A great thing happens in Palm Beach County during the summer: The snowbirds return to the North. For me, mainly that means a shorter commute to work and less time spent cursing at other drivers in my car. But it is also signifies the start of something else: time to pretend I’m rich and play on the island of Palm Beach.
As the town’s wealthy seasonal residents empty out for the summer, the restaurants lure new guests in with summer specials. This means a chance to try some of the best (read: expensive) restaurants in the area for a fraction of the cost.
My dream is to someday have the famous Sunday brunch at The Breakers (Can we talk about the fact that it has more than 30 desserts? Sounds like Heaven freakin’ on Earth.), but as far as I can see that’s still $90 and just a leetle out of my price range. My mom told me sometimes they lower the price during the summer, but I can’t find any indication that they are this year.
Nonetheless, there are still plenty of good options. I tried two this past week. Testa’s, which has been a staple on the island for 90 years, offers authentic old-fashioned Palm Beach dining. The restaurant opened when the town of Palm Beach was only 10 years old. You can’t beat Testa’s sunset menu, which is easily the best meal deal on the island. For $14.99, the three-course menu includes an appetizer (garden salad, garlic bread or eggplant), entree (everything from seafood to chicken pasta to steak) and dessert (ice cream, but can be upgraded for $2.95 to one of the restaurant’s signature desserts).
But the one I was really excited to try? Michelle Bernstein’s restaurant at The Omphoy Ocean Resort.
Michelle Bernstein got me to eat octopus. My parents have officially been owned. All the work that they’ve done for 23 years to try to get me to eat seafood was one-upped in seconds as Bernstein herself delivered a small bowl of the grilled octopus starter to our table at The Omphoy Ocean Resort in Palm Beach.
Let’s be real. If anybody could get me to eat a dish as exotic as octopus, it would be Bernstein. One of the best parts of my job is how often I get to eat at great restaurants. I hear “chef talk” often, and Michelle Bernstein is a name I hear over and over again. Called the “Best Chef in the Southern United States” by the James Beard Foundation, her restaurant has been toward the top of my dining out to-do list basically since I started a dining out to-do list.
Last week I got to sample the restaurant’s summer prixe-fixe menu. For $35, you get an appetizer, entree and dessert. For a price comparison, on the normal dinner menu at Bernstein’s an entree alone averages $33 and an appetizer averages about $15. That’s nearly $50, without a dessert. I’d say the $35 for a complete meal – complete with a view of the ocean – is totally worth it, considering it will probably be the best meal you have all summer.
As for the octopus, the fear of eating creatures from under the sea that I’ve held onto since childhood was instantly forgotten as I munched on the dish, which contained fava-bean hummus, celery and fava-bean salad, lemon vinaigrette and, of course, grilled octopus. It didn’t even taste like octopus! Actually, let me correct myself. It didn’t taste how I thought octopus would. I’d always assumed octopus would be well, I can’t think of any other way to say it, disgusting. But Michelle Bernstein’s would be better described by another D-word: delicious.
Some of my favorite dishes (thanks Kelly of Shamin Abas PR for the pictures!):
A peek at the “PB Taste” three-course menu at Michelle Bernstein’s
$35; Available Sunday to Thursday
Shrimp Tiradito: chilled shrimp, soy, peruvian delicately spicy sauce, popcorn
Watermelon Greek: tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese
Gnocchi Carbonara: fresh peas, melting cheese, prosciutto
Veal Scallopine: celery puree, cherries, capers, lemons
Salmon: corn puree, succotash, shaved fennel salad
Chick Pea Panisse: stewed tomatoes, kale, mushrooms
Hot Chocolate Filled Doughnuts: with caramel pot the crème
Mini Ice Cream Sandwiches: minty chocolate
Passion Fruit Panna Cotta: orange gelee, seasonal fruit