Three new restaurants will open soon in East Boca. Mizner Park will host two of them. Ouzo Bay will open in the space formerly occupied by the Jazziz nightclub. Ouzo Bay has one other location, in Baltmore, and is part of the Atlas Restaurant Group which also has the Azumi (Japanese) and Loch Bar (seafood) restaurants in Baltimore. This appears to be their first venture outside of Maryland.
Replacing Ruby Tuesday in Mizner Park will be Junior’s Restaurant, a New York City based restaurant that is best known for its cheesecake. We’ve had their cheesecake, love it, and gained 10 pounds just by hearing the news.
Last and probably not least, Louie Bossi will open in the new Hyatt Place hotel. The building is under construction now at 120 East Palmetto Park Road (near Federal Highway). This is a second location for Louie Bossi. The original is on Las Olas in Fort Lauderdale.
One of the perks of running West Boca News is we get invited (free) to shows and media dinners. Earlier this week we took advantage of this and enjoyed an early look at the updated Renzo’s of Boca on Federal Highway north of Yamato.
Renzo’s was recently bought by Chef Angelo Romano, the owner of Paradiso Ristorante in Lake Worth. Romano is working with Marco Turano to run the place. Both were pleasant and demonstrated a clear business sense which will hopefully mean Renzo’s will be around for a long time.
The event started with some specialty cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, including an eggnog drink, a meat and cheese platter, and ceviche/crudo. All were good, though the drink may have been a bit strong for some.
When we sat down we were served wine (choice of red or white, or both). The meal started with a plate of four appetizers including calamari Salad, burrata (fresh mozzarella) with pickled eggplant, beet & apple salad, and tuna carpaccio.
The next course included fiocchetti with pear, gorgonzola and walnuts (left); gnocchi in vodka sauce (right), and risotto frutti di mare.
Then came the fish course with pistachio encrusted branzino and shrimp zingara.
For the meat course we were served a veal meatball over sheep ricotta.
Last but not least was a ricotta cheesecake. I’m a huge fan of traditional New York style cheesecake and normally don’t like too many variations including the ricotta versions. But this one was wonderful.
We liked every course. My guest’s favorites included the veal meatball, the branzino, the beet and apple salad, and she loved the cheesecake. I liked all of those and also thought the burrata and tuna were outstanding.
Entrees start at over $25 and run up to the low 40s. $9 seems like a lot for a bowl of soup or a Caesar salad. Some of the other appetizers are double that. Overall the menu seemed pricey though not absurd considering the quality.
A rose by any other name? Our list of East Boca restaurant inspections is topped by a restaurant now named “Magical Rice,” on Federal Highway. Their early March inspection revealed a total of 39 violations including 7 marked high priority.
Bare hand contact with ready-to-eat food while the establishment is under a foodborne illness investigation. Employee cutting vegetables with his bare hands . Gloves worn. **Corrected On-Site**
Employee failed to wash hands before putting on gloves to work with food. **Corrected On-Site**
Nonfood-grade containers used for food storage – direct contact with food. Cooked chicken stored in non food grade bags in walkin freezer.
Potentially hazardous (time/temperature control for safety) food prepared from/mixed with ingredient(s) at ambient temperature not cooled to 41 degrees Fahrenheit within 4 hours. Initial temperature of Shrimp 45 to 46° F , 2nd temp within 1 hr between 43 to 52° F. Cooling for 2 hrs at flip top cooler in cookline. At current rate of cooling the product will not cool to 41° F within 4 hrs. Added ice to rapid cool. Maintain lid closed on flip top cooler. Corrective action taken.
Raw animal food stored over/with ready-to-eat food in walk-in freezer – not all products commercially packaged. Raw chicken over cooked pork. **Corrected On-Site**
Raw animal foods not properly separated from one another based upon minimum required cooking temperature in walk-in freezer – all products not commercially packaged. Raw chicken next to and touching raw pork . **Corrected On-Site**
Toxic substance/chemical stored by or with clean or in-use utensils. Degreaser next to clean pots at cookline. **Corrected On-Site**
Per their website they used to be Pine Garden restaurant, which had poor inspection reports in August and May of 2014. It appears the name change did not magically improve things.
In second place, but possibly worse, Nino’s of Boca II on NE 5th had a bad run with 6 inspections over the past month including three temporary closures. At its worst, the February 12th inspection showed 28 violations including this:
Rodent activity present as evidenced by rodent droppings found, approx. 100 fresh and 50 dry under pizza oven. Approx. 50 both fresh and dry under prep table next to pizza oven. Approx. 30 fresh on prep table shelf next to pizza oven. 2 fresh on dough shelf above prep table. Approx. 15 fresh under reach in cooler at pizza station. Approx. 15 fresh under reach in cooler on cook line. Approx. 20 fresh by fryer. Approx. 20 fresh under prep table in kitchen with slicer. 4 fresh under table by walk in cooler. Approx. 15 fresh under dish machine. Approx. 25 fresh on top of dish machine. Approx. 15 fresh behind rack next to Hobert mixer.
That’s a lot of rodent droppings, and more were found on February 27th:
Rodent activity present as evidenced by rodent droppings found, 10 fresh on top of dish machine, 1 fresh by soda boxes and back door, 3 fresh under shelving by back door, 1 fresh on prep table next to pizza oven, 4 fresh behind reach in cooler, 1 fresh by walk in cooler, 5 fresh under microwave on top of steam table in kitchen. **Repeat Violation**
And again on the 28th:
Rodent activity present as evidenced by rodent droppings found, 10 fresh on top of dish machine, 1 fresh by soda boxes and back door, 3 fresh under shelving by back door, 1 fresh on prep table next to pizza oven, 4 fresh behind reach in cooler, 1 fresh by walk in cooler, 5 fresh under microwave on top of steam table in kitchen. **Repeat Violation** **Warning** At time of callback 5 fresh under soda boxes, 1 fresh by wait station, 1 fresh on left side of walk in cooler, 1 fresh on right side of walk in cooler.
They reopened on March 2nd with a nearly perfect inspection. Nino’s II previously had bad inspections in October and February of 2014.
Ninja Spinning Sushi was hit again, this time with 22 violations in early February. Back in September we reported they were hit with 36 violations.
Bluefin Express on Yamato and Rebel House on East Palmetto Park both had 19 violations. We looked through the reports and didn’t see anything that bad.
Four restaurants were hit with 16 violations including Spadini’s (NE 2nd), Madison’s New York Grill (northeast of Town Center), Punjab (Federal Highway) and Nick’s New Haven Pizzeria (east of Town Center). Stir Crazy (Town Center) and Gluttonous Goat (between Mizner Park and Royal Palm Plaza) each had 15 violations. Despite those numbers we didn’t see anything particularly disturbing.
On the good side of our report, Six Tables (just south of Mizner Park) and Tomasso’s Pizzeria (Palmetto just east of I-95) both had perfect inspections. Four restaurants in Town Center were near perfect including Maoz Vegetarian, Shrimp House, Blue Martini and Chick-Fil-A.
Our full spreadsheet for this report is below:
Open for a few months now, Sapphire Indian Cuisine has replaced Maxie’s in Royal Palm Place. I stopped by today for lunch but forgot to take a picture of the front, so I used an old shot of Maxie’s just so readers would have a sense of where it is. Here’s a map also, showing it on the east side of Federal Highway south of Palmetto Park Road:
It has both indoor and outdoor seating. The colors are bright and go together well. My phone camera has been delivering poor results and will soon be replaced, but here’s the bar area, then the main interior and finally the outside dining area:
The staff were very pleasant, and most important, the food was good. I ordered the lunch “thali” which was $15 and came with three small entrees and several other items.
It was a lot of food and I was unable to finish. The entrees included (clockwise from lower left) a chicken dish, one with lamb, and the third with shrimp. I didn’t recognize the names of any of them but all were very good. The first two were meaty and the third had only two shrimp but they were large. Continuing clockwise there was a bean based soup (dal), white rice, a yogurt dip, and pickled chutney. During ordering the waiter asked for my spice preference. I chose “American hot” but the dishes didn’t seem spicy.
The naan (bread – center of the picture) was just okay. Another picture I failed to take was the mango lassi (an Indian yogurt drink), but I caught it in the corner of the food shot:
This was the best mango lassi I’ve had in South Florida. It was richer and the mango was palpable rather than just a color and flavor.
The other lunch option is $14 and includes an entree, dessert and another item. The popular Chicken Tikka Masala is one of the options. There are many entrees on the regular menu mostly starting at $15, with some reaching up to the high twenty-dollar range.
Judging on quality, Sapphire is among the best Indian restaurants in the area. With nothing that style in West Boca, our closest options are in East Boca and Coral Springs. Punjab on Federal Highway north of Glades is in the same class as Sapphire. Bombay Cafe, south of Glades near Boca Regional Hospital, is more of a take-out place with lower prices but lacks the same feel and taste. We haven’t tried Kasi on Yamato near Congress and the Tri-Rail station but it appears to be less expensive with a more limited menu.
In Coral Springs there are a few Indian places on Sample going west from 441. The closest is the recently opened Taste Buds of India which we just tried and liked. Further west are Chutney & Pickle (excellent but spicy, with a reasonably priced lunch buffet) and Khana Kh’Zana (best vegetarian options).
Getting an Indian restaurant in West Boca is at the top of our wish list for 2015. We have more people than either East Boca or Coral Springs. It’s hard to believe we don’t have one yet, but we’re hoping.
When we first moved to Boca, Uncle Julio’s in Mizner Park was one of our favorite places to go. Over time we found other restaurants that were closer but we still have a positive image of the place. That feeling takes a dent in our latest inspection report for a scary Halloween.
Uncle Julio’s was hit with a total of 26 violations including 6 marked as high priority:
Employee failed to wash hands before putting on new set of gloves to work with food. **Corrected On-Site**
Employee handled soiled equipment or utensils and then engaged in food preparation, handled clean equipment or utensils, or touched unwrapped single-service items without washing hands. Observed employee go From cleaning to prepping without washing hands . Observed employee touch his hat and hair then continue prepping without washing hands first, changed gloves only without washing hands first. Employee handled cellphone and failed to wash hands before returning to prep. **Corrected On-Site**
Food-contact surfaces not sanitized after cleaning, before use. Do not use equipment/utensils not properly sanitized. Dicer not going through a sanitization step when warewashing.
Quaternary ammonium sanitizer not at proper minimum strength for manual warewashing. Do not use equipment/utensils not properly sanitized. Employee washed and rinsed dicer but failed to sanitize the equipment. No sanitization step observed.
Single-use gloves not changed as needed after changing tasks or when damaged or soiled. No glove change from cleaning to prepping. **Corrected On-Site**
Small flying insects in bar area. Observed bug retention devices by managers office and front line full of dead insects.
One bad inspection is not enough to stop us from eating at the place. Their previous inspections had far fewer violations though some of the same cleanliness issues seem to be repeating themselves.
Also in Mizner Park, Kapow Noodle Bar had 23 violations with 4 high priority:
Employee handled soiled equipment or utensils and then engaged in food preparation, handled clean equipment or utensils, or touched unwrapped single-service items without washing hands. **Corrected On-Site**
Nonexempt fish offered raw or undercooked has not undergone proper parasite destruction. Fish must be fully cooked or discarded. Hamachi served raw.
Potentially hazardous (time/temperature control for safety) food cold held at greater than 41 degrees Fahrenheit. Sriracha cream 50° F. Corrective action taken- added ice to food level. Bach Choy at 72° F at cookline under no temperature control. Corrective action taken – placed inside cooler.
Raw animal food stored over ready-to-eat food. Raw burgers over sauces at cookline cooler. **Corrected On-Site**
Their previous inspections were better in total numbers, though as with Uncle Julio’s we see that some of the same issues seem to be repeated. Kapow will face a follow-up inspection though it’s not clear why.
One other East Boca restaurant had over 20 violations – Sushi Masa Japanese at 2200 Glades Road just east of Butts Road. Two of the violations were high priority, and a follow-up inspection is required because of a paperwork issue.
Turning to the good news, the best in this report was Big Joe’s Burgers and Wings on Federal Highway with a perfect inspection. Looking at their past history they have one of the best inspection records we’ve ever seen. Their previous inspection in April had only one violation and the one before that a year ago was another perfect one. We’re going to have to try this place.
The McDonald’s at 2140 N. Federal Highway was the runner-up with only one minor violation.
Good inspections were also reported for Moe’s Southwest Grill at 2200 Glades Road (2 violations); Wendy’s and Jimmy John’s on the 800 block of Yamato (2 each); Chipotle at 2301 Glades (3 minor violations); Cafe Gelato Panini in Town Center Mall (3 minor); and Rocksteady Jamaican Jerk Cafe on Federal Highway (3 violations). The popular Rebel House on Palmetto Park Road had 5 violations but all were minor.
Other notables include two of our favorite Mexican places. Rocco’s Tacos in Town Center Circle had 18 violations with 2 high priority related to hand washing and food temperatures. The food temperatures were only a few degrees off so this one seems a bit picky. Las Fajitas on Dixie Highway had 13 violations including one high priority.
The Grille on Congress and Mario’s Osteria near Whole Foods had 12 violations each. Four of Mario’s violations were high priority related to hand washing, glove use, and food temperatures.
Brewzzi on Glades had 11 violations with two high priority. These also were food temperature issues that were close and look picky on the inspector’s part.
In Mizner Park, Max’s Grill had 6 violations with 4 high priority, including a stop sale for temperature abuse, and a follow-up is required:
Nonfood-grade containers used for food storage – direct contact with food, spray bottle containing oil. **Corrected On-Site** **Warning**
Potentially hazardous (time/temperature control for safety) food cold held at greater than 41 degrees Fahrenheit, butter 55°, garlic and oil 54°pasta station. Corrective action taken. Employee time marked and will discard at 4:00 pm. Sautée station reach in cooler drawers dolphin 49°, salmon 50°, crab 51°, pasta 49°, rice 48°, meatballs 48°. Chef stated food in drawers over 4 hours. **Warning**
Raw animal foods not properly separated from one another based upon minimum required cooking temperature in reach-in cooler, raw beef over raw fish and raw chicken over beef in reach in cooler. **Corrected On-Site** **Warning**
Stop Sale issued on potentially hazardous (time/temperature control for safety) food due to temperature abuse. **Warning**
Also in Mizner Park, Truluck’s had 6 violations including a stop sale on the lobster bisque for “temperature abuse.” This also looks a little picky as the target temperature is 41º and the measured temperature was “42º-47º.”
There’s more in our spreadsheet, below. Readers can look up any restaurant on the Florida restaurant inspections page.