Jan Norris: Food and Florida

Food, Restaurants, Recipes and Pre-Disney Florida

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EatBeat: Cabana’s Back, and B.B. King’s Chicken Rocks — Along with Derek Mack’s Band

December 22nd, 2009 · No Comments

There will be salsa beats emanating from the new/old Cabana restaurant as it kicks off its grand re-opening on the west end of Clematis.

A fixture since 2002 across from the old library on the Flagler end of downtown’s Clematis Street, Cabana moved down the street during the library demolition. It will swing in its new 4,000-square-foot space with most of the old favorites on the menu and Latin tunes throughout.

Beautiful bar

A lit-from-below bar curves into the room, while soft-lit tables fall under amber pendant lights. Leatherette seats and dark and light woods complement the room. There’s patio seating as well as plenty of tables spread among the palms evocative of a Latin supper club.

Myriad flavors

“Nuevo Latino” fare is spread among Latin cuisines – flavors and techniques on the plates are from Puerto Rico, Cuba, Dominica and South America. Empanadas, paella, the signature coco-Cabana spicy curry mix, which gives diners a choice of meats or vegetarian additions, the yuca fritas with garlic mojo – winners all.  (We personally recommend all their shrimp dishes; sausage lovers will not want to miss their parrillada – a very tasty mixed grill.)

Originally from New York

Cabana, now with five locations, including one in Delray Beach on Atlantic Avenue, is originally from Forest Hills, N.Y. It gets high marks from Zagat surveyors, who like the trendy vibe and good food with reasonable prices.

Tonight’s a private party, but it’s open daily after that.

Cabana Restaurant

  • 533 Clematis St., West Palm Beach
  • 561-833-4773; web site: www.cabanarestaurant.com
  • Open for lunch and dinner, from 11:30 a.m.

B.B. King’s Blues Club delivers on most important foods

I got to try the foods at B.B. King’s new spot in CityPlace last week – there was a VIP party for media types and friends, lawyers, etc.

A lot of times, at these events, the foods are so-so; the entertainment rather canned. Not so here.

I was delighted with the catfish bites my friend, Leslie Streeter, from The Post, recommended. I have never understood why more people don’t eat catfish – it’s a tasty fish. This was an off-the-bone bite-sized hors d’oeuvre and had a plain tartar sauce with it. Just right; hot, tender and no heavy breading.

Love the shots

Going for ribs next time

The bloody Mary oyster-shrimp shots wowed me, even though the shrimp were a little overdone. It can happen when shrimp are soaked in tomato juice – the acidity cooks the shrimp even more, so chefs need to be careful not to overdo them from the start for those dishes. They were feeding the masses, so they’re forgiven this time.

I wanted more — any excuse to eat oysters in the winter – but restrained myself since I  to drive and all that unpleasantness.

Cheery and helpful staff so far

Speaking of unpleasantness – don’t expect any here: The wait staff was crazy cheery and polite. Even on the phone — when I encounter mostly dimwits who don’t seem to know the address, or hours or any other pertinent questions – the gal who answered my queries explained the late-night hour flex:- “till the crowd thins” would be the way to say it.

She also was quick to point out they have priority seating, though no reservations. Call ahead to get your name on a waiting list; you rise to the top once you arrive.

Fried chicken a real test

The fried chicken was the key, however. It was make-or-break time when these breast halves, boneless and skewered, rolled out. A Southern cook is always watching this one. It had to be crisp, with no signs of Yankee breadcrumbs, preferably buttermilk involved in the soaking, and a moist and tender inside. It was all that and more – thankfully.

I can’t wait to get back and try their fried pickles and ribs; Southern cooking isn’t exactly on every street corner down here, and when I find it done well, I’m there — even if it means having to deal with CityPlace’s noxious parking garages that always end up costing me a fortune.

As for the music, the B.B. King house band rocks – those horns are killer! – but let me tell you how much I loved the opening band from our own Riviera Beach, the Derek Mack Band. Totally tight and right!

I’m very excited to have a place to finally go and hear decent live music and notable blues and jazz bands.

B.B. King Blues Club

  • 550 S. Rosemary Ave. (CityPlace; 2nd level), West Palm Beach
  • 561-420-8600; web site: www.bbkingclubs.com
  • Open daily lunch, dinner and late night, from 11 a.m. No reservations, but call ahead for priority seating.
  • Live music daily, usually from 6 p.m. – check schedule online.

Tags: The Eat Beat: Restaurant News

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