The Dish on Buccan

For the past few months, everyone’s been talking about Buccan (boo-cahn), a new restaurant in Palm Beach. One visit and you will understand why.

Its open, airy design with high ceilings has a modern casual flair that creates a lovely comfortable atmosphere. There are large windows throughout the space adding a lot of natural light and openness. The design also includes an exposed kitchen including a separate raw bar in the rear of the restaurant that is conducive to the open theme.

In addition to a well-designed bar, there is a lounge area that offers numerous seating arrangements including hightops and groupings of plush comfortable chairs and sofas.

The menu, which has been categorized as “progressive American,” is eclectic and features lots of small plate choices with categories such as pinchos, raw, green, crispy, flour and water, wood-fire roasted and grilled. It is printed daily and changes regularly, especially items such as the pizzas, pastas, salads, and fish.

Buccan’s owner/acclaimed chef is Clay Conley from Azul in Miami (also former culinary director of the Todd English Group). I had a brief visit with Chef Conley (who just happens to be adorable) and he pointed out a few of the restaurant’s distinguishing features such as the large rectangular communal dining room table and the two chef’s tables which overlook the kitchen. He said that they don’t offer a separate menu for the chef’s tables but they usually throw in a few extras.

Chef Conley also provided me with some insight on the restaurant’s name and what inspires him: “Buccan is a native South American term for a wooden framework on which meat was roasted or smoked over a fire, similar to the original meaning of a barbecue. I love to utilize wood fire in my dishes, so the term truly speaks to the concept. While, of course, seasonal produce inspires my dishes, anything can also inspire something. Like the hot dog panini with gruyere, sauerkraut and chili was inspired by my love for a Reuben sandwich and a Superbowl party I attended. The shrimp dumplings with pork belly, bonito flakes, and brussel sprouts are play on some favorite foods from Japan. Traveling, reading and eating out all inspire me.”

As we slide into two bar stools, the bartender, Courtney, is warm, welcoming and enthusiastic in discussing the menu. Diane and I ask her to recommend a few dishes to start. She immediately suggests the mussels in a curry coconut broth, ($12) and the Greek flatbread ($14). The mussels and the sauce are incredibly flavorful. The flatbread is perfectly done – thin and crispy topped with a mini Greek salad – very delicious. Next we order the gnocchi sausage Bolognese ($12 for half portion) (of course, two Italian girls know how to critique pasta). The sauce is superb and the gnocchi just melts in your mouth. We loved it.

It’s around 7pm and the restaurant is really starting to buzz. The bar and lounge area are filling up with an attractive, sophisticated crowd. We stay ‘til around 9pm and by the time we leave the place is packed. Word is that it will remain full up until closing and has been this way since it opened a few months ago.

Since we ate at the bar, we had an opportunity to talk to a few of the “regulars,” who shared their excitement about Buccan with us. The general consensus was sheer joy.

Buccan is open 7 days a week for dinner starting at 4pm with a happy hour (1/2 price drinks, wine and beer) from 4pm to 7pm. They also have a brunch menu on Sundays and feature music nightly after 9pm.

Check it out. It’s an exciting new addition to the local scene.

Buccan is located at 350 S. County Road, Palm Beach (t/833-3450). Their web site iswww.buccanpalmbeach.comand they offer complimentary valet parking.

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