazer, with his black slicked back stood over me as my exquisite wife sat at the table. He was speaking of the dry aged steak they were serving that evening. He’d asked if I ever had a dry aged steak before. I replied that I hadn’t and he proceeded to explain how it varied from a wet aged steak that most of us are accustomed to. He explained in his charming northern Italian accent that dry aged steaks hang in a climate-controlled room. As the meat hangs it loses moisture to evaporation. As it loses moisture the flavor of the meat becomes more concentrated and intensifies, giving it a stronger flavor and a softer texture. He quipped “Try it and if you don’t like it, I’ll eat it for you!” I was sold!
Scottie returned shortly and we proceeded to order, my wife who at the time had given up meat for the month decided to embark on the seafood portion of the menu whilst I conquered the land-dwellers. As per his recommendations along with the owners we placed our orders for the highly acclaimed “Angry Lobster” and the Charred Octopus for starters. For our sides we ordered the asparagus, French fries and the cream spinach, well I ordered the cream spinach to go along with my steak, I’ll explain later why this is a key detail that I am noting. Then for our entrees we ordered 28 Day Aged Cut Bone in Ny 18 oz and the lady ordered the Branzino with a Sauvignon Blanc.
First to the table was charred octopus with cannellini beans, pancetta, cherry tomatoes and
chimichurri. This was a delightful beginning, I had never had octopus accompanied by anything other than a bit of salt and a lemon, so the beans were a lovely addition. Next up was the highly touted Angry Lobster… the plate itself was visually stunning, a piece of edible art served before you. It was 1.25 lb. lobster split in half to expose the meat inside, swimming in a bath of a red spicy sriracha sauce with ginger. Along the side of the plate was a large perfectly thick sliced toast for dredging through the valley broth at the bottom of the bowl! It was equally as astounding to see as it was to taste. The lobster was as smooth and soft as warm butter as it slid from the shell without effort. As good as the octopus was, my wife remarked we should have ordered 2 of the Angry Lobsters instead! So, after we eviscerated the plate to bring it back to an almost sparkling appearance, we sat there enjoying the wine and the banter between ourselves and our hosts. Shortly thereafter the main courses arrived.
My steak came to the table with a very minimalist look. It was the dry aged steak on the plate
along with roasted garlic cloves still in its skin. I squeezed the garlic in my palm and the bulbs,warm and soft, oozed out like juice from an orange. My wife’s branzino came to the table and it was closed. Then a gentleman came over and opened it and removed the bones, then he opened a bowl of roasted tomatoes and herbs and spread them over the interior of the fish. As he spread them, the aroma that arose from that small glass bowl was astonishing. It was so fragrant and warm, you had to close your eyes as you inhaled the fragrant scent into your nose and let it circulate around your brain before it filled your lungs. My wife took a bite of the tomatoes and said they were the best tomatoes she’d ever eaten and just raised the taste of the fish to another plateau.
As I sat there and watched her kiss each bite of fish with more passion than she kissed me with,I turned ever so anxiously towards my own plate. I picked up the very elegant steak knife I was given. It was ever so slightly curved from the blade to the hilt and the handle was smooth and cool to the touch. In life broad strokes are usually what we notice, but it’s the tiny details that truly make a thing special. I raised my blade and sliced into my steak. It cut notably different, whereas a regular steak has a bit of give to it, lending to it slicing with a sawing effect going back and forth, this sliced right through with one downward swipe of my knife. I bit into the steak.It was unlike any steak I’ve had before. I truly thought my Italian friend was exaggerating its flavor, when in fact he hadn’t described it adequately enough. He was right about one thing; this is either a steak you will love or hate. The flavor is very intense and whereas you think you want a “juicy” steak, this isn’t that. Its texture is more subdued but its flavor is more concentrated. I can tell you I loved the steak. But for me, it just needed something else, possibly sauteed onions. Something to break up that flavor a little bit to alternate between the strength of the meat you get in each bite. Honestly, I could eat the steak again but for me an 18 oz. is too much, I could have it in a smaller version maybe 6 oz. Possibly as I eat more dry aged steaks and I will, I’ll want more of a larger size. They have a Tomahawk dry aged which I plan on working my way up to as I become more adapted to the taste. I suggest anyone who loves steak to voyage to the dry aged side. I would also love to get a great bodied red wine with it next time. A great pairing with that steak would almost be religious!
As we dined and chatted about life and the food we were eating, my wife mentioned she wasn’t too thrilled with her asparagus and asked if she could try some of my spinach. As any married man will tell you, nothing tastes better to a woman than the food she DIDN’T order! I was enjoying my cream spinach very much, yet I decided against my better judgment and told her to go ahead take some. She took a small spoon to try it, remarked it was good then took a larger spoon. Then another followed very closely and rapidly by another and another… My bowl of spinach was vanishing as quickly as a magician’s assistant!
She looked at me with eyes opened wide and exclaimed this was THE BEST SPINACH she’s EVER HAD!!! My wife isn’t one for hyperbole or overstatements. She spoke about the spinach in the restaurant, later in the car on the way home, the next morning and when she warmed up the leftovers the next day she asked that I call Avalon to see if they’d divulge their recipe so I can try and recreate it here at home for her!
The evening ended with a cheesecake and a chocolate cake. The chocolate cake looked
pleasant enough for a dessert, but it tasted much better than its presentation. The cheesecake was good as well, but the chocolate very much outshined its neighbor on the plate.
Overall Avalon was a welcome change from the middling dark, closed off, cigar smoke filled
steak houses of lower Manhattan. It was an elevated, open, bright venue with impeccably
dressed hosts that escort you to your table and pull your chairs out. The wait staff, especially
Scottie were upbeat, fun and professional making you feel comfortable and royal
simultaneously. Glasses were filled before you noticed they were empty; conversations and
check ins were welcomed without being overbearing or intrusive. The food was exceptional. As my wife swooned over spinach and roasted tomatoes over branzino, I ventured into the world of dark full flavors of dry aged steaks and angry lobsters. The evening was a complete smash, garnering the highest praise there is, the promise of repeat patronage from my wife and I, much sooner than later.
Written By: Kelvin M. Bayne