Saturday, December 10, 2011

Must Love Anchovies

Dish to Die For: Caesar Salad

Diana and I occupy different niches of the foodie cosmos. A native of Baltimore, she is a connoisseur of all things crab, while I can’t muster up much enthusiasm for the critters. On the other hand, she will not go near anchovies -- those briny creatures so close to my heart. So it was fitting, when dining together at the Council Oak, that Diana sampled the crab cakes while I tried the Caesar salad. The waiter warned me that my dish contained whole white anchovies, and that was just fine by me.

The big surprise, though, was the house Caesar dressing, which I had ordered on the side. This was like no Caesar dressing I have tasted before – unmistakably anchovy, and at the same time merely suggestive of that flavor. It was one of those rare moments when perfect proportions stare you in the face. I paused in a moment of appreciation......Then lightly coated the romaine leaves with this sublime dressing, and munched them together with crunchy rye croutons and the slippery white anchovies. A crisp sauvignon blanc washed down this delicate balance of intense flavors….to die for!

Diana gave a thumbs up to the crab cakes as well. Through dining with her over the years, I have learned that the diagnostic for credible crab cakes is whether they consist mostly of fresh crab meat rather than filler. I have seen her cast a withering eye when cross-questioning waiters on this point. But this night, Diana was happy, and so was I.

The Council Oak is one of the higher end restaurants at Hard Rock Casino in Hollywood, Florida. Even a couple of appetizers and a drink a piece in the bar area will set you back close to $70, including tip. But when a restaurant takes two dishes that have become – let’s face it -- fairly pedestrian, and reignites their magic, there is some justification to it. This kitchen takes no shortcuts and for that I am willing to pay. Live music in the bar starting at 7:30pm is a special bonus – go early to grab good seats.

Council Oak Steak and Seafood on Urbanspoon

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