Grato, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida

The good news is that our Southwest flight to West Palm Beach wasn’t cancelled. The first bad news was that our flight was delayed more than three hours and when we arrived it was cold (50s) and rainy. The winter of our discontent was made glorious summer when Nancy and I drove down to Lantana to see the new house of our DC neighbors Doug (The Kansas City Barbecue Maven) and Emily Jacobson. We got the tour (sensational), met Emily’s cousin, Sarah, and her husband, Bill, and shared some wine and snacks. Then off to Grato for dinner.

Before I proceed, know that I didn’t take any photographs, which I regret. Even the exterior shot was pulled off of the internet. That’s a shame, because the food was very attractively presented, but I don’t like to make a commotion the first time we meet new friends. So you’ll have to imagine what the food looks like.

Grato is a good-sized “casual-elegant” space with a large wood-fired oven. The place is set about five blocks south of the Norton Museum of Art. The noise level is low as is the lighting. It’s all very stylish. Grato is the newest project of James Beard Foundation Best Chef nominee Clay Conley, best known for Buccan. Grato offers a creative range of attractive pastas, pizzas, entrees, and small plates.

We ordered the whole left side of the menu.

It actually was a reasonable order, far short of Earl’s order in The Diner. The left side included nine “small plates,” which turned out to be just right. Here’s the line-up:

Roasted baby beets sprinkled over arugula and a smear of beet ricotta with fennel and red onion all sprinkled with a pistachio pukkah (ground spice and nut mixture). There were some mixed feelings about this dish, but I thought it was a hit.

A round dish of hummus with a falafel at each quarter, topped with a scattering of herbs and diced pickled vegetables. This was as attractive a presentation as I’ve seen of a brown plate of food. The hummus came with very light and nicely seasoned pita bread, and tasted very good.

A Napoleon of tuna tartare layered with avocado, cucumber, and a nice spicy aioli over a crispy rice cake. This was a pretty presentation and a delicious bend of flavors.

A Waldorf salad with lots of burrata, and with walnuts tossed in brown butter, two genius touches.

A line of six meatballs sitting on a bed of beautifully creamy polenta with a marinara and a ribbon of basil pesto. This dish exceeded not only my expectations but my hopes. I always think of meatballs as a poor substitute for Italian sausage, but the seasonings and texture were just right.

An Italian wedge salad with baby gem lettuce instead of romaine, pepperoni instead of bacon, some banana peppers and olives, and gorgonzola. This was unusual, but fun and successful.

Crispy artichoke over arugula with roasted piquillo peppers and a piquillo aioli. The artichoke was fried properly –not at all greasy — and the mild piquillo added a balanced flavor and texture.

Roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon, Asian pear, parmesan, and a maple-soy gastrique. I think the maple was a mistake here, but then I dislike maple except on pancakes.

That’s eight. There was one more. What was it? This is what happens when I don’t take photos or notes.

The food came in a very well timed and seemingly never-ending stream. I was sitting at the outer end of our booth, across from Emily, so the food came to us. I insisted that she serve herself and pass it to others so that I was the last one served. Everyone did a fine job taking one sixth of each dish — excellent sense of geometry among the group — so I was served last, and all the serving dishes ended up near me. That always seems to happen.

The group decided to share two desserts, a flourless chocolate cake and a coconut cake. Bill commented on the moistness of the chocolate cake, and we all agreed that both were good. I’ve always liked coconut cake, which I always chose for my birthday when I was growing up, and I liked this version. Frankly, though, no cake can hold a candle to Liza’s other-worldly coconut cake. See recipe.

This was a lovely dinner. The food was well-conceived and well executed, the sort of food that merits James Beard Foundation nominations. Beyond the food, it was great fun, a gathering of interesting and congenial people breaking bread together with a real theme to the evening. The left side of the menu approach added a spark and liveliness to the dinner and a savor to the food. You should try it, especially if you can find a place like Grato.


And while you’re at it, click “follow” on our front page to receive blog posts in your email box.  Or bookmark us and check in from time to time.  If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the destination city, state, or country for good restaurants (in Europe, often close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event). And stick around for news, all manner of recipeshotel reviews, the odd book or movie review, and occasional fine arts and architecture commentary.  Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome.  And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.


6 thoughts on “Grato, West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, Florida

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s