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EatBeat: Clay Conley’s Buccan Now Open in Palm Beach

January 26th, 2011 · No Comments


Notable chef Clay Conley has opened Buccan in Palm Beach – a modern grill with international, eclectic cuisine and wood-fired cooking. Conley’s formerly of Azul in Miami and was Todd English’s corporate chef for more than a decade, traveling around the world opening Olives restaurants.

Named for a wood frame grill common in the Caribbean (said to be the root of buccaneers), the restaurant features rustic fare from a wood-fired grill and oven. It’s in the former Beach Bistro (also Galaxy Grille).

“It’s a dream 10 years in the making,” Conley said. “It’s exciting and makes you a little nervous. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Hot dog tops menu favorites

The menu’s composed of a number of small plates.  So far, a Hot Dog Panini tops the customer favorites list, he said. At $12, diners get a Niman Ranch natural beef hot dog, cooked on the wood-fire grill, with a pizza dough bun. It’s served with a three-mustard aioli, sauerkraut braised in bacon with carraway. On top is an aged Gruyere, seared till crispy in a brick oven and on the side: a ramekin of chili.

“They’re really popular,” Conley said.

He likes the brandade, a traditional Spanish dish of milk-poached salt cod and fresh cod served with ratatouille, with an olive vinaegrette and grilled bread. A shellfish paella is wood roasted as is the lamb shank tagine with eggplant.

From the wood fire, there’s barbecued quail with a sweet potato puree, a Colorado lamb scottadito with harissa, Korean-style shortribs glazed with sesame and served with a cuke salad.

A raw bar, nibbles such as marinated white anchovies, a mushroom springroll, house-made pickles and olives are on the menu as “Pinchos.”

The “Flour & Water” section of the menu features ramen noodles with pork broth, soy, a poached egg and nori; a gnocchi Bolognese; squash ravioli with a brown butter sage sauce; shrimp dumplings with pork belly and bonito flakes, served with brussel sprouts, and a squid ink orrechiette with sausage and conch.

A Swank Farms whole baby kale salad with pine nuts and currants and lemon vinaigrette, a wood-fired cauliflower “grenobloise” with almonds, capers and parsley are other small plates.

Wallet-friendly for Palm Beach

“Everybody says we’re cheap for Palm Beach,” Conley said. Most of his small plates are in the $12 range; pricier plates such as paella ($38) and the lamb tagine ($29) could be shared.

“We’re building a concept where people can come frequently during the week. It’s approachable,” he said. “This has always been the way I like to eat – to try different things. It’s rustic – more to my roots.”

The menu will change often in the first month then with seasonal items, he said. “There will be things that will become classics, but we’ll be changing a big portion of it regularly. Right now, we’re still playing every day.”

A Maine native world-traveled

Conley’s from rural Maine, but went to college at Florida State after a stint at Tulane University. He worked with Boston restaurateur Todd English for a decade, becoming corporate chef and opening restaurants for English around the country and in Japan. Nearly six years ago, he landed at Azul in Miami, and won critical acclaim for his menu and style.

He partnered with Palm Beacher Piper Quinn and Sam Slattery, both from English’s restaurants. Slattery’s specialty is opening and staffing restaurants; Quinn will be helping out in the restaurant occasionally.

There are 150 seats in the former space occupied by the Beach House Bistro (before that, Galaxy Grille). An outside dining area was approved for the Beach House but was never built. Conley says he plans to pursue it to add patio seating. It’s an open modern restaurant, with a casual feel.

Lunch and Sunday Brunch will eventually be served, but “right now, we just want to get dinner down,” Conley said.

Is another Buccan planned? Conley said, “I don’t like to think that way right now. Let me get this one going first.”


  • 350 S. County Road (at corner of Australian), Palm Beach
  • 561-833-3450; www.buccanpalmbeach.com
  • Open for dinner only; lunch and Sunday brunch coming in late February

Tags: Talking Tables · The Eat Beat: Restaurant News

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