Entering the palm tree lined circular driveway of the Boca Raton Resort & Club is a lovely experience. An icon of elegance for more than 80 years, it remains faithful to its glamorous past, but it radiates a new and vibrant energy. I am in awe of the dramatic Marinetti dog sculpture in the front courtyard and the huge bronzes by renowned sculptors Hans Van de Bovenkamp and Bill Barrett. All this and more, before I have even entered the front door. The resort is a natural gallery of museum quality sculpture and art, and a self-guided walking tour is on my agenda. With sixteen innovative dining and entertainment venues under one roof, and a private beach club, there is more than enough gratification for me. My mission: no need to go elsewhere until the limo takes me back to the airport.
Clever design has created small and intimate restaurants. Morimoto Sushi Bar, created by Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef fame, is an otherworldly experience. I am lost in the infinite series of the sea. The entire wall behind the white marble sushi counter is an ever-changing sea video, waving sea grass, swimming fish and it is mesmerizing. “Can you tell water from air,” asks the screen. Well, yes I can, and I can also recognize exemplary sushi when it’s put in front of me. Tuna is cut in cubes and dressed to the nines – no ginger and wasabi required. Maki rolls are splendid compilations of land and sea. It is quiet here, we are “appreciating” and enjoying this acutely modern Japanese style.
Precious old world grandeur has been restored at the fiercely romantic Lucca. The ambiance is Tuscany, with hand blown glass chandeliers and a ceramic tile mural at the vast, arched, open hearth and wood burning oven. The cuisine is honest and simple, modern Italian. A grapefruit-sized artichoke, filled with Pecorino and breadcrumbs, aromatic with garlic and lemon is a must have. Oysters, surprisingly, are ours from P.E.I and B.C.; grilled swordfish; and USDA prime steaks in the classic Italian style are what this clientele comes in for. The cuisine at Lucca, like its namesake, never changes.
Andrew Roenbeck has been Executive Chef here for twenty-one years, and slowly and creatively he has brought the dining at the resort to the point where classic meets contemporary and has a happy marriage. He makes every day a challenge, refusing to feel “comfortable” in his job. “My job,” he says, “is to stay current and teach my young culinarians to move forward.”
From Italy to New York is an elevator ride to Cielo on the 27th floor of the tower. A window wall winds around the tower and, from our white leather booth, we see the bright lights of the city below us. This high-in-the-sky ambience seems to aid and abet romance. The bar at Cielo rocks. ‘Nuff said. The classic steak and fish dinner menu is spiked with Middle Eastern flavour hits which always add interest. One can linger here with just one more glass of wine until closing.
In an on-going New York state of mind, there is Serendipity, the legendary dessert restaurant. Frozen hot chocolate, ice cream and candy in an atmosphere of pure fun, unadulterated by any judgemental attitude. So what if I want cookies, ice cream sprinkled with candy and a cup-cake. Bring it on. The gorgeous Beach Club is a short private bus ride away. Sand, sea and sunshine, poolside luxury – that’s really what it’s all about. Until dinner time, when we stay with the theme and enjoy the SeaGrille Restaurant overlooking the Atlantic Ocean from the fourth floor. Shall we sit indoors or out?
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A blood orange Margarita with its hint of Jalapeno is an eloquent beginning. The oceanic drama unfolds with a grouper filet brought on a huge slab of Pink Himalayan salt. Then, a sweet tooth’s prayer answered, magnificent eight-inch high Key Lime pie, with quivering soft meringue; chocolate cake has many frosted layers enrobed with a generous pour of hot chocolate sauce.
Intense dining is exhausting. I visit the handsome Spa Palazzo, inspired by the legendary Alhambra Palace in Spain. My masseur, a European ex-body-builder is available for a Diamond Dust massage which is as stimulating and relaxing as its name implies.
In the limo on the way to the airport, well-fed, buffed and polished, I smile to myself: mission accomplished.
Sara Waxman is an award-winning restaurant critic, best-selling cookbook author, food and travel journalist and has eaten her way through much of the free world for four decades, while writing about it in books, newspapers and magazines. She is the Editor in Chief of DINE and Destinations magazine.