By Jana Soeldner Danger
Sundy House would be worth a visit for the setting alone. The backyard garden is incredibly romantic, a rich tropical jungle with stands of bamboo and tall trees shading thick vegetation awash with colorful flowers. A dainty arched bridge crosses a burbling stream, and small gazebos are tucked here and there along winding pathways. As twilight draws down, hanging lanterns begin casting a soft glow, conjuring a kind of magic. Tables nestle among the foliage, including one that is known as the “proposal table,” because so many hopeful suitors have popped the question there.
But Sundy House is not just for lovers. It’s also a beautiful spot for dinners with friends or family members—or by yourself. On a recent weekday evening, the open-air bar was busy with patrons of various ages enjoying happy hour, and outdoor dining tables were mostly filled. For those who are averse to alfresco dining, there is an attractive indoor lounge as well as dining areas. But if possible, don’t miss sitting in the garden.
From the outside, Sundy House, which is also a boutique hotel, looks like what it once was; a home on a quiet residential street. It is, in fact, the oldest house in Delray Beach, built in 1902 by the town’s mayor. The renovations and addition of the gardens came during the 1980s.
A meal begins with a basket of fresh, warm bread served with garlic oil, hummus and pesto for dipping. The menu includes classics, game dishes, and some unexpected preparations.
The first page of the menu is divided into two sections: starters ($10-$16) and small plates ($5-$8). The small plates are good for sharing, and you can choose any two for $10, three for $14 or four for $17. We began with potato and bacon croquettes ($5). Mashed potatoes are breaded and fried so the exterior is golden and crispy, contrasting nicely with the smooth, creamy interior, and bacon adds a bit of saltiness. The croquettes are served with cool, tangy dilled sour cream, lemon and asiago.
Smoked salmon “dust” ($8) is an unusual preparation: the chef poaches the fish over a low flame for 2 ½ hours so it separates into a kind of powder—hence the dust title. It has a very mild flavor and interesting texture; you can use a fork or scoop it up with the bagel crisps that arrive with it, along with accents of chive crème fraiche and pickled pearl onions.
Barbecue chicken flatbread ($6) was our favorite starter. The thin crust was wonderfully crispy and the sauce just smoky enough so it didn’t overpower the strips of tender chicken breast. With sweet caramelized onions, crunchy apples and dusky bleu cheese, the dish is a very appealing combination of textures and flavors.
A seared tuna kebob ($7) was also very good. The rare fish seasoned with fennel and micro herbs was very flavorful, and the accompanying orange provided a cool, citrusy sweetness. What made the dish most distinctive, however, was the addition of kalamata olives, which juxtaposed beautifully with the flavor of the fish.
Grilled hearts of Romaine was a variation on a Caesar salad; tasty greens accented with Parmesan and fresh tomato dressed with a light vinaigrette and accented with a salty, flavorful anchovy and bacon relish.
The unusual Southwestern wedge salad piqued our palates with an interesting combination of tastes and textures. Crispy Bibb lettuce was very fresh, while charred corn kernels provided extra, interesting crunch, and together with chorizo sausage, a wonderfully unexpected smokiness. An earthy black bean vinaigrette was an ideal dressing for this flavorful salad.
Other appetizers include seared sea scallops ($12/$23); goat cheese and parsnip tart ($13); Key West shrimp and clams ($16); and Yukon potato gnocchi ($10).
The delightful Florida red snapper was perfectly broiled, with a crispy golden exterior and a firm, flaky and flavorful interior. A burnt coffee butter sauce added an unexpected, slightly bitter, dusky flavor that nicely accented the mild fish. Sweet corn arepa, endive marmalade and grilled asparagus provided a mix of other textures and flavors.
Wild boar tenderloin ($35) was not the pale flesh of domestic pork once billed as “the other white meat.” Instead, it was a rich dark red and smoky from the grill. It was seasoned with a mix of about 15 spices and herbs, including paprika, garlic, cumin, cinnamon and rosemary—as well as quite a lot of salt. While the seasoning mix was interesting, we thought there was too much of it, so that it masked the robust flavor of the meat itself. Pickled apple jam added a welcome contrasting sweetness.
Filet mignon ($28/$36/$42) was a thick, tender cut of meat, cooked exactly to the requested medium rare. An accompanying blackberry sauce was sweet and delicious.
Other entrees include poached salmon ($27) rack of lamb ($25/$48) venison loin ($38); and roasted quail ($30), For vegetarians, there is branzino puttanesca ($28), a medley of wild rice puree, buttered French-cut green beans, and tomato and olive relish, or pappardelle pasta ($14/$26) with wild mushrooms and shaved black truffles in a basil cream sauce.
Sweet and creamy pineapple and coconut pie ($8) combined crunchy, crispy and smooth textures and would be a nice ending to just about any dinner. Cheesecake ($9) was rich and creamy, with a tasty chocolate crust. Both arrived with fresh, sweet raspberries and blueberries. Other dessert choices include chocolate lava cake ($8); vanilla crème brulee ($7); and Key lime pie ($7).
Sundy House offers a beautiful setting and a menu with both classic favorites and creative fare. It is a place that you might want to return to often yourself, and it is also a great choice for taking visitors.
106 South Swinton Ave. Delray Beach
Prices: Appetizers $5-$23; entrees $14-$48; desserts $7-$9
Hours: 11:30 a.m.- 11 p.m daily; Sun brunch 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Liquor: Full bar. Nice wine list with several well-chosen selections offered by the glass.
Service: Professional and attentive
Cards: All major