One of my guests had lemon grass broth spilled down the back of his shirt. Another time, the water pourer moved the glass before he stopped pouring and soaked my chair and leg.
Stuff like that happens, I suppose.
Dakotah 624 was an early arrival on Atlantic Avenue when it opened in 1996, and all these years later, I can't help but feel that it doesn't quite know where it fits into what has become Palm Beach County's restaurant row. Servers address diners as "Sir" and "Madame," yet all formality is put aside when they reach across the table to serve. There's a kind of false pretentiousness here, inappropriate, it seems to me, when conversation pretty much has to stop when the nearby train rolls by.
Still, there's much to admire about the menu with enough variety to please everyone: meats and chops with steakhouse side dishes; pasta; seafood and poultry.
Chef owner Ron Radabaugh looks to New Orleans (Cajun Caesar salad), Italy (chicken picatta), Asia (Thai pork dumplings) and Florida (conch Key gazpacho) for inspiration. Then he throws in things such as bison chili and ostrich tenderloin. I suppose that's why the restaurant calls itself "a new American bistro." But it's hard to decide what the restaurant's specialty is.
I settle on Thai pork dumplings braised in lemon grass broth ($8). They're served in a shallow bowl with shiitake mushrooms, bits of Chinese sausage, spinach and carrots. The dumplings seem to be of the frozen variety and the broth is far too muted. Roasted corn, crab and crawfish soup ($7) is made with heavy cream and is rich and thick enough for a meal.
Many of the appetizers are perfect for sharing. There's sun-dried tomato and Loxahatchee goat cheese terrine ($9) with pesto and toasted pine nuts served with lots of thinly sliced toasted bread. There's also a very good chicken quesadilla ($8) with black beans, jalapeno jack cheese, corn relish and cilantro sour cream.
I have an excellent version of chicken Milanese ($25) as an entrée. The arugula is nicely dressed with lots of red onion and grated cheese along with traditional tomatoes. Mahogany duck ($26) is partially deboned and full of flavor from its garlic/ginger/soy marinade. The skin is crispy and it comes with a light cherry sauce.
Dakotah 624 serves a generously sized rack of lamb ($42). It's cooked well beyond what was ordered and it's hard to tell if the crust on the outside was intentional or a byproduct of being well done. Grouper ($24) is marinated in Key lime and ginger, then grilled and served with crawfish and crabmeat tossed in cilantro.
The wine list is well priced and well chosen, more concise in many ways than the menu. Order a glass of wine and it's served in a lovely little carafe.
Desserts, inexplicably, take almost 30 minutes to arrive. Coffee's cold by then. But the chocolate tower ($8) is scrumptious when it finally arrives. It's a flourless chocolate cake wrapped in a molded chocolate and served with a Chambord white chocolate anglaise and fresh raspberries. A Key lime tart ($5) is also very good with perfect texture and tartness.
When restaurants reach a certain age, they're faced with a quandary: please the regulars or attract newcomers. There's so much more competition on the Avenue these days. I know this is a favorite among some Palm Beach County folks. But I think the menu could use an edit. Out with the old. In with the new. Choose what works best and run with it.
Please phone in advance to confirm information on hours, prices, menu items and facilities. For review consideration, please fax a current menu that includes name and address of restaurant to 954-356-4386 or send to Sun-Sentinel, 200 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301-2293.
John Tanasychuk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 954-356-4632 or by writing to him at the Sun-Sentinel.Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times